Episode #12 - Gamma World, Part One
Original Airdate - November 26th, 2010
A dome of gamma energy envelops the Cube, turning everyone inside of it into a Gamma Monster. SHIELD and Doc Samson know that the Leader and a host of Super-Villains are inside… but worse, the dome is expanding. The Avengers are going in, but they’re not prepared for what they find inside. Meanwhile, Hawkeye catches up to the traitorous Black Widow.

Episode #13 - Gamma World, Part Two
Original Airdate - November 26th, 2010
The Leader’s master plan has been unleashed, and half of North America has been turned into Gamma Monsters, including the Avengers! In 24 hours, the entire world will be under the Leader’s control. Our only hope? Hawkeye. His only hope? Finding the Incredible Hulk and convincing him to stop the Leader from turning Earth into Gamma World.

Written by Michael Ryan
Directed by Vinton Heuck (Part One), Sebastian Montes (Part Two)
Review by ShadowStar
Media by Marvel Animation Age

"Gamma World, Part One" Review:
The mid-season finale is upon us, and this time it’s an enemy of the Hulk who’s causing trouble for the Avengers: the Leader. Without the jolly green giant (not to mention Ant-Man and Nick Fury) to aid them, the Avengers and several S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives attempt to infiltrate the Cube before the expanding gamma dome can envelop any major settlements. All of this is just the calm before the storm, and not as gripping as “Breakout Part 1”, but the siege on the Cube is thankfully not the only talking point of this episode… Hawkeye is back!

While I appreciated seeing more of my favourite archer, his depiction as having super-soldier level agility in the pre-credits sequence was a bit suspect, and it has raised a few eyebrows on the message board as well, I see. I’m not tiring of renegade Hawkeye though. It looks like the end of the road for the Black Widow but things seldom go according to plan, and whatever the Leader has cooked up might just be what puts the brakes on Hawkeye’s too-good-to-be-true plan to turn Natasha over for incarceration.

Speaking of the Leader, his ‘test run’ did seem a little redundant. Nothing was accomplished from it, as far as I can see. Perhaps this was all just an attempt by the writer to pad things out, giving Hawkeye’s side of the story more time; it does point towards a greater involvement by him in the next episode, and I hope I’m right… If not, then the mediocrity of the Avengers fighting an army of super-villains as they break into the Cube will not be redeemed, and we’ll have salvaged nothing from this. Vector, the U-Foes and the others weren’t given a proper introduction, so the action wasn’t very involving. Black Panther’s disobedience and the freaky transformations that the good guys suffered (poor Wasp; this would never have happened to her if you-know-who had been there) were really the only factors sustaining my interest.

Panther wasn’t the only one giving Tony a hard time; Cap’s insistence that “Leaders lead” is beckoning the winds of change, I can feel it. Stark might be the one who runs the show but he’s not cut out for the position he’s assigned himself. At least he has his head screwed on, noting Nick Fury’s mysterious absence – could that mean something? Maybe it has something to do with the Black Widow. We never did find out why he sent for her in the first episode. Maybe I'm just reading too much into it, but I do think Fury wants the Black Widow on the inside of Hydra. She could’ve finished Clint off, but she hesitated to cause him grievous harm.

It was quite a run-of-the-mill episode. The all too brief appearance of Madame Hydra was nice though – now we know who took the reins while Baron Strucker and Zemo were locked up. I appreciate little details like this, which allow us to fill in the blanks. Doc Samson’s return brought some closure to the question of what happened to him after Hulk left him at the diner, and he and Thor could be the last hope for salvation as they’re immune to the effects of the gamma dome. Again, I have to wonder why the Leader didn’t just get his true plan over with, but all will be revealed in good time. It did seem to be a bit too easy for the team, but there’s obviously more to this little set-up than meets the eye. I’m encouraged by the presence of Hawkeye, so I wouldn’t count this story out quite yet.

"Gamma World, Part Two" Review:
Any mounting concerns that I had about this two-parter (let’s face it, the first part was rather formulaic) were dispelled when I saw this episode, which was a vast improvement over its predecessor. The Leader (who was sparsely used in part 1) got his chance to shine, and Jeffrey Combs was perfect, playing the villain as a demented puppeteer who hides behind the excuse that humanity needs him. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we had more of Hawkeye, who is proving reliable when it comes to being awesome (that could be bias from the 90s Iron Man cartoon talking, but I doubt it). What a baptism of fire this was for him.

Of course, it helped that there were so many great moments - I did not see the Leader's ploy to have Absorbing Man take on Mjolnir's power coming (or how Thor turned the tables on them!). I also loved the banter: one highlight was Hawkeye saying, "His name is Bruce Banner. Maybe you've heard of him?" only for Leader to retort that he had, and proceed to show off the giant robot prepared for such an eventuality. The dialogue was better all round; there were too many memorable lines to mention, but "Too bad you're such a lousy shot then, cucumber head!" and "That's the problem... You're ugly" were among the standout ones. Character interaction was also terrific, from Hawkeye's contempt for the Black Widow to the Leader explaining why he felt he must rule to Thor. I appreciated Thor's big role (he’s really come into his own now) and I hope Jane Foster returns soon because he should continue to play a big part in events, especially if Loki really is masterminding Enchantress's team.

The Leader dealt most of the Avengers a shocking defeat as they were subjected to the horrific transformations glimpsed in the previous episode (in Wasp’s case, for the second time!). Said transformations looked quite brutal and savage, and seeing the Avengers undergo them was an intense way to open the episode. We now know that the initial dome was meant to take them out (or at least leave them vulnerable), thus ensuring that the big guns would be in no position to stand in the way of the second one. It proved to be an interesting tactic, one which almost made the slow pacing of part 1 worth it. It’s somewhat ironic that many fans moaned and complained when Gorilla Grodd tried to turn everyone into apes in Justice League Unlimited, only to heartily accept the Leader's plan in this episode, but obviously the ape business was sillier than what the Avengers had to contend with here. The Leader’s televised speech was epic, and what a mean streak he has: he really had it out for Doc Samson, ordering Wasp to make a beeline for him (bad pun, I know) in the previous episode, and wasting no time in sic’ing Black Panther on him at the start of this one.

Black Widow’s reprieve came as relief, because this plot line wasn’t ready to draw to a close just yet. Her alternating accent continues to intrigue, and when Hawkeye’s first thoughts turned to her following their crash landing, I was grinning from ear to ear. Some people just can’t let go of the past. A bit callous of Clint to leave her in the path of the expanding dome, but not unjustified given the circumstances! (Although he may well regret that course of action if my prediction turns out to be correct…) He had no choice but to forgo his opportunity for payback, but at least he’s been vindicated by S.HI.E.L.D. What’s more, he has a home amongst the Avengers now. Or does he? The ending was a little ambiguous. Perhaps the next episode will deal with his initiation, since he remains unconvinced that sticking around with the Avengers is the best idea.

The return of the Hulk, at the behest of Hawkeye, was well handled. Hawkeye was awfully brave standing up to him, given that they weren’t exactly on friendly terms when they met before (this prompted a humorous moment with Bruce Banner though). If Hulk’s staying put, then I for one want to see more of the public’s reaction to this development, and how they receive his attitude towards helping save the world. Let’s not limit his potential to merely being cannon fodder. Thor’s kind words to the Hulk at the end have surely gone a long way to building bridges between the latter and the team, so it wouldn’t hurt to explore that trust in future episodes. I have nothing against angry Hulk though: “No, not stop you… smash you!” was one of the most surprising moments of the series so far, and it hammered home just how deadly ‘J-Jaws’ can be.

This was a great episode, maybe the best of the first 13. The action, animation and storyboarding were impressive – take moments like Hawkeye’s face falling when Black Panther intercepted his arrow, for instance. Only four of the eight Avengers spoke in this episode, but the reduced involvement of Janet, Hank, Cap and Panther was a small price to pay. We are now looking at a fixed line-up at the end of the theme song, and while I shall miss the roster shake-ups, I can’t wait to see what major threats the fully assembled team will confront. A clash with Enchantress’s group would appear to be on the cards, as is a war between two alien factions (wasn’t able to avoid that spoiler!), so I have to wonder if the second gamma generator (the one thrown into space by Hulk at the end) will be used by said aliens in the future... It wouldn’t surprise me if that turns out to be another piece of the grand vision that the creators have at work for this show.