Even though this volume is subtitled "Iron Man Unleashed" there's really not a lot of specific focus on Iron Man. And that's it for the negatives. Well, unless you count the lack of real extras. Extras that would interest me, anyway. But more on that later.
This volume includes six episodes, including the introduction of Captain Marvel in "459" and the three-part Kang storyline. In addition, the disc is bookended with two stand-alone adventures, the first featuring The Avengers vs. The Masters of Evil and the final episode revealing Black Widow's true nature in "Widow's Sting" – sort of – and also introduces Mockingbird.
I'm not sure why they shuffled the original broadcast order ("Widow's Sting" originally aired before the Kang trilogy) other than to provide that bookending effect on the DVD release, but that's not really an issue. Of course, the final moments of "Widow's Sting" provide a very nice twist that hearkens back to "459" and sets up storylines to come. Just not things that are going to happen this season.
As with the earlier releases, the real strength of these Avengers cartoons is in the details. "459" sets up a possible Kree-Skrull war angle, and in "Widow's Sting," Black Widow makes mention of Alexsander Lukin, who, in the Captain America comics, has a mishap with the Cosmic Cube and ends up with the Red Skull's consciousness in his head. We haven't seen the Red Skull in the modern world yet, but the Cube has already been introduced (as a project commissioned by HYDRA and executed by MODOK and A.I.M.), so hopefully we'll get the incorporation of Ed Brubaker's storylines into the mix.
That's the kind of big thinking that I love about this series. Every episode of this series is packed with smooth and stylish animation and creates a Marvel Universe that incorporates everything from the classic comics, the current storylines, and even the films. And everything, even tiny throwaway lines of dialogue add texture to the overall experience and set up things to come.
The centerpiece of this volume is the Kang trilogy, "The Man Who Stole Tomorrow," "Come the Conqueror," and "The Kang Dynasty."
"The Man Who Stole Tomorrow" not only sets up the trilogy, but also introduces the Negative Zone prison, 42, as an idea designed by Reed Richards, Tony Stark, and Hank Pym together. Also, in this version of the MU, Pym and Stark designed Ultron together, and the hordes of Ultrons serving as wardens/therapists in the prison don't bode well for things to come, even with Tony's input.
Kang's mission though is all about Captain America (as we saw in Cap's introductory episode in Volume One), as he considers Cap's modern appearance to be an anomaly that he believes will lead to the destruction of everything. To prove his point, he takes the team ten years into the future and New York is a desolate wasteland as the result of the Kree-Skrull war and Cap's unwitting role in the end of the conflict.
Kang figures he should conquer Earth in order to prepare us for the coming intergalactic battle.
When the Avengers refuse to surrender Cap to him, we move into "Come the Conqueror" and get a full scale alien invasion of New York and the rest of the world. And though most of the episode breaks down to a pretty straight-forward extended battle sequence, it's not until Cap convinces Hank to use the Ultrons that there's a glimmer of hope for victory.
Teaching Ultron the concept of violence is pretty scary, but the robots turn the tide, allowing the Avengers to begin repulsing the Armada Ships that are attacking Earth.
All of which leads directly to "The Kang Dynasty" and a pretty darned kick-ass battle between the Avengers and Kang's time warriors. The finale between Kang and our heroes is suitably tragic and impressive (remember, Kang's main motivation is to save the life of Princess Ravonna, who is in temporal stasis). And don't forget Ultron.
I don't trust that robot.
Once again, Marvel and Disney have brought their A-game making this an easy DVD. The only thing that keeps it from getting a solid 5 is the lack of extras. The earlier volumes had some nice behind-the-scenes peeks at the making of this season, along with some hints and glimpses of things to come.
This time, all we get is a feature called "Avengers Unmasked: Masters of Evil" – which is the "Masters of Evil" episode with a Pop-up Video approach to providing trivia and "fun facts" about the Avengers and the comics that these adventures are based on. For kids new to The Avengers, I'm sure it might be interesting, but to this 40-something it was a letdown.
I know, I know. That's not a feature that's meant for me. Still, they could have thrown an old man a bone.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook, or can be sampled and/or purchased at Smashwords. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.