Iron ManWhen first we meet Iron Man, he relates how beleagured he feels, the support of close friends James Rhodes and his Administrative Aid, Pepper Potts. He is noticably upset about how his weapons technology has been used and mis-used, and has vowed to not develop more weapons for the U.S.government or for SHIELD. He knows that the tech he sold to SHIELD has been stolen by Hydra, and later that AIM has stolen the actual devices (which they attempt to sell to Latveria). He feels almost helpless, one man standing against armies of enemies, whose weapons are his stolen technology.
You can see that Stark is used to getting his way with a casual arrogance; the way he treats SHIELD is almost dismissive. When SHIELD agents thank him for apprehending criminals, he waves it away, saying "I didn't do it for you guys".
Then, the Breakout happens. The systems at the Vault, which Stark built, systemically fail. Stark take this personally; the re-capture of of the escapees becomes a priority. When he and those who will become the Avengers finish off Graviton, he sees a light at the end of the tunnel - maybe he can have people he can depend upon to help him.
Stark then reacts as he has traditionally acted as Tony Stark; he throws money at it. He spends a small fortune refurbishing the mansion, preparing logistically every thing he can think of for the proto-team. He expects gratitude. He expects people to follow him, because his money has provided so much for them; in this he is mistaken. Hanky Pym doesn't want to be there, Hulk suspects everyone's motives, Thor cannot be impressed with material support, and Wasp... she's enthusiastic, but has her own fortune.
Throughout the first Season, Stark's plans all go wrong. He tries to help Simon Williams by using his wealth, assuming that Simon won't mind getting bought out; it doesn't even occur to him that buying Simon's company could possibly be interpreted other way. That he is profoundly wrong is driven home when Simon becomes Wonder Man to seek revenge on the man who ruined him and his company. He is ashamed that he modified Pym's Ultron design to include weapons, without telling Pym. His technology repeatedly fails him; his Mark VI armor is soon upgraded to the Mark VII, and by the end of the season Stark is wearing the Mark VIII (Spoilers would explain how we know its the Mark VIII at the end of the season). The Black Panther shows Stark many weak spots in his Mansion defenses, Kang shows him that no matter how advanced your tech is, someone has better. Ultron effortlessly usurps his most advanced armors, leaving Stark to rely on the Mark I.
Stark begins to learn about leadership after they revive the red-white-and-blue popsicle. Captain America gives Stark immediate obedience, as the Avengers Chairman, without it being either unthinking or condescending, but even Winghead has some criticism, however constructive. From observing videos of Iron Man's fighting style, Cap concludes that Stark has never had any actual combat training. Stark at fist dismisses this as irrelevant, as he wears combat armor with capabilities that more than outweigh Stark's physical combat skills. It is not until the combats with Kang and his superior technology that Stark begins to reconsider.
With Captain America and Pym's gentle prodding, slowly Stark learns the way of leadership; releasing T'Challa to fight Kang in Wakanda, refusing to fight SHIELD when Acting Director Hill orders their arrest, and most of all, his becoming modesty when the Avengers are victorious in Asgard.
When Season Two starts, we will no longer have an arrogant, spoiled, willful adolescent. Instead, we have a leader who knows when to let his team excel, who accepts that he might not have the solution to every problem, and who recognizes that technology and money don't solve everything. In short, he may have started out as the Avengers Chairman because he owned the clubhouse, but by the end of Season One he's earned his position - and the respect of the entire team.
The Black PantherWhen first we meet T'Challa, he is sneaking off a cargo ship and into New York. Shortly thereafter, we get to see the Black Panther in action as he disables the Mansion's defenses and hacks the Avengers' computer. He does this effortlessly, as he has already been inside the Avengers and Stark computer networks "I have studied them - inside and out". He has an automatic disdain for outsiders, which for T'Challa is somewhat justified; we see him demonstrate the superiority of Wakandan technology again and again, both in breaking in, undetectable, to the Mansion, and also when he attacks to the entire team to allow them to "prove" their worthiness to help him.
You see, the Black Panther needs the help of outsiders following the death of his father, T'Chaka, at the hands of M'Baku, the Man-Ape, head of the outlawed White Gorilla cult, who has taken over Wakanda. You can tell that T'challa doesn't much like needing the help of outsiders, who he considers inferiors; he lays out everything from A to Z, and expects the Avengers to do his bidding without question (well, c'mon - he IS an exiled prince after all, who has proven his technological superiority, right? Right?).
When the Avengers deviate from his flight plan, he leaves them to face the Wakandan armed forces, which was his entire plan after all - use the Avengers as decoys so that he may gain access to M'baku and challenge him for the kingshop of Wakanda. Stark orders Captain America to follow him and help, while the others stay behind and deal with the Wakandan army; how much of a threat can they be, anyways?
As it turns out, quite a bit, using vibranium weapons and advanced technologies -- but I digress.
Captain America refuses to turn back when confronted by the Black Panther; Winghead owes T'challa for his help against Zemo's surprises attack, and Winghead pays his debts. Respectfully, Captain America tells T'Challa that he can't stop the Captain from following, and rendering assistance as he may, while respecting T'Challa's insistence that T'Challa alone defeat the Man-Ape. As it happens, the Black Panther does need Captain America to run interference; M'Baku has no intention of honoring T'Challa's challenge for the kingship, and orders his Dora Milage (the female consorts of the king, trained as bodyguards) to attack. Captain America takes them in T'Challa's stead, and M'Baku has no choice but to fight the Black Panther by himself.
When the other Avengers save Wakanda, and probably the world by driving off Hydra and imprisoning Klaw, the Black Panther comes to understand that Wakanda is not stronger by its isolation. T'challa vows to spearhead the outreach to the outside world, in the company of his new allies, the Avengers.
So begins T'Challa's next stage of character growth, as a member of a team. We see that on his first sojourn as an Avenger, he leaves the team to serve as a distraction for the villains, while he attempts to destroy the Leader's device.
This is the last time T'challa executes a lone-wolf strategy, although he is still playing his own game. He makes friends with Hawkeye, and supports the archer in his sub-rosa attempts to find the Black Widow (along with Captain America, who also supports Hawkeye's efforts). He undertakes to build bridges between Wakanda traditions and the outside world; he works diligently to help analyze Asgardian magic, and how it works in comparison to Wakanda mystic traditions. He is an eager student, and made sure the exchange of knowledge was both ways - Hank Pym is given unprecedented access to Wakanda's vibranium-based technologies. Even Stak comes, as part of his own development, to respect the mystic of both Asgard and Wakanda - while he may not understand it, he understands that it works.
T'Challa does not leave during the Kang invasion, although you can tell that he wants to return to Wakanda. he does not ask this - he knows the stakes, and he knows that he can better figth the overall threat alongside the Avengers. He has learned to respect and honor his allies, mere allies no longer. It is his Avengers friends that recognize his plight, and release him from duty to return to Wakanda, reassuring him that they are worthy of his trust.
By the end of Season One, T'Challa is not a stranger in a strange land; he is an Avenger, fighting alongside heroes he has come to respect on their own merits.
Captain AmericaCaptain America doesn't get as much character development as the rest of the Avengers; his evolution is more because of his circumstances rather than his personality. The proverbial 98-lb weakling turned into the ultimate normal human (arguable that by being enhanced in all areas that Rogers is far from a 'normal' human, but thats another argument for another time), and then trained by the military in many forms of combat, as well as in military strategy and small-group tactics. The scientist who created him, Dr. Erskine, was slain by an assassin, and he had kept most of his process in his mind, Captain America was the sole result of Operation: Super-Soldier. At the close of the war, Captain America falls into the freezing waters off Norway and becomes a human popsicle (because of the Super-Soldier Forula, he survives) until the Avengers, searching for the Hulk in the frozen north, discover and thaw Captain America out.
Captain America's character work is all about learning to be a man of the 1940's in a world at war to awakening in the present day. This is compounded by his evolution from Steve Rogers to Captain America; when he enters the war, he's a 98-lb weakling; from there, he is made into a human paragon, and thrown into battle. In many ways, Steve Rogers prior to the Super-Soldier Formula is a causalty of the war; Steve Rogers has no personal life, and what few connections he once had are either all dead in the war or victims of time's passage.
When he wakes up, Steve naturally questions his own relevance - after all, the war is long since over. It is the appearance of Baron Zemo, and the resurgence of Hydra, that puts that line of thought to bed; the threats may not be the same, but the need for someone to stand against the forces that would squash justice, liberty, and freedom is still as necessary today as it was then.
Steve Rogers throws himself - slowly - into being an Avenger, but his natural leadership abilities cannot be suppressed. At first, Rogers is every bit the soldier following Stark's orders. As he adjusts, and learns more about his teammates, he begins to nudge things towards building a better team. He absolutely supports Stark, but nudges Stark in the right direction as needed, as when Stark releases T'Challa to fight Kang's forces in Wakanda. He supports Hawkeye's off-the-books battle against Hydra, using what wiggle room he can to justify it to Stark later. He's always there, supporting the other members - explaining to the Hulk why Cap considers him a hero, supporting Hawkeye even in something as trivial as a bet concerning his skill, and being there whenever Stark wavers, giving him the support and reassurance Stark needs to continue. When the Avengers waver, he's there like a red-white-and blue cheerleader, and when they need a tactical plan... he's got one. Before the end of the season, Captain America is the glue that holds the team together, and the respect he gives each member earns their respect in turn.
The Hulkhe interesting thing about the Hulk in the AEMH world is that there have been so many different versions of the Hulk over time. As soon as the line-up was announced, I was not sanguine about his appearance. I mean, I get that the Hulk is a major marvel character, but he's never worked as a member of the Avengers. I am not the largest fan of the Hulk, as the base character, as portrayed in any of his TV shows or movies.
When I queued up the microepisodes which established the introduction for the Hulk in this universe, I was pleasantly surprised. What we are given is Bruce Banner, who appears to be paranoid. When Banner is finally pushed into Hulkdom, we see that we get a new hybrid Hulk persona; this Hulk is not as stupid as some, and we see that Hulk and Banner are distinct entities in their combined brain. If you thought Banner was paranoid, you ain't seen nothing yet - the Hulk is convinced that the entire world is against him, and he's not completely wrong.
Rather than fight the Absorbing Man within Las Vegas, the Hulk moves the fight into the Las vegas desert. In the desert, the Hulk soon dispatches the Absorbing Man, but then attacked by the Hulkbusters, an elite advanced infantry unit devoted to the Hulk's destruction. Then the SHIELD special unit spearheaded by Hawkeye and the Black Widow. Ultimately, the Hulk is recaptured and transported to the Cube.
All the while, the Hulk fights back. He destroys aircraft, mobile mini-cannons, even a super-shell; through this all, the Hulk, while fighting unrestrained deadly force, goes to extraordinary effort to prevent any of his attackers' deaths. Rather than take the shell while in the proximity of the Black Widow and Hawkeye, he lunges forward so that they are not in the blast radius. When the SHIELD pilot - Bobbi Morse, who becomes Mockingbird - loses control of her aircraft, the Hulk is the one who catches it rather than let it crash.
He's not the Ultimate Hulk, who devours people, regardless of how tough he talks. He's instead the Hulk from the Defenders, with Bruce Banner as Jiminy Cricket. When not taken over by battle rage and anger, he's not even that stupid; he has a sly sense of humor, very similar to Ben Grimm's in the early days of the Fantastic Four.
Most of the Hulk's development from this point forward is the Hulk slowly - ever so slowly - learning that not the whole world is against him. Friendships develop with the Wasp, who was his first champion among the Avengers, the brash Hawkeye, who shows no fear, and culminating with Captain America explaining why he thinks that Hulk is a hero, and not a monster.
Unfortunately, all of this comes at the expense of any camera time given to Bruce Banner, who seems exiled to a silent existence in the back of the Hulk's head. This is a shame, for while I have not been a fan of the Hulk in general, I am very much a fan of THIS version of the Hulk in particular. I hope we get to see more of both Banner and Hulk in Season Two.
Thor the MightyThor has descended from Asgard to help the poor mortals at work, and he never lets us forget it from his first appearance. Mortals are not capable of defending themselves, especially against threats like the Wrecking Crew. Thoir pities us helpless mortals so much, in fact, that it becomes a wedge issue between Thor and Odin, with a little pushing from Loki.
Thor's first taste of humble pie comes during the Breakout, when Thor has his hammer handed to him by Graviton. This Asgardian, the most powerful warrior in his kingdom, the man whose hammer strikes fear into the trolls and jotun of the Nine Realms, is not only handled, but easily handled, by one of those "mere mortals".
Thor makes the decision to join the Avengers, in hopes of being able to recapture the escapees from the Breakout event; the mortals will surely need protection from such a massive threat, and after all, Thor is a warrior born. Half the attraction of defending the mortals is the opportunity for combat in a good cause, after all. His entire manner in the early episodes is a bluff "Hail, valient Ally! Let us seek a foe to conquer!". In Thor's world, morality is pretty black-and-white; there are the bad guys - Jotuns, Trolls, Super-Villains, whatever - now lets unleash the righteous power of the Thunder God, so that songs may be made henceforth.
Now it may sound like I'm picking on our Thunderer, but c'mon... he's the Viking God of Thunder. Historically, Thor was the friend and protector of mankind, against any threat. His lifespan has spanned millenia, and only int he last few decades has Mankind become capable of harnessing such powers. I think he can be easily forgiven his attitude, as over the millenia it has been more or less justified.
Now, however, two things have changed; Thor's presence among the mortals have made them targets by Thor's enemies, and Mankind's own evolution has reached the point where we can create our own monsters. As we progress through the season, Thor barely conceals his contempt for science, deeming it as bad as the worst dark sorcery.
Thor finds himself needing help; he's locked out of Asgard, while mighty, his strength and hammer cannot resolve every problem, especially when Asgardian sorcery is coupled with mortal perfidery. His mortal allies, however, are staunch. They will not desert Thor when he's in need; the Avengers' technologists work night and day to discover the ley lines that connect Earth with the Asgardian realms. Stark and Thor turn out to make a remarkably effective team, blending his power and mystic lighting with Stark's amazing battle armor. Slowly, Thor comes to the conclusion that technology is neither good nor evil, but rather like a fine Asgardian blade; what it does, it does at the bidding of the wielder.
Thor's faith in the abilities of his mortal friends is borne out in front of the most critical judge of all - his father, Odin. Loki's machinations are made clear by Loki as he boasts over Thor's captive body. Loki has out-thought and out-manipulated everyone, including the best of the worst moral villains. As Loki and Thor watch, Thor's mortal allies defeat everything Loki, even with the usurped power of the All-Father, can throw at them. Ultimately, Thor shows that he has indeed learned the values of mortals, as he trusts them to restore the Odin Force to his father somehow; Thor knows that this is a problem beyond his own abilities, but he knows that while defeating Loki may take more than he has his friends are a match for his brother's intellect.
When he presents his mortal allies to his father, it is as equals. The Avengers are heroes, not just for mortals, but on an Asgardian scale as well.
Ant-Man/Giant-ManHank Pym is the very definition of the "absent-minded professor" at the beginning; his head is down, looking through scopes at various bug parts. Pym is something of a polymath; while primarily a biologist, he also has expertise in robotics and pyschology. He works with SHIELD; his discovery of Pym Particles are integral in the development of the Big House, one of the SHIELD super-prisons. The super-prison is staffed by the Ultron robots, who are designed to react non-violently to super-villain antics. Pym himself works with the incarcerated super-villains, wanting to reform them. He is a non-violent fellow who works towards finding the good in everyone.
Pym, being a smart fellow, is smart enough to know he needs a manager, someone who can keep the cares of the world - like grants, and funding for his projects - at bay. He is fortunate enough to have the bright-spirited Janet Van Dyne to handle those things for him, allowing to immerse himself in his various projects.
For reasons currently unknown to us, Hank imbues Jan with Pym particles, a bio-eletric stinger, and wings which appear when she shrinks. Was this her idea? It must have been - it was an unknown procedure, and she must have volunteered for the work, probably with the same infectious enthusiasm that she brings to everything. Certainly, she delights in her new abilities.
Hank has not neglected himself - he routinely wears a harness which allows him to use Pym Particles to shrink and grow at will, and carries his cybernetic helmet, with which he uses to communicate with Ants and other insects. he is living an entymologist's dream - he can study ant colonies from the inside out.
Then, his apple cart gets upturned. When Whirlwind steals a chunk of vibranium, Janet shrinks down and pursues him, fighting a running battle across the streets of Manhatten. She's caught the super-hero bug; she goes from semi-bored administrative manager for the scientist Hank Pym to super-heroine.
Thus begins the downfall of pacifist, reformationist Hank Pym. Hank follows Jan down the pathway that leads to the Avengers, and ultimately to Asgard. During this time, he is forced by circumstance to turn his Ultron reformer robots into war machines to combat the armies of Kang; at the end of the Kang war, we have one Ultron left - and this Ultron has begun to exceed its programming as it integrates its prior programming, its adjustments to allow it to fight, and its assimilation of Kang's technology. Hawkeye is injured because Hank tries to resolve a confrontation with the Serpent Society without resorting to violence.
Its clear that turning his guardian robots into killers deeply wounds Hank, and this wound is pried open even wider when the remaining Ultron becomes a self-willed, genocidal murderer. Ultron's personality is based on Hank Pym's own mind; how can he help but see Ultron as a dark shadow of himself.
Hank keeps trying to quit the Avengers - he's not a violent man, except when Jan is threatened. On several occasions, when Jan is threatened or injured, Hank exhibits an almost-berserker rage and ferocity. When the Abomination threatens Jan, Hank grows to giant-size and relentlessly pummels the villain into the ice.
Hank keeps trying to quit the Avengers, but in Season One he can't quite stay away when Jan is threatened. We've seen a basic contradiction in his personality; on the one hand, he's a pacifist reformer who wants to help the penal system reform the villains. On the other hand, when jan is threatened, he turns into a fierce combatant.
In Season Two, if he manages to separate himself from the Avengers while Jan is still an active Avenger, how will his mind reconcile his guilt in deserting her while she's in danger and under threat? How can Hank reconcile his own behavior with Ultron's, when Ultron's is based on his own?
How much stress can the Pym psyche take? Stay tuned for Season Two!
HawkeyeLike Captain America, there is no daylight between Hawkeye and Clint Barton; they are, for all intents and purposes one and the same. All we know about the AEMH version of Hawkeye is that he was raised in a circus; what we know about the MU616 version of Hawkeye is that he was raised in a circus, and taught his skills by criminals who also worked in the circus. Whether or not we actually get to see the Swordsman or Trick Shot is, at best, problematic - however, we can see their influence even in this portrayal of Hawkeye.
We first meet Hawkeye and his partner, the Black Widow, when they face off against the Hulk. Hawkeye is a special agent of SHIELD, but I doubt he ever spent a moment in a SHIELD agent uniform. Clint Barton is not one for the rank and file; he is the world's finest marksman, and he knows it. He treads the fine line between arrogance and confidence, and to a large degree his abilities depend on that confidence.
Unfortunately, this confidence in his own abilities crosses over into every other area of his life, which makes him brash and abrasive. He will never win an award for Mr. Congeniality - but he doesn't care. Growing up in the circus under harsh taskmasters have made him very self-reliant and self-contained.
Clearly, he became quite close, if not romantically involved, with his partner, the Black Widow - this is seen when he tries to guess her access password. Some of the terms he uses are from Natasha's own past - he clearly knows all about her. She is the one person who she has gotten past his stand-offish emotional defenses, so her seeming betrayal is like a deep wound whose scar has been ripped open afresh. He is enough of a professional Agent that he can intellectually understand it when the Black Widow explains her status as a double agent, but the emotional damage has already been done.
When the Avengers are taken by the Leader, Hawkeye seeks out the Hulk because he needs Banner; the exchanges between the Hulk and Hawkeye strike a resonance with the Hulk - he has found someone who is not only not afraid of him, but who is aggressively not afraid of him. It is Hawkeye and the Hulk who saves the Avengers; when the Avengers ask the Hulk to rejoin, he insists that he will only if Hawkeye also joins the team. Hawkeye is too proud to accept Avengers membership on his own; the Hulk's condition gives him the ego-saving excuse he needs to join them.
Now Hawkeye has a half-dozen partners. Naturally, he takes on the role with which he's more emotionally familiar; the sarcastic, brash upstart. As a professional, he grouses about everything - but mostly that he's not in charge. His relationships with the other Avengers are not particularly close, until they begin proving themselves to him. Both T'challa and Captain America support him in his attempts to capture the Black Widow, as partners should. Likewise, Mockingbird exceeds her SHIELD orders to support him, and you can tell she makes a deep gouge in his emotional armor. Things continue to develop; Captain America supports his skill against the opinion of the rest of the team. The Hulk and Hawkeye develop a comraderie based on their sarcastic humor; Hawkeye has no fear, so the Hulk can relax with him, and visa versa.
Later, when the Black Widow is cleared to his satisfaction (but still hunted by SHIELD), she offers to renew their partnership, complete with romantic implications. He turns her down; his wound has finished closing, if not healing, and while he is tempted, he integrally understands that what she has done once, she may do again - betray him in the line of duty. Hawkeye decides to stay with the Avengers, his new partners. The loyalty he has given SHIELD in the past has completely transferred his new team.
The WaspJanet Van Dyne is a wealthy socialite with an apartment on Park Avenue, who falls in love with the brilliant Hank Pym, and becomes Pym's business manager, dealing with the busness aspects of his research - like grants and funding - so that Pym can focus on his science. When we meet her, she's already been imbued with Pym Particles, which allow her to control her size. Pym has also given her gossamer wings, and powerful bio-energy stings. Jan is focused on Hank Pym, but - as with the typical "Absent-Minded Professor" - Hank reciprocates, but hides his feelings, preferring to get excited about his research discoveries to his romantic insecurities.
When the Whirlind steals vibranium from the lab, the Wasp pursues and is eventually joined by Ant-Man. Together, they capture the Whirlwind, and turn him over to SHIELD. Jan has had her first hit of the excitement of a life as a superhero, and she's on the verge of working out a deal with SHIELD to become an agent when the Breakout happens.
The resolution of the Breakout event gives her an opportunity to pursue the life of a superhero. She embraces this role with both hands - she moves into the Avengers Mansion so she can be always on-call. Janet van Dyne is a bored shopaholic working for a man upon whom she has a crush, but the Wasp is a dynamic, enthusiastic Avenger. She desperately wants Hank to join her in her new life, and for a time, he does - but as time goes on, he becomes more and more unhappy as an Avenger, and ultimately resolves to leave the team and go back to being Hank Pym - Scientist.
Jan makes her own choice, and will stay as an Avenger; this breaks her heart, but being an Avenger has replaced enabling Hank's research as his assistant. Being an Avenger has become her priority, and will likely continue to be so; after all, being an Avenger has many dangers and pitfalls, but is never boring.