5. “Living Legend”
There’s nothing in “Living Legend” that will shock and awe. It operates as Captain America’s second origin story. He’s the man out of time, awoken from his frozen slumber to a country and a world he barely recognizes. The sudden resuscitation sends him into a fury, and his first response to meeting Tony Stark’s Avengers is to throw a punch. Naturally, this is superhero storytelling, after all. But when Steve Rogers comes face-to-face with a memorial celebrating his history, the super-soldier must acknowledge this new reality. “Living Legend” is a sorrowful show, and Steve’s pain fuels his heroism as much as his optimism does. This is Captain America succinctly and beautifully summarized.
4. “The Man Who Stole Tomorrow”
Kang the Conqueror kidnaps the Avengers and transports them ten years into the future. Earth is in ruins, a lifeless husk with only leftover metal junk to signify that humanity ever existed. Kang explains to the Avengers that this barren wasteland is their fault. At some point, Captain America will do something that will result in cataclysmic destruction. What’s that something? Kang is slim on the details. But he assures Earth’s mightiest that it’s better to give themselves to Kang’s will than let this story play out. But Avengers don’t play. Cap came out of the water swinging, and he’s not about to stop now. To Steve Rogers, Kang is just one more future weirdo. No biggie.
3. “New Avengers”
“New Avengers” opens with the team kicking Kang the Conquerer’s butt again. Just as they’re about to drop the shackles on him, time around Kang freezes. A council of Kangs from other dimensions appears. They tell the Prime Kang that his inability to erase the Avengers from existence threatens their plans across all realities. The Council helps Prime Kang obliterate the Avengers from the timestream, but before Tony Stark blips away, he initiates the “New Avengers Protocol.” A hologram Tony Stark recruits Spider-Man, Wolverine, War Machine, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Thing to fight in their place. The Kang Council gets about fifteen minutes to feel happy with themselves before this new batch comes knocking.
2. “The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill”
Ragnarök looms over Asgard. The fire demon Surtur gathers his horde, and the mighty Thor cannot hope to defeat them alone. Thankfully, he encounters another whose belly burns with hatred for Surtur, Beta Ray Bill. Not only that, for whatever reason, Bill is worthy enough to lift Mjölnir. Impressed, Odin builds Bill a weapon to wield in combat alongside Thor and dubs it Stormbreaker. The MCU has pilfered nearly every last great character from their comic book source material, but we still wait to see Beta Ray Bill grace the big screen. Maybe he will finally arise in Thor: Love and Thunder. We can hope. But until then, we’ve got “The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill.” The horse-faced alien carries a large heart in his chest, and while his boasting cannot match Thor’s, Bill’s bravery is unbeatable. With no god-like ego to aid him, Bill shines as the more noble hammer-tosser.
1. “Secret Invasion”
While the Avengers worried about Kang and the Kree, the Skrulls infiltrated their ranks. A.I.M., S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers. Hidden within every group is an alien saboteur. No one is safe from duplication, not even Captain America. For a season and a half, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes sprinkled plot points suggesting the horror that eventually exposes itself in this episode. Welcome to Avengers: Endgame, the cartoon. The only problem? It’s not the final episode of the second season. The series continues for thirteen more episodes, and while many of them are good and a few appear on this list, “Secret Invasion” felt like the proper series conclusion. The stories that come after tread water. We’re still waiting on the MCU’s ability to continue strong beyond its first major narrative arc. As always, we have hope. And doubting Marvel only yields disappointment.