Episode #31 To Steal An Ant-Man
Original Airdate - April 29th, 2012
When Hank Pym's Ant-Man suit is stolen, he takes it upon himself to find the thief. Desperate to find his suit before it can put anyone in danger, Hank is pulled into a criminal underworld and caught in Crossfire's crosshairs.

Written by Joshua Fine and Christopher Yost
Directed by Brandon Auman
Review #1 by RoyalRubble, Review #2 by Kumori Myu-Jishan
Media by Marvel Animation, Marvel Animation Age

Review #1:
This episode introduces us to some great new characters, including the Heroes for Hire duo of Luke Cage and Iron Fist. We also meet Scott Lang, who becomes the second Ant-Man. Hank Pym returns this episode, and I was hoping he would re-join the Avengers by the end. That didn't happen, but I doubt this is the last we see of him. It has been a long time since we last saw him; he decided to quit the Avengers after the events from the first season (most notably the whole Ultron story-arc). His relationship with Wasp hasn't really been addressed since then and this episode just adds a little more drama to it. Though I hope things will get resolved eventually, since even though Jan is mad at him now, I doubt she hates him and the show will give their relationship a proper conclusion. Scott Lang is now a super-hero, but it remains to be seen if he'll join the Avengers taking Hank's place, or instead join the Heroes for Hire. While the latter would be fun to see, I'd like the former to happen. It would be interesting to see how the others would react to him being on the team, especially Jan.

I guess what I liked the most about this episode was that it didn't feature any world-wide or cosmic threat, like pretty much all of the other episodes before. It was a nice change of pace. The main plot of the episode is fairly simple. Scott Lang used to be an electrical engineer, who agreed to help some mobsters rob banks in order to get money to pay for his daughter's cure. His daughter Cassie eventually got better but he was caught and spent some time in prison. Once he got out, he took a job as a janitor at Grayburn College, where Hank Pym works as well. Scott's former partners lead by a villain called Crossfire now kidnap Cassie and force him to continue robbing banks for them. Scott doesn't want to hurt anyone but would do anything to save his daughter. He knows Pym was Ant-Man and decides to steal his equipment and use it to get the money he needed. Once Hank learns that someone wearing the Ant-Man suit is committing crimes, he contacts the Heroes for Hire for help. I liked that before that, he tries contacting Jan, possibly for help, but she refuses to speak to him after their talk earlier at the Avengers mansion. I thought it was neat that the first person he tries to talk to was Jan, it might be a hint that their relationship isn't over yet.

While the main character in this episode was Ant-Man, I thought the real highlight was seeing Iron Fist and Luke Cage in action. They were awesome, and were used great here. I think this show marks their proper debut in animation, seeing as their previous animated appearances were pretty lackluster (such as Super Hero Squad and the current Ultimate Spider-man, where they weren't bad, but nowhere near as good as here). Every scene featuring the Heroes for Hire was perfect. The way they interacted, their fight scenes and the occasional banter (mostly Iron Fist towards "Power Man" Luke Cage) was great. I also liked how well they portrayed their powers, with Luke Cage's unbreakable skin and Iron Fist's method of sensing the miniaturized Ant-Man, as well as his fighting skills. As for their voice actors, they did a pretty good job. I am not familiar with Christopher B. Duncan (voice of Luke Cage), but I recognized Iron Fist's voice actor, Loren Lester, who is probably best known as being the voice of Robin on Batman: The Animated Series in the early 90s. I'd like to think their appearance here was one of those "back-door pilots" for a possible Heroes for Hire animated series, though I doubt that is the case.

It was great seeing the Heroes for Hire and Ant-Man fight Crossfire and his henchmen. I have no idea who any of them were but apparently they were all rather obscure villains from the comics. But for me even Crossfire would qualify as an obscure character because I never heard of him before this episode. I knew there were more than one Ant-Man introduced in the comics over the years, but the one I was mostly familiar with was Hank Pym. I look forward to learning more about this new Ant-Man and seeing him again in action. And I loved the short scene where Hank is seen working in his lab and a yellowjacket can be seen from the window. Foreshadowing is always fun, and I hope we'll see Hank assume the identity of Yellowjacket soon. Another little touch I noticed and really liked, was the addition of Ms. Marvel in the opening credits. I know she wasn't in the episode, but she is now part of the team. I just love the way the intro has been updated pretty much every episode, either by adding or removing members as the story progresses.

To summarize, this episode was awesome. We get to see Hank again, some more short but great scenes with him and Jan, perfect characterizations for Luke Cage and Iron Fist, a lot of obscure villains who were pretty fun, and the introduction of a new super-hero. I'm still amazed at how much this show manages to fit into a single episode, even this one which at first sight seems a "small" episode (and not only because of Ant-Man). I love the stories they set up nicely so far and I look forward to their conclusions, but once in a while a shorter story focusing on a single character is great. We had a similar approach a couple of episodes ago with Iron Man ("Alone Against A.I.M.") and now this episode focusing on Ant-Man. It is a great way to develop the characters and are really fun to watch. Whether the next episodes will be long story-arcs or character centric, I am as always looking forward to them.

Review #2:
Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!!

[Squeakiness galore]

Okay, now that we have the unprofessional moment out of the way, let’s get on with the review of the latest Avengers episode. Or rather, a full-fledged Heroes for Hire backdoor pilot without as much as trying.

Naturally, the return of Hank Pym was a beautiful moment, and his ever cracking relationship with Wasp just got a whole lot heavier. I nearly chocked when the two spoke on-screen. The drama just continues down the episode.

But let’s focus on the new blood, shall we? Scott Lang: the.perfect.introduction. Hands down, this was one of the smoothest ever handled team acquisitions as of yet [save for Hawkeye’s, perhaps]. And Crispin Freeman delivered so well, too. His dramatic moments were indeed heavy, and the further the episode goes, you just want him to succeed, just yearn for him to fully take the Ant-Man mantle and deliver the scene like the one where Crossfire is cornered by both Ant-men, one out of costume and one in it. Naturally, the fan-favorite moment here is Cassie saying to Scott “Can we do that again?” in a foreshadowy manner.

Oh, who am I kidding? The fan-favorite moments, plural, are about to get a full few passages of textage. Sweet Christmass!

So, Power Man and Iron Fist. Luke Cage and Danny Rand. Christopher B. Duncan and Loren Lester. The ever-so-popular, rarely-unawesome Heroes for Hire, whose animated series now every self-respecting fan wants and frankly needs. The one-minute preview clip – replayed over fifty times by yours truly – was more than enough to give us the sheer massiveness of the duo. But this episode nailed them down in the viewers eyes so hard that they deserve to stay nailed and at least seventeen more hours of screentime. The action, the banter, the punches, the jokes, the puns, the chemistry, the result – all of this pure Heroes for Hire, all of this pure Marvel, and all of this so, so much more than a mere kids’ show episode. Their battle with Crossfire’s goons was the toughest AEMH battle thus far. Tougher than anything their Ultimate Spidey counterparts pulled.

And now comes the comparison. As much as I enjoy [yes, I sort of do, actually] the Danny and Luke of Spidey’s new animated universe, they can’t even deliver hors d’oeuvres to their Earth’s Mightiest counterparts. This particular Luke has his street edge. This particular Danny has his K’un L’un training as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel. And these here Luke and Danny need not compete for screentime like their teenage doppelgangers. They command screentime whenever they appear.

The costumes also fit. As did their movements during fights. But what fit the most was the banter between the two. Allow me to provide some examples, risking a spoiler in advance:

“Did you really have to bend him like that?”;

“He caught me off guard. I was powerless!”

“Yeah. Sure, Luke.”;

“For someone claiming not to be a superhero, you do fairly good work. Want a job?”;

“Yeah, we’re Avengers. I’m Captain America. My friend in the pajamas is Thor. Now hand over that girl or we’ll avenge you upside your head.”;

And many, many more.

Overall? This episode is the best thus far. With its tense moments, its simplicity, its adult approach and humor without match, this episode, in this author’s opinion, outshines any other episode from both seasons. Up to this point, of course.

And as a bonus finisher, a speculation. When Luke shout-asks “Hey, Pym, whom do we talk to about our bill?”, I can’t help but feel that the answer is “See Tony Stark and name your price, and he’ll match it and double, if not triple it,” followed by Hank’s signature smirk.

Can’t wait for the next episode, the next chapter in this wild-ride of Marvel awesomeness.

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