THE CASKET OF ANCIENT WINTERS

Episode #20 - The Casket of Ancient Winters
Original Airdate - May 15th, 2011
On the hottest day of the year, an ancient artifact is foundů and a cold wind blows. An ancient Asgardian relic called the Casket of Ancient Winters has been opened, and the entire planet goes into a deep freeze. But as the rest of the Avengers deal with an invasion of Dark Elves and demons, Iron Man and Thor must put aside their differences to battle Malekith the Accursed.

Written by Paul Giacoppo
Directed by Sebastian Montes
Review by RoyalRubble
Media by Marvel Animation

Review:
This episode brings us another villain from the Mighty Thor's "gallery of rogues", Malekith the Accursed (voiced by Quinton Flynn, who has previously voiced the Human Torch in the second season of the Fantastic Four series from 1994). Here, he has allied himself with Amora the Enchantress and Skurge the Executioner, to obtain for them a mystical artifact called the Casket of Ancient Winters which, when opened can unleash an endless winter. Once he gets his hands on this weapon, he turns against Amora and Skurge and freezes both of them, planning on freezing the entire planet. Malekith's real goal being the resurrection of his fellow dark elves on Earth, where he plans to rule. He is a real threat, as he cannot be beaten too easily and on top of that, he's creepy. Speaking of creepy, I didn't expect the scenes of those vikings (or were they supposed to be Asgardians?) frozen in that cave.

The scenes featuring the Avengers in the beginning of the episode are pretty funny, especially seeing Jan, Clint and even the Hulk relaxing by the pool, and trying to ignore an emergency call from Iron Man, asking them for help against the Radioactive Man, who has attacked Stark Towers. Iron Man isn't alone, though. He has Thor and Black Panther by his side, and they do manage to defeat him. The tension between Iron Man and Thor regarding their conflicting views about technology and magic is handled well (and there have been many hints about this along the series so far, so this doesn't feel like it's happening too suddenly). Thor believes technology is evil, and is only capable of hurting people, thus he prefers to use magic; on the other hand, Iron Man just doesn't believe in magic, and when he sees what magic is capable of he declares he hates it. It will ultimately take Black Panther to teach them that science and mysticism should work together, in order to accomplish things neither one could do alone. Once they agree to work together, they easily stop Malekith and close the Casket.

While the episode focuses more on Iron Man and Thor, the other Avengers get their fair share of screen-time as well, fighting ice creatures and ghosts (or whatever those things were) released by Malekith in the city during the others absence. Captain America shows off more of his fighting skills, Ant-Man is once again aided by a Ultron unit (possibly still foreshadowing some future events), and the Hulk has a pretty amusing line when he finally arrives to the battle, "You left Hulk in the pool. It froze!". The fight scenes were well executed, as usually, but this time Captain America's stood out more to me, especially seeing him use his shield as a snowboard. Plus, we get two more cameo appearances in this episode, from the Human Torch (saving Cap's life with a fire blast and writing "You owe me one" with flames in the sky ... pretty typical of Johnny Storm), and the Thing, who gets the chance to clobber some of the ice creatures as well. Seeing how we got a cameo from Mr. Fantastic in one of the previous episodes, all that's missing now is seeing the Invisible Woman in action on this show (I didn't expect to see H.E.R.B.I.E. before her).

As always the series has a near-perfect balance between action-adventure and comedy, and this episode is no exception. There are plenty of amusing scenes mixed between all the fighting and character development. Hulk's aforementioned line; Hawkeye thinking about moving the team to the West Coast (a not so subtle nod to the "West Coast Avengers" comic book series from the mid-80s); even Malekith got one funny line this episode, mentioning how Iron Man's armor contains only a small portion of actual iron; and last but not least the banter between Iron Man and Thor throughout the episode. On another note, the new armor Iron Man and the new outfit Black Panther wore during this mission were cool. We also get to see Jan in a yellow bikini in the beginning of the episode, which isn't all that important but still somewhat noteworthy.

Overall this was another great installment of this series, which also continues the on-going plot that Loki is plotting something big back in Asgard. Thor not being able to return to his homeland might be all part of Loki's master plan, as was the Casket of Ancient Winters which the Enchantress gets back at the end of the episode. I'm definitely looking forward to the next episodes. The show has had some awesome moments until now, and I still have a feeling that the best is yet to come.

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