Monday, June 3, 2013

20 Years of Marvel Animated Series Streaming on Netflix

With the new Avengers Assemble series having kicked off this week, I figured I would take this time to review a list of Marvel animated series in the last 20 years.  I'm aware there have been many series prior to the '90s, but they never seemed to appeal to me.

X-Men (1992)

I realize it has been 21 years since this debuted, but it is close enough.  Probably considered the best Marvel series, in my opinion second best comic book series to Batman, it received many great reviews, and it is currently the longest running Marvel series ever with 76 episodes.  The show follows the X-Men which are pretty much identical to the second X-Men comic that came out in the early 1990s.  The shows follows Cyclops, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Jubilee, Beast, Storm, Rogue, Gambit, and Professor Xavier.  The show has had many, many more X-Men characters show up, just not as main team members.  The show covers have famous storylines, even though loosely followed.  The Dark Pheonix, Days of Future Past, the Phalanx Covenant and more.  I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys anything comic related.

Fantastic Four (1994)

This show came out a couple years after X-Men, and I'm sure was created due to the success X-Men had.  This show as part of a "Marvel Hour".  Each hour had one episode of Fantastic Four and one of Iron Man.  In no way does this series have the quality of X-Men.  It really is for Fantastic Four fans, I don't see non-Fantastic Four fans getting much out of it.  To be fair though, the second season is extremely better in every aspect than the first.  It is much more complex and less silly.  The show lasted two seasons and twenty-six episodes.  Both seasons were on Netflix recently, but apparently have been taken off since.  The entire series can be had on DVD for around $10 on Amazon though.

Iron Man (1994)

Iron Man is probably worse than Fantastic Four.  Everyone seems to be an Iron Man fan after the films, but I still don't know if it is worth watching.  As with Fantastic Four, the second season is completely different and actually pretty decent, but damn that first season sucks.  The Mandarin has created a group of super-villains to take down Iron Man.  The combat this, Iron Man creates his own team: Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, War Machine, Century, and Spider Woman.  Most of these episodes are completely original, especially the first season.  Very little comic inspiration here.

Spider-Man (1994)

This is probably the second best Marvel animated series.  I might like Avengers more, but it would be a close third place.  This show is somewhat similar to the previous Marvel shows, but it seems to have a bit higher production budget.  The show went over my head a little as a kid.  The storyline can be really complex, I still don't get the last two arcs of the series.  It also deals with some mature themes while still managing to be kid friendly.  Now go back and watch it, Spider-Man hardly ever punches anyone.  I swear he did more often, but I guess that was just implied.  Anyway, it is the second longest Marvel series, and I recommend it to any Spider-Man or cartoon fan.

The Incredible Hulk (1996)

Like a few previous Marvel series, the first and second season vary greatly.  The first season is very bleak and dark.  Episodes don't really end on high notes, just Bruce moving onto the next place to avoid the military.  For the second season, She-Hulk became a co-star.  The show became much more upbeat and positive.  There was humor before, but it is more heavily used in the second season.  It isn't bad, it has plenty of cameos from all sorts of great characters, notably Dr. Strange and Ghost Rider, two personal favorites.  Fun fact, this was the last show to run on Toon Disney.

Silver Surfer (1998)

I'm not sure if he was popular at the time, as I was six, but I can't imagine this being the best character to bring to television.  The show only lasted one season of 13 episodes.  It deals with all sorts of galactic Marvel things, notably Galactus himself.  The show also has cameos from favorite galactic Marvel characters like Adam Warlock, Drax, Nova, and Pip the Troll.  A few of these will be much more famous in a few years after Guardians of the Galaxy comes out!

It has apparently been taken down from Netflix.  Also, it has yet to be released on DVD in the United States.  I guess this one will be tough to track down.  Maybe some "space pirates" could find it?  If there was one Marvel show on this list you could skip, it would be this one.

Spider-Man Unlimited (1999)

This kind of felt like Batman Beyond to me, but not as good.  It is kind of a sequel to the Spider-Man Animated Series to a degree.  Spider-Man somehow travels to another dimension where these half-human half-animals are the dominant species and humans are a sub-class.  It only lasted 13 episodes, and while it is nothing special, if you watch all the Spider-Man episodes, you might as well watch this.  The last few Spider-Man episodes are so strange this will seem normal.

X-Men Evolution (2001)

Initially I thought this was a dumb idea.  I was so attached to the characters from the previous X-Men series that this seemed like blasphemy.  Despite how much I wanted to hate it, I simply couldn't.  This show isn't a continuation or the previous, and is essentially most the main X-Men characters as high school students.  It kind of makes it fun seeing the characters become the way we all know they will end up.  The show is the third running Marvel animated series.  It also spawned X-23 in a similar fashion to how Harley Quinn was created.  They were both introduced in a cartoon, then added to comics later.

Wolverine and the X-Men (2009)

I initially didn't like this show, but it grew on me quick.  It is much different than the previous two X-Men series.  In this one, the show opens with some kind of giant explosion, displacing Xavier and Jean Grey from the world apparently.  The X-Men disband, and years later reform to find them.  Many of the character designs are from The Astonishing X-Men, which I had yet to read!  Overall it feels a little darker than previous series and does a great job on the "Days of Future Past" story line.

Marvel Super Hero Squad (2009)

Now before you blow it off, give it a chance.  This series is based on the action figure line of the same name. The cast is so massive, almost every big player shows up at some point!  It is a parody of Marvel in general, and the show really is truly hilarious.  Just give the pilot a watch, what do you have to lose?

The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes (2010)

I simply cannot get enough of this show.  It features the main cast from the movie: Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, and Hawkeye but also includes some other classic Avengers such as Pym and Black Panther.  The show also doesn't quickly get to the action.  For example, each major character has their own introduction episodes before they all team up.  I think the first time they face someone together is the fifth or sixth episode.  The show features dozens of classic Marvel villains from all corners of the Marvel Universe.  The voice acting is good, the animation is great, and the stories are always wonderful.  The second season isn't quite as good as the first in my opinion though.  It feels a little rushed, but it certainly is far from bad!  I'm still quite angry it was cancelled just to reboot a new series...

Avengers Assemble (2013)

There was some speculation that this show would be a continuation of the previous series under a different name.  I was so excited for that.  Unfortunately, it does not seem to be the case.  Only two episodes have been released, and while it wasn't bad, it isn't anything special.  I'm sure they are just having Falcon in it to gain popularity since he is in the next Captain America movie, but he seems out of place here.  Hopefully it gets better...

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