"Super Hero Squad" Vol 4: This DVD, This Season Finale!
With volume 4, Shout! Factory wraps up season 1 of The Super Hero Squad Show, and if the results don’t quite hit the loopy heights of the previous volume, it’s only because the show has found a comfortable, high-quality groove that mixes up standard super heroics with madcap slapstick. This also means that when surprises come, they are more potent and more hilarious than ever. You can read any of my earlier reviews to get up to speed on who’s who and what’s what, but the short version is that the good guys live in Super Hero City, the bad guys live in Villainville, and both are ostensibly fighting over “fractals,” which are fragments of the cosmically powerful Infinity Sword. Really, though, The Super Hero Squad Show isn’t big on continuity, so you can pick up all that from these episodes if this volume happens to be your entry point into the series.
“Hexed, Vexed, and Perplexed!” may not be as riotously funny as many other episodes of the show, but it is notable for a few things. The best of them is the Ritalin-kid performance by Scott Menville as Quicksilver, Marvel’s designated speedster and one of the children of longtime X-Men super villain Magneto. The other thing it’s notable for is its intimations of romance (or at least as much of one as can be expected in a show aimed at boys at the age when girls are still yucky) between Magneto’s daughter, the Scarlet Witch, and the Super Hero Squad’s Falcon. It’s well handled in its own right, and I feel a bit funny about making a big deal over the mixed race romance when the show makes a point of not making a big deal about it, but it’s still a rare enough occurrence to make it a little noteworthy. “The Ice Melt Cometh!” may perhaps be the most emblematic The Super Hero Squad Show episode on this disc, which is to say that it contains just about everything that the show does well and which sets it apart from other superhero shows. There’s a super-villain plot that’s vaguely ridiculous and never played entirely straight, but also treated just seriously enough by the on screen characters to make us believe something important is at stake. It also features a guest appearance by Shawn Ashmore, reprising his role as Iceman from the live-action movies, but unfortunately the show doesn’t really manage to do much with him other than make him a walking, talking plot device. “Wrath of the Red Skull!” is best for Mark Hamill channeling Mel Brooks doing Adolph Hitler to voice the title character, unfrozen from a block of ice by Doctor Doom to try and exterminate the Super Hero Squad once and for all.
These first three episodes are good, solid, and entertaining, with a minimum level of quality that ensures a good number of giggles for your time. It’s really in the last three that the nuttiness kicks into overdrive and the show proves again how hilariously funny it can be. “Mother of Doom!” wins major points for upending Doctor Doom’s obsession with his mother, (a long-running plot point from the comics) by turning her into George Costanza’s mother from Seinfeld. The fact that they named her Coco Von Doom means it’s the kind of episode that I have to love on general principle, and fortunately it still manages to be as funny as its premise. Finally, the two-part season finale brings Galactus the World Eater to the The Super Hero Squad Show world, winning points right from the episode titles (“Last Exit to Doomsday!” and “This Al Dente Earth!”) to the casting (Cheryl Hines as a droll herald to Galactus and George Takei as the big man himself) to the perfect mixture of seriousness and silliness spread throughout both episodes. It even manages a bit of poignancy when one of my favorite cast members makes a big sacrifice for his friends by the end, packing a surprising amount of heft and also setting up a new addition to the cast for season 2.
Those who have been following along with Shout! Factory’s home video releases of this show will get few surprises with this one. All the episodes get a terrific widescreen presentation and the options for 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks, with the latter providing a surprising amount of oomph. The only extra this time is a brief interview with voice actor Charlie Adler, who provides the voice for Doctor Doom. There are a few quick scenes of Adler working with other actors in the booth, but like many of the other interviews on previous volumes, this one becomes frustrating for being too short and not being paired with other bonus features.
I suspect that the way The Super Hero Squad Show will happily spray laughing gas all over some of Marvel’s most iconic characters is the exact reason why I love the show, but a number of other Marvel Zombies hate it. However, I don’t think they’re doing much different from Marvel’s own parody comics like Not Brand Echh or something like 1980′s Assistant Editor’s Month. Besides, the best parodies are equal mixtures of affection and irreverence, and it’s that exact mixture that I think makes The Super Hero Squad Show work. The future of the show is dim, given that Marvel and Cartoon Network were practically treating it like it was cancelled barely halfway through the second season, and the brave new world of the post-Disney acquisition leaves several open questions on what will happen with season 2 on DVD. Regardless, Shout! Factory has done its usual bang-up job at TV on DVD for The Super Hero Squad Show, with the only room for improvement being bigger season sets rather than the single-disc releases.