Comic Book Movie Preview 2012: 'Avengers' Finally Assembles

Captain America. Thor. Iron Man. In one movie. Together. What more needs to be said?

At long last, "The Avengers" finally assembles this year, and the Marvel Studios surefire (we hope) epic assembles on our radar as the number two most anticipated comic book movie of 2012. The size, scale and scope of this unprecedentedly ambitious project demands attention not just from comics fans, but from all corners of the movie-loving landscape.

In "The Avengers," Earth's Mightiest Heroes are called to action to combat a seemingly impossible threat in the form of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the exiled Asgardian whose notorious flair for deviousness has only increased since his self-inflicted banishment. Called to stop him are Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), the goateed billionaire playboy who sometimes amuses himself by flying around in red-and-gold tech-infused armor; Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), the freshly defrosted World War II hero known the world over as Captain America; the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth), a formerly arrogant but since humbled otherworldly warrior with enough thunder to back up his formidable punch; doctor Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), an otherwise gentle scientist who becomes significantly less likable when angered; and a bevy of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents including sexy espionage master Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), eagle-eyed sharp-shooter Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and one-eyed team leader Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

As if the on-screen lineup wasn't badass enough, "Avengers" comes from the directorial vision of geek god Joss Whedon, creator of "Buffy," "Angel," "Firefly" and other beloved darlings of nerd culture. Whedon's credits as a big-screen director are very few (only "Serenity" and the post-"Avengers" indie release "Much Ado About Nothing," in fact), but his credibility among the comic book crowd couldn't be higher what with his actual comics writing work in "Astonishing X-Men," "Runaways" and the continued tales of "Buffy" over at Dark Horse.

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With all these perfect pieces in place, how is it that "Avengers" only ranks at number two on our list of the most anticipated comics movies of 2012? For one, it simply got outmatched by an even hotter project (do you have to ask which one?), a sure sign that 2012's comic book movie offerings couldn't possibly be greater.

But for another, we have to admit to some fears about "The Avengers." In reality, there just might be too much going on for this movie to work. What Whedon and Marvel are attempting to pull off in "The Avengers" is entirely unprecedented: take four different comic book characters, give them their own movies, litter in some crucial character cameos throughout said movies, and eventually pay them all off in one gigantic blockbuster years down the line. On paper, that's an awesome idea. In practice? Man, it's going to take one hell of an effort to pull off, and we'd be lying if we said we weren't a little bit nervous to see how it all shakes out.

But it won't be long now before it does all shake out, for better or for worse. Given the high quality movies we've seen from Marvel in the past, though, our money is not only on "Avengers" matching the expectations of fans around the world, but exceeding them entirely.

After all, these are Earth's Mightiest Heroes we're talking about. When assembled, "The Avengers" are capable of anything.

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