Monday, January 27, 2014

Recap/Review: Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. "Into the Negative Zone"

It happened again. This episode gave us.... no. I won't tell you what this episode gave us. I'll let you be surprised.

Set sail into the Negative Zone!
The episode opens with the Hulks on their way to stop Blastaar from destroying the Hoover Dam with his parasitic, wormy, giant borers. She-Hulk shots the team out of a cannon into Blastaar, and the fight begins. Wow, I like that this episode’s just getting into it. Rulk tries to keep the giant crack in the dam closed. Hulk goes after Blastaar directly, shoving Blastaar's hands in his own face.

Hulk: "Stop blasting yourself! Stop blasting yourself!" (No, really, those are the actual lines.)

Blastaar’s borers shoot… some kind of parasites at each of the other Hulks, and Rulk manages to use some kind of sealant grenade to seal the dam. The borers inject each Hulk (besides the Hulk) with venom, and Hulk comes back to find his friends slowly turning to stone, thanks to the venom in their wounds. Blastaar taunts Hulk and escapes through a Boom Tube into the Negative Zone.

Wrong Negative Zone.
Blastaar: “The Leader sends his regards.”

Later, at the Gamma Base, the Hulks’ skin continues to turn into crystal from the outside in. Convenient, that. “The outside in” means that the transformation will be less disgusting to show, and when the inevitable cure comes, they can just bust out of their shells and be fine. Speaking of the cure, there is no known one.

As Hulk tries to figure out the situation, the Leader hijacks a screen and claims responsibility. He offers the poison needed to create a cure for them, but he demands that Hulk enter the Negative Zone to get it. Hulks packs up the rest of what he needs for the cure, and he heads off alone.

Hulk: “Just hang in there.”

Hulk flies to the Baxter Building, home of the Fantastic Four, looking for Reed Richards, but only the Thing is there. Thing insists on tagging along to the Negative Zone, but the last thing Hulk wants (no pun intended) is to endanger someone else. Thing insists that he knows the Negative Zone better than anyone, and (after Thing changes out of his jim-jams) they fly off into the Negative Zone.

When they find the Leader’s base, Hulk wants to go in full tilt, but Thing hits the camouflage, and they sneak in. After taking out some guards, they steal their armor and sneak in on the guards’ hoverscooters. Hulk checks up on his friends using his phone, and they’re getting worse.

The two go deeper into the base, and Hulk tracks down the source of the poison: a gigantic snake. They enter its containment cell, and the monster’s other two heads wake up. Uh oh. After a fashion, and doing some smashing, they knock out the monster.

Hulk: “Three strikes, and you’re out!”
Thing: “That was lame. Even for you!”

Hulk extracts venom out of the creature with his gear, and hands off the antidote gear to the Thing. Hulk tells Thing to go save his friends, and heads off to create a distraction. He starts beating up guards as Thing escapes on a hoverscooter. Eventually, the guards prove to be no match for the Hulk, and he makes his way to the Leader, passing rows of stone minions that the Leader used the venom on. Hulk notes that the Leader has Annihulus’ minions, base, and his Cosmic Control Rod. A modified rod that can now shoot red energy, which brings the Hulk down. When he comes to, Annihilus, now the Leader’s servant, finishes up checking on Hulk’s restraints. The Leader enters, dismisses Annihilus, and begins his favorite thing in the whole wide world: exposition.

Leader: “I’ve watched every episode of your sad attempt to re-brand yourself a hero.”

I KNEW IT! I CALLED IT! I TOLD YOU ALL THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!

And with the Leader's line, Rick Jones has now been confirmed to have done more to betray the team than Skaar, the actual traitor, did. Rick has been consistently uploading their exploits and whereabouts to the Leader on a regular basis. Who knows who else is watching? Kang the Conqueror? Doctor Faustus? Hate-Monger? Impossible Man? Doctor Doom? ...nah, what are the odds that Doctor Doom watches YouTube?

Anyway, Leader shows his own videos of the Hulks’ adventures. First up, he has a better answer than Red Hulk did for why the dinosaurs in the Savage Land had lasers. The Leader gave them to Sauron to cause chaos and take over the world. He found Ymir for the Frost Giants, and they agreed to share the planet with them if they succeeded. Hulk makes fun of all his failed schemes, but the Leader counters with the fact that the Hulk’s friends are his new weakness. To seal the deal, he shows footage of the Gamma Base… with the Hulks nearly transformed all the way. He shows footage of the Thing, who ran into Blastaar on his way back to Earth. Blastaar destroys the Hulkjet, and is barely defeated by the Thing, who steals his “flyin’ thingamajig.” The Hulk smiles at this, but the Leader just takes glee in wiping it from Hulk’s face by blowing up the Thing’s new transportation. With that, the Hulk loses hope for all his friends, and the rage within begins to take hold.

Hulk: “HULK CRUSH LEADER! HULK SMASH ALL!”

But this was the Leader’s plan all along. He installs a neural inhibitor on the Hulk to make his rage permanent, and increases that very rage by revealing his plan: he will unleash a savage Hulk on the world, and gain the support of what remains of the world by destroying him, becoming the Leader of the world. But the Hulk manages to break his bonds and begin to smash the Leader’s base. The Leader’s minions attempt to subdue the Hulk, but to no avail. The Leader is forced to don Annihilus’ armor and start blasting away with his Cosmic Control Rod.

DON'T YOU DARE MESS WITH ME
I AM WARNING YOU
DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM



Hulk knocks it away, and starts smashing the Leader’s armor.

Hulk: “NOW HULK SMASH LEADER FOR GOOD!” 

But at the last second, the not-dead Thing shows up and prevents the Hulk from landing the final blow. He shows the Hulk footage of his not-dead friends, and reveals that the hitched a ride from Blastaar, likely through persuasion by fist. They leave with the Leader in tow, and Annihilus takes back his rod. Later, at Gamma Base, the Hulks all make a complete recovery, and some good natured ribbing ensues. Only one thing remains.

She-Hulk: “So what’s the big surprise you brought us from the Negative Zone?”

And Hulk presents a glass cell containing the Leader, now a prisoner of the Hulks. That's a terrible surprise.

Hulk (cutaway): “Is there a risk to having the Leader in our base? Sure. But at least here I got friends who can help me keep an eye on him. Hulk out.”

And with that, the episode ends.

Huh, a bit of a short one this time. You know why? Because this episode gave us... quality.
What is the world coming to!? I mean, if they keep making episodes like this, this show could actually be considered good overall.

Review
What can I say? This was a good episode!

The fact that this episode actually uses continuity is a plus. Things that happened in previous episodes seem like they have a bit of dramatic weight when the events are actually followed up on.

Hulk's character is established quite well. Not only do we see the lengths that he's willing to go to in order to save his friends, but we see just how much tehy mean to him. In fact, they seem to be the only reason that the Hulk hold onto his humanity. (Not sure how the Avengers feel about that, though....)

I like that Blastaar seems to be a "distraction" villain, as opposed to a big bad, and I also like that we see the Leader's ability to gain allies from the Negative Zone to the logical conclusion of having him take over. And with the Leader in the Hulkbase, I expect we'll be seeing Annihilus try to get his revenge, leading to the Hulk having to protect him.

All in all, a good episode. A very good episode. Hopefully, this will usher in a new age of amazing H&tAoS episodes! ...but we'll see.

This Recap/Review is respectfully dedicated to the memory of 
Justin "JewWario" Carmical
(1971-2014)

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