If you’re the parent of super-hero loving kids, like me, chances are that you’ve become accustomed to shouts of “Hero Up!” Now, you’ll probably hear it even more frequently as The Super Hero Squad Show: The Quest for the Infinity Sword Vol. 1 hits DVD on July 13th. The first volume contains the initial seven episodes of the series, and looking at them in any kind of review capacity is a little tricky.
While debates have raged over the years as to whether or not comics are for kids, appropriate for kids, etc., this show really makes no bones about it. This is a KIDS SHOW. Granted, there are a lot of things that parents can enjoy, but SHS doesn’t care about your continuity, it doesn’t care about your sense of decorum when it comes to how Dr. Strange should behave, and it doesn’t care whether or not Iron Man would lead a team named with a complete lack of self-awareness or irony. This show just wants to be a good time for young viewers. And if we parents dig it, so much the better, right?
Born out of the look and style of the Super Heroes Squad action figure line, the series favors bright exaggeration. The characters are tinier, but not totally childlike, versions of themselves. They’re clearly adults, but styled more toward the more squat appearance of the line. That of course helps set the tone and makes some of the characters more accessible to little ones. The core characters, the actual titular SHS, include Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Silver Surfer, Wolverine, The Falcon, and newcomer Reptil. The show breaks down the characters into a couple of central personality traits (Hulk is dumb but sweet, Reptil is enthusiastic but inexperienced, Thor is powerful but vain, Silver Surfer has cosmic awareness but surfer-due awe of normal Earth things, etc.) and typically mines those for comedy.
Some long-term Marvel fans may tear their hair out at this. But again, it’s not necessarily made for them. My five and three-year-olds LOVE the show. The elder enjoys seeing so many characters in addition to the humor, and the younger laughs constantly, particularly at The Hulk, whom he loves. They find the overarching story (Dr. Doom wants to claim the pieces, called fractals, of the Infinity Sword, so that he may rule the world, and the heroes work to stop him and his cronies) easy to follow, and they really enjoy seeing the parade of characters. My five-year-old, who finds it awesome that he has swim trunks and a T-shirt with Iron Fist on them like one of his favorite SHS figures, could not believe that Iron Fist was right there in one episode of the show. He completely freaked out. (His dad, of course, was saying, “Misty Knight?!)
Is it my favorite of the various animated super-hero shows? Well, no. But I enjoy watching it with my kids because they’re delighted by it. I get a couple of solid laughs an episode (such as one scene wherein the characters read one another’s thoughts, and Hulk’s was a very matter-of-fact, “Hulk smash,” followed by Thor wondering if his outfit is too tight for his thighs, causing the rest of the team to crack up). The positives (MODOK, Loki with the voice of a used car salesman, the deep character bench) far outweigh the negatives (too many fart jokes in the pilot, something that quickly falls away).
I can safely recommend this DVD for any kid that enjoys super-hero fare, particularly the littlest members of the audience. Hardcore fans may find a few smiles within, but the experience is definitely improved upon viewing it with the intended audience. The Super Hero Squad Show aims squarely for a target audience, and they’ve hit the bullseye.