Review: "Super Hero Squad Show" Season 2 Vol. 4: Curtain Call for the Squaddies!
The Super Hero Squad Show Season 2 Volume 4 DVD brings the second season and the series to an appropriately silly end, with six final episodes giving the Squaddies one last chance to hero up and polish off the Infinity Gauntlet storyline. While I don’t think these episodes manage to hit the same insane heights of the back-half of season 1, there’s still got plenty of nuttiness to go around to temper the more serious elements of the show.
“Brouhaha at the World’s Bottom!” provides an excuse to bring the Squaddies back from the assorted alternate dimensions that the Dark Surfer sent them to early on the volume 3 DVD. It’s the show’s style that the excuse is whiz-bang science from Mr. Fantastic and Ms. Marvel, who have to fight off a suspiciously Mel-Brooks-ian Baron Strucker and his HYDRA goons. The episode also features the return of Kevin Sorbo as Ka-Zar, dropping the lord of the Savage Land in his native element rather than making him a fish out of water in New York City. Ka-Zar and Captain America’s repeated failures at taking on HYDRA goons provide pretty reliable laughs. “Missing: Impossible!” may be my favorite episode on this disc, as the Impossible Man pops into the Super Hero Squad’s life when his wife kicks him out of the house, and the Squad’s attempt to keep him from wreaking havoc on the Helicarrier eventually leads to the Impossible Man facing off against the Dark Surfer himself. Even more incredibly, Impy manages to beat the Dark Surfer, albeit temporarily, seemingly through the power of being totally nuts. Jess Harnell’s Impossible Man is infectiously loony, and I suspect the laughs come more consistently in this episode thanks to his gonzo performance. It also helps that this episode manages to balance the serious and the silly a bit better than most of the others. “Revenge of the Baby Sat!” borrows a vintage cartoon trope by turning Iron Man, Falcon, and Scarlet Witch into babies, assigning the Squad’s designated straight man Wolverine to be their caregiver while the rest of the Squad tries to find a way to reverse the effect. It’s a little surprising that the show can still manage to wring so many snickers, giggles, and laughs out of making Wolverine do mortifyingly embarrassing things, but this episode is proof that it still can and does.
“Soul Stone Picnic!” is not one of the better episodes on the disc, as Ms. Marvel leads the Squaddies on a mission to rescue the prisoners held in the Infinity Gauntlet’s gems. I think it tilts a bit too far to the serious side of the scale, and the gag about Thanos’ obsession with the myriad breeds of chickens sounds better in theory than it is in practice. “When Strikes the Surfer!” and “The Final Battle! (‘Nuff Said!)” bring the series to a reasonably explosive two-part conclusion, as the Squaddies (and Doctor Doom) attempt to bring down the Dark Surfer once and for all. Unlike “Soul Stone Picnic!”, these two episodes manage to balance the serious stuff and the silly stuff a bit better, especially with the fourth-wall breaking bits involving the “Hero Up!” sequences that pop up regularly within an episode. The bits involving the Mayor in the second episode are also rather entertaining, thanks largely to Stan Lee’s gusto line readings.
Like the earlier Super Hero Squad Show discs, this volume presents each episode in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Unfortunately, when upscaled on an HDTV, some of the episodes seem to show the same video artifacting I noticed back on volume 2 of this season, and the video quality in general looks a shade worse than it has on earlier volumes. It’s just noticeable enough to be annoying, but not so bad that it ruins the disc. It also doesn’t appear on other Shout! releases, so I suspect they just had sub-standard masters to work with. The only bonus features on the disc are a selection of three “Marvel SuperHeroes: What The—?!” shorts, which borrow/steal Robot Chicken‘s gag of stop-motion animated action figures saying and doing highly inappropriate things. Unfortunately, it’s not terribly funny in its take on the currently-running “Avengers vs. X-Men” storyline, and I think it’s poorly suited for the audience that The Super Hero Squad Show is aimed at. As a result, I’d rather they had just left these shorts off entirely.
I’m glad Marvel was willing to make The Super Hero Squad Show, but I’m also glad that the series ended when it did, since it seemed to running out of inspiration compared to the peak of the first season. A lot of its sense of humor has since migrated to the Ultimate Spider-Man show (though that series seems to be even less well-received among Marvel fans than this show was). Still, we’ll always have the mental image of Ms. Marvel and MODOK dating and the thousand and one ways Doctor Doom could be ridiculous and threatening at the same time, and that’s got to count for something.