Episode #1: Iron Man is Born
001a - Iron Man is Born!
Original Airdate: September 22nd, 2010
When the villainous organization known as HYDRA attacks the United Nations, the fate of the world's leaders rests in the hands of Tony Stark, the Invincible Iron Man!
001b - Hydra Lives!
Original Airdate: September 25th, 2010
Iron Man may have finally met his match as the villainous organization known as HYDRA unleashes the Dreadnoughts against him, mechanized war machines built from technology that Tony Stark himself created!
001c - Behold, the Mandroids!
Original Airdate: September 27th, 2010
With backup from the world peacekeeping task force known as S.H.I.E.L.D., Iron Man faces down HYDRA. But are his allies any better than his enemies? Who can Tony Stark really trust?
001d - Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD
Original Airdate: September 30th, 2010
S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury must fight alone when the Grim Reaper infiltrates the high tech super villain prison known as the Vault!

*Please note this episode is comprised of four five-minute micro-episodes.

Written by Brandon Auman
Directed by Vinton Heuck
Review by ShadowStar
Media by Marvel Animation Age

The first episode of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes doesn’t waste any time delving into the action: after a brief introduction to Iron Man (Tony Stark), James Rhodes and Pepper Potts, we’re watching Iron Man engage Hydra in combat. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, as the episode goes on to cover even more ground: from S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury, to the Grim Reaper and Baron Strucker, to the first of the super-villain prisons: the Vault.

A considerable chunk of Iron Man’s part of the story is devoted to his battle against the Hydra forces and it’s the banter that makes it quite enjoyable (“Attention, Hydra goons! You’ve been trying to take over the world for 60 years? It’s not happening!”) because the action, while good, is no match for some of the set pieces of Justice League Unlimited. Not to mention that Iron Man’s design takes some getting used to – the helmet looked better in previous animated incarnations of the character. The voice acting is nothing to write home about but Eric Loomis is fine as a Tony Stark with a dry sense of humour, even if the voice is a bit nasally (like when he says, “Timber”). More impressive is the Grim Reaper’s raspy voice, which is suitably sinister, not to mention the authoritative Fury and Hill.

Minor gripes about the animation in the first half of the episode aside, there’s a real intensity to the later battle involving the Grim Reaper at the Vault, and it makes up for the shortcomings of the earlier action; this is where it comes alive. The storyboarding shines in this portion of the episode as the Reaper really lets the SHIELD agents have it. There’s something quite funny about him smirking as he brings debris down on top of Nick Fury with a simple click of his fingers. I look forward to seeing more of this villain. Also, I did not expect Fury to successfully foil Reaper and Strucker’s escape and I was quite pleased by that… Fury had a good showing here.

Structurally, this episode isn’t all that sound, but that’s to be expected since it was made with the intention of being four micro-episodes put together. The focus shifts away from Iron Man entirely about three quarters of the way through, but at least the subsequent breakout attempt manages to keep things interesting.

It’s disappointing at Rhodes and Pepper are underused, but understandable: this is the story of Hydra’s complex plan to free their imprisoned master, and the dangers that Iron Man, Fury and Hill face in dealing with this crisis. The supporting cast were just sort of shoehorned in and will hopefully be fleshed out in future episodes – this may be an Avengers show rather than an Iron Man one but hopefully War Machine will put in an appearance, especially since a tease to that effect was offered when Iron Man said, “Maybe I should’ve brought Rhodey along”.

All in all, an interesting first episode which was not without twists and turns as Hydra’s true goal became clear. Most of it was set-up to fill the viewer in on what life is like for Iron Man and SHIELD prior to the formation of the Avengers, but it’s good set-up all the same. And it leaves you wondering what the other super-villain prisons have in store, as well as why the existence of the fourth one seems to be a closely guarded secret…