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The Avengers: Volume 1

creators: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

105 minutes (U) 1999
Maximum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Set in the near future, this animated version of Marvel Comics' premier super team is a slightly unusual take on the characters. It features a team led by scientists Hank and Janet Pym who, having discovered a substance that allows them to change size take on the names Ant Man and Wasp and become superheroes. Their colleagues include the probability altering Scarlet Witch, master archer Hawkeye, cat girl Tigra, the vastly powerful Wonder Man and mysterious android The Vision.

For a cartoon aimed solidly at the 9-14 year old market, there's some remarkably dark stuff here. Hawkeye makes a serious mistake in the first episode that costs the team dearly and takes a lot of episodes to rectify. Other episodes feature Tigra being aged, something truly horrible happening to Wonder Man and Ant Man being shrunk to sub-atomic levels and in one memorable scene, chased by a rampaging herd of dust mites.

There's a real sense of visual flair here, especially in the way the stories are presented. For example, there's a great moment in episode Kang where Kang's jackbooted reign is presented in sepia tone, complete with scratches in the 'film' and dark, impressionistic images. It's this sense of visual invention that raises The Avengers: United They Stand above the usual cartoon fare as well as keeping it in the spirit of the original comic.

This is a cartoon chock full of huge, mad ideas and flawed characters and as a result really is a cut above the rest. Of the five episodes on this disc, only one, Comes A Swordsman drags a little. Overall this is an inventive, smart and fun take on the characters, and worth your time.
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