Though its backstory features mainstays of the Marvel Universe in versions closer to their 1960s origins than the pre-MCU straight-to-DVD cartoon takes on the company’s major franchises, this brings on an all-new cast of kid heroes positioned as the sons and daugher of Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and company – in essence, creating yet another alternate universe to overlap with the M2 line (which spun off from Spider-Girl and features second-generation Marvel heroes like American Dream and J2), an issue of What If … that involved the mixed hero-villain children of the Secret Wars cast or the Earth X titles (which had a robot Iron Avengers team like the one used here). As in the later MCU films, Tony Stark (Tom Kane) — not Hank Pym — is the creator of Ultron (which still has a great, scary mouth-opening), a rogue AI robot which has wiped out most of the resistance – Captain America, of course, fell first – and erected a robot-dominated slum on the site of New York. The guilt-ridden former Iron Man is hiding out in a jungle idyll as mentor to James (Noah C. Crawford), red-headed son of Cap and Black Widow, Torunn (Brenna O’Brien), apparently abandoned daughter of Thor, Azari (Dempsey Pappion), son of Black Panther and someone princessy, and Pym (Aidan Drummond), irritating geek brat offspring of Giant-Man and the Wasp. The Vision (Shawn MacDonald) turns up damaged and is kept on as a talking head, and the kids accidentally launch Tony’s Iron Avengers robot versions of their parents, which are corrupted by Ultron and become its minions.
Via some lazy plotting, the gang have to go to Ultron’s city, where they run into Hawkeye Jr (Adrian Petriw), then head out to the desert on a tip from Betty Ross (Nicole Oliver) to find a cracked and white-goateed Bruce Banner (Fred Kramer) on the grounds that only the Hulk (Fred Tatasciore) is hard enough to rip Ultron in two (he also has receding hair and the goatee). Yes, the whole point of the story is to introduce a bunch of characters who are annoying enough to trigger a Hulk-out in Bruce after years of meditation and yoga have nearly solved his temper tantrum problem. In a sub-plot, Torunn learns that Thor (Michael Adamthwaite) left her on Earth while he was ruling Asgard for the same reason his own father left him – so she can learn a humanity difficult to achieve for immortals.
Like all the early 2000s Marvel/Lionsgate cartoons, it seems rushed at a crowded 78 minutes but still wastes time on sidetrack arguments. It is also horribly calculated that the classic characters who feature most are the ones who happen to be in big-screen movies the summer it came out, and that any Marvel characters assigned to other studios don’t get a look-in (which is why the vagueness about Azari’s mother, though his mix of stealth and zapping powers suggest the Panther could have had a child with Electro) even if it would be logical for, say, Franklin Richards (a mainstay of comics’ What If … heroic future stories) to be one of the leads. It’s less daring in its look and vivid in its humour and character than the recent animated Teen Titans shows – that Cap-is-dead, end-of-the-old world business overshadows these kids’ lives, and makes for a downer in comparison with the bright, lively, witty M2 line. Written by Christopher Yost (who worked on the X-Men: Evolution, The Batman, Fantastic Four and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon shows); directed by Jay Oliva (who did the Iron Man and Dr Strange cartoon films).