Episode #22: Shell Games
Original Airdate: September 22nd, 2007
When the Fantastic Four are attacked by several suits of IRON MAN armor, they go looking for the inventor of the armor… TONY STARK. But Stark is just as surprised as the FF are about the attack… until he finds out the suits of armor were taken by DOCTOR DOOM! But before the FF can stop him, Stark goes after Doom on his own. Now the FF have to deal with Doctor Doom in a suit of enhanced ‘Iron Doom’ armor as well as the true Iron Man himself… now under Doom’s control!
Written by Rob Hoege
Directed by Franck Miohel
Music by Noam Kaniel
Animation By Sunmin/ The Animation Studio/ Fantasta
Mr. Fantastic - Hiro Kanagawa
Invisible Woman - Lara Gilchrist
The Thing - Brian Dobson
Iron Man/Tony Stark - David Kaye
Human Torch - Christopher Jacot
S.C.B. - I’ll admit, I was looking forward to this episode. I’ve always been a fan of ol’ shellhead, ever since I first saw him on Saturday mornings on the BBC. He was part of the Marvel Action Hour, kicking off with Iron Man, 80s Hulk in the middle and 90s FF to finish up. They weren’t great by any means, and of all three, Iron Man was my favourite as a kid. Yes, 90s Iron Man. The BAD season. And I liked it. My tastes have evolved a little bit since then, but still, my favour for Iron Man remains.
And as those shows went into their second seasons, I found myself really wanting a crossover between the two big ‘Marvel Action Hour’ properties. But outside of a few cameos from Mr. Stark over on the FF’s show (both seasons), we didn’t get anything of the sort. So I automatically got a fanboy buzz from the idea of Shellhead and Marvel’s First Family meeting up. But did that buzz continue as the episode went on?
The answer is a resounding and definitive ‘sorta’.
The usual strengths of Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes are here; the banter between the team, characterization of the FF, and the humour, almost all of it from Johnny. His manipulation of HERBIE ranged from hilarious to downright cruel, and Reed’s frustration at his usually loyal computer acting up was fun to see. However, the continual ‘ghost armour’ comments from Johnny got a bit grating after awhile. His initial assumption that the armours are haunted was pretty fun, but once Reed makes it abundantly clear that they’re being remote controlled, that really should have been the end of it.
Apparently not. While it might seem amusing on the face of it to have Johnny think that Iron Man is a ‘friendly ghost’, I thought it just made him look stupid.
But how did Shellhead himself fare? When I watch any Iron Man ‘toon, I always end up comparing it to what I believe to be the definitive (so far) animated version of the character; the second season of the 90s show. The Iron Man in WGH certainly has things in common with the 90s interpretation. His lone wolf attitude in particular seems reminiscent of the 90s show, and there is even a hint of ‘Armour Wars’ in how adamantly Iron Man goes after his stolen technology.
Something that I thought the old show did well was that while Iron Man was portrayed as a loner, he was also charismatic and, overall, a likeable character, owed in no small amount to the witty tones of Robert Hayes as Tony Stark. I don’t know who voiced Stark in ‘Shell Games’, but he certainly didn’t make me like him. He sounded a bit too slimy and ‘evil corporate businessman’ for my taste, but since it was just a guest spot, I suppose they didn’t think they needed to make him particularly likeable. But then again, Iron Man wasn’t the focus character in ‘Ultimate Avengers’, but he was still likeable enough there while still keeping that smug attitude.
Although I did enjoy the ‘But I don’t want a deadly enemy’ line. It gives the impression he’s just starting out in the business of superheroism, and that just maybe the cockiness and attitude is overcompensation for his insecurities as a superhero just off the starting line.
The armour, predictably, looked good. This show has always had visuals going for it, so Iron Man was inevitably going to benefit. And the animators certainly went to town with all the different armours on display here. There were variations of War Machine, Hulkbuster, and Stealth armours, which were great to see in a series that wasn’t specifically about Iron Man.
And, with Iron Man discussed, let me move on to the villain of the piece.
It’s Dr Doom. Yes, that’s right, Dr Doom.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Victor Von Doom. He’s fun, he’s badass, but above all that, he’s smart. One of the smartest men on the planet. But here, on this show, he’s Skeletor. Or Megatron. Or Cobra Commander. Or any evil leader character who shouts ‘I will have my revenge!’ after being well and truly trounced for the billionth time. It’s annoying and frustrating to see, because this should really be some other villain who is better suited to being the comic relief. I have no problem with Mole Man being mocked in this way, but Doom? When he shows up, that should be a sign that the show is about to get serious, that unless the FF pull out all the stops, the world is going to end up under Doom’s control.
And why not use an Iron Man villain? He’s got plenty of them, and there are quite a few that could give the FF and Shellhead together a run for their money. Maybe Fin Fang Foom, or Modok and AIM. Maybe even the Mandarin, if they wanted to stick with a reliable old favourite. But I’m getting a bit tired of Doom’s ‘villain of the week’ status, when he’s really ‘epic season finale’ material.
So I give this episode 3½ out of 5. Iron Man was fun; they certainly hit most of the right notes of the character, and gave the audience everything they need to know about him. But still, nothing different or better than what we’ve seen in other appearances from the Golden Avenger. The use of Doom really dragged this episode down. As usual, the humour was mostly top notch, and the interactions between the family centric FF and the lone wolf Iron Man were well done and fun to see. But compared to other team-up episodes likes ‘Hard Knocks’ and ‘The Cure’, ‘Shell Games’ only just breaks even.
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