Comic-Blog ’08: Next Avengers

To be honest I didn’t hold out much hope for Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, the latest direct-to-DVD animated superhero movie from Marvel Studios and distributor Lions Gate Entertainment. I’ve been a big fan of the two P-13 Avengers pics, as well as The Invincible Iron Man and Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme, but when I heard that they were going for a younger audience with a PG-rated installment focusing on the children of the Avengers, I expected a watered-down story with inane dialogue coming from annoying, bratty characters. Boy, was I wrong.

I caught the premiere of Next Avengers at Comic-Con on Friday night and had my low expectations crushed like anything unfortunate enough to cross the Incredible Hulk. Based on a clever, engaging script by Chris Yost, the film delivers great action sequences, likeable characters, and plenty of surprises for both hard-core Avengers fans and those new to the Marvel Universe.

Next Avengers begins with an aging Tony Stark telling a group of children how the Avengers stood up against a powerful, mechanical conqueror named Ultron and ultimately fell. The kids turn out to b the children of such Marvel icons as Captain America, Thor, Giant Man and Black Panther. Before their parents were defeated in battle, the children were hidden away in a remote facility where they would be safe from Ultron and free to train for their inevitable showdown with the fiend. That time comes sooner than expected, and the kids soon find themselves fighting not only Ulton and his mechanized minions, but robotic versions of their own parents.

The crowd assembled at Comic-Con responded very enthusiastically to the movie, especially when the surviving members of the original Avengers swing back into action. Tony Stark proves he still has it when he gets back into the Iron Man suit, and an aged Bruce Banner reluctantly comes out of his self-imposed exile to once again unleash The Hulk, who appears with long, gray hair and a white beard. It’s very cool to see the old guys getting it done as the new heroes arise to take up the mantle.

Expect to see more animated features, comic books and possibly an animated television series spawned by this movie, which successfully introduces new super heroes to the Marvel canon. The movie will debut on DVD and Blu-ray on Sept. 2. We’ll have more on this release, including interviews with the filmmakers, in the next issue of Animation Magazine.