Summary:

This indie web series gives classic comic book characters like Iron Man, the Hulk and Wolverine a chance to sound off on topics like immigration, health care and the BP oil spill. It may not be a summer blockbuster, but it’s a whole lot more funny.

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Nerds love superheroes! Nerds love the web! Ergo, there are a lot of web series about superheroes! But if they were all as funny as Avengers Assemble!, life would be pretty good indeed.

An indie series written by Brian Godleski and directed by Pat Clark, Avengers Assemble!‘s relatively slick opening sequence precedes a decidedly low-fi series: A bunch of costumed heroes, gathered around a conference table, hash out the bureaucracy behind saving the world, with a somewhat topical focus; episodes have covered the BP oil spill, immigration issues and health care. The best comparison might be The Office — but with men in tights, no talking to the camera and a lot less embarrassment.

(For the record, yep, Roger Ebert scooped us on this one. Well-played, Ebert. Well-played.)

The Avengers, for you non-comic-book nerds who also haven’t been following the development of Joss Whedon’s next movie, are the ultimate team-up of superheroes from the Marvel universe, including Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America and Thor.

However, while Marvel’s recent film adaptations have done a lot to bring classic characters into the mainstream, Clark and Godleski’s approach is centered more on the comic book mythology. This means that some of the references are highly obscure, but also that there are almost as many female characters as male.

Avengers Assemble! isn’t on the level of a professional production, but the sound work is decent and the handheld cinematography makes the otherwise static action feel dynamic. And although the costumes are a bit amateurish and some of the accent work isn’t perfect, the cast has solid chemistry and a lot of the one-line jokes work really well, especially as they draw on the characters’ pre-established backstory. Wolverine, for example, isn’t worried about his health care coverage — not because of his super-human healing ability, but because he’s Canadian.

The creators are very clear about the fact that they’re playing with characters that belong to a mega-corporation. Hopefully, that’s enough to keep Marvel’s lawyers from shutting things down — especially since, for a parody, there’s an awful lot of love for the source material here.

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