Saturday, August 31, 2013

Recap/Review: Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H "The Collector"

I dislike Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. But instead of venting about it on Twitter (some more), I'm going to bite the bullet and just recap an episode to give you all an inkling of just why this show gets on my nerves so much. Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. could have been a really, really cool idea, but any inherent awesomeness is buried under 7 metric craptons of meh.

The premise is that the Hulk (now at normal intelligence levels... long story) has formed a team of Gamma-Mutates to combat major threats. Thing is, there's already a team for that. They're called "the Avengers," you may have heard of them. The show itself has the framing device of being Rick Jones' (Hulk's buddy/sidekick) web show, showing that the Hulk's actually a good guy. This is entirely pointless and only exists to give the team reasons to talk to the camera in reality-show-type cutaways.  The show is (ostensibly) shot entirely by Rick's floating cameras, but that's impossible, judging from some of the angles and footage we get. Meh, I stopped caring.

Now let's go over the individual characters:

Clockwise from upper left:  A-Bomb, Red Hulk, She-Hulk, Skaar    Center:  Hulk
Hulk- I have few complaints with the Hulk's characterization. I actually prefer a Hulk who can say and think more than “Hulk smash!” I'm just wondering why he never changes back to his alter-ego of Bruce Banner.

Red Hulk- Although it's only glossed over briefly, the show acts like everybody in the audience knows exactly who he is. (Hulk's former enemy, General Ross, now mutated into the thing he hates most: a Hulk. But he keeps his old gung-ho military personality.)

Rick Jones/A-Bomb- I've said it before, I'll say it again. Bruce Banner became the Hulk after saving Rick Jones from a gamma bomb. So... if Rick Jones becomes a Hulk himself, then doesn't that negate Bruce Banner's original sacrifice?

Skaar- A Hulk-like teenage gladiator from beyond this world. In the comics, he's Hulk's son. The character's too bland for me to have any feelings about him one way or the other.

She-Hulk- Hulk's cousin who he gave blood to, resulting in her powers. Shortest Hulk at 7' ?", and least muscular. Loves fighting. Goes out of her way to not act stereotypically girly. Ostensibly, she was only added to add a good role model for girls, but behind her "I'm not a girly girl" attitude, there's not much at all; a far cry from the character in the comics, who's actually a professional lawyer, and a good one, at that. Here, she's just "Punchy McSeeHowNotGirlyIAm?"

Let's just get Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. "The Collector" out of the way.

Gonna be a long half-hour....
The episode opens on a shot of New York City, before fading to the Hulk in his...  Hulkbase?  It's some kind of super-hi-tech lair. How'd ya get that, Hulk? 
The fourth episode, and they're already crossing over with more
popular shows.  Uh, oh.

These questions and more will only be glossed over with the answer “S.H.I.E.L.D. did it.” 
Spider-Man shows up, as Hulk’s guest, and they go deeper in the building together. In a reality-show-type cutaway, Hulk explains to us that Spider-Man (who's hated by J Jonah Jameson and called a menace by New York) is here to join in Hulk's "Support group." As Hulk and Spidey pass A-Bomb and Skaar eating burritos on a couch, A-Bomb (voiced by Seth Green; Yes, that Seth Green.) gets immediately pumped to see the "amaze-balls" Spider-Man, and actually using that phrase.

I'll admit, I don't know much about word and phrase roots, but isn't the second part of "Amaze-balls" derived from a usage of the word "balls" that wouldn't normally fly on a cartoon for kids? I might be mistaken, but still, how did they get away with anything even sounding that overtly inappropriate?

Back on task, Spidey and Hulk meet with Hulk's "support group." It consists of Red Hulk, Thing, She-Hulk, and Hulk playing poker while J Jonah Jameson shouts about Hulk on a nearby TV until Hulk throws the remote at the TV to turn it off. Suddenly, Spidey's spider-sense goes off, and the wall explodes. A floating robot comes in and quickly envelops the Thing, Red Hulk, and She-Hulk in stasis bubbles before flying off with them, leaving only Spidey and Hulk.

After the 5-second titles and accompanying lack of a real theme song (a trend I've spoken against in the past), Hulk starts smashing away at the robot, in the process causing tens of thousands of dollars-worth of property damage as people begin to shout and scream and flee from the Hulk. Not because he's destroying stuff, but because he's just the Hulk. So... if everybody's so freaked out about the Hulk, how did he get his New York base which is apparently in a tower? Guh, I really hate this show. More fighting against the robot drone, and A-Bomb and Skaar leap down, only to get frozen in stasis.

"Must go faster!  Must go faster!"
Hulk looks up and sees the robot heading off to a spaceship (how did he see it in space... from Earth? Hulk doesn't have zoom-vision), so he and Spidey head to what I can only assume is the Hulk-Jet and fly into space. They run into hostile space-drones, and they hold their own in the ensuing laser-fight until the mothership fires the big laser at them. The rocket-jet gets busted, but Hulk and Spidey manage to escape in spacesuits. After cheaply animated space-floating, they enter the mothership.

Spider-Man makes a Star Wars reference regarding tractor beams and princesses, then the two enter a large room filled with all the super heroes on Earth in stasis pods.  Suddenly, Thing gets beamed down and stored like the rest of the heroes as a voice booms out, "Magnificent, isn't it?" Well, hello, voice actor Jeff Bennett.  Why are you doing the TBATB Joker voice for this villain? It's very distracting.

The villain in question is revealed to be a tall, white haired space-guy who starts to brag about his collection, calling himself "the Collector." He reveals that he doesn't want Spidey or Hulk because J Jonah Jameson says that they're both menaces. Instead of wasting your time and mine by analyzing just how stupid that plot point is, let's move on.

Hulk jumps up to begin smashing but gets lasered for his trouble. Collector attempts to eliminate them while berating them over their non-collectibility and launches them down a trash chute. Then he starts fawning over his "variants," including his "rare, female variant." After Hulk and Spidey land at the bottom of the trash chute, he and Hulk start getting shoved by machinery towards the incinerator. Looks like they're gonna be Veruca Salt-ed. But no, they escape through the powers of Hulk Wisdom (it's the guy beneath the mask who's a hero), and the powers of slingshotting them through the exit with weblines. They emerge triumphant as the Collector fawns over his Howard the Duck variant, apparently the last of his collectibles. He begins "Phase Two," and Hulk frees the S.M.A.S.H. Agents, a very unfunny fart joke is made and followed up on by more unfunny comments, and the Collector freaks out about his non-mint collectibles.

Wait....  A-Bomb's not wearing any pants, but he is wearing a belt?
Hulk, Red Hulk, She-Hulk go off in one direction and Spidey, Skaar, and A-Bomb go in the other as Collector starts firing energy bursts, but they smash through a wall and join back up. Collector sends his robots after them so he can make his collection "priceless." The heroes deduce that he's going to make his collection more valuable by destroying Earth. Okay, he's pulling a Goldfinger.

Howard the Duck: the ever-popular cameo.
They get chased by robots, and manage to take them all out with Red Hulk's guns. They form a new plan to take out his giant bomb: Rulk and AB will disarm it, while Shulk and Skaar go off to teleport away the collected heroes. Spidey and Hulk go off to distract/fight/defeat the Collector. AB and Rulk get busy with their job, but Rulk breaks the wrong wire and just starts smashing the bomb. Drones come, so the two hide from them, then smash them. I’d ask why they didn’t just smash them to begin with, but let’s move on.

Meanwhile, Skaar takes out the drones in the teleport control room while Shulk goes to use the teleport controls.

She-Hulk: "'Sure, just use the teleporter,' he says. 'Beam the others out.' What about the part where I don't read alien-jerk-language?"

Oh my God, lady, IT'S NUMBERS! No, really, there's absolutely NO alien language! Just Arabic Numerals! You want me to read you off some of what it says? Okay! 3394043! Yep, THAT sure is an alien language there! And don't tell me that the numbers are the alien language, she said "alien-jerk-language." 

Seriously, take a closer look, they're Arabic numerals.
I can only arrive at one of three conclusions:
1.  The animators didn't read the script too closely.
2.  The animators didn't care.
3.  She-Hulk's illiterate.

This was the part of the episode that literally had me yelling at the screen. It's just... gah! Let's just move on. She presses the touchscreen, and the teleporter claw starts firing wildly. Meanwhile, the Collector presses buttons as Hulk and Spidey bum rush him. He slaps them away, and taunts them. He then grows to a giant size, and starts unleashing his wrath in the form of energy blasts. Meanwhile, Rulk's disarming the bomb as it's about to be dropped on Earth. A-Bomb breaks the door mechanism so that the bomb will blow up in the ship, and the two start running for it. Yep, way to not do your job, Rulkster. Shulk punches a robot, and the Collector's holding up Hulk and Spidey. Spidey tells the Collector to take of his mask. He does, and Spidey reiterates the "hero under the mask stuff" from earlier, and I guess he learned a lesson about how others view him.  ... yay...?

Actually, this is weird. When Collector unmasks Spidey, his face is pixellated like a protected witness, or something. I guess this is in keeping with the "Web Show" angle (no pun intended), but that angle only drops in when it feels like it, so it just comes off as distracting. If the "Web Show" angle were done more consistently, that could have been awesome and funny. But no, it's just "meh."

Anyway, Collector dropped the Hulk, as per the plan, and Hulk gets to smashing, knocking Collector out. Spidey re-masks, and She-Hulk teleports everyone back to Earth right before the ship explodes. One can only surmise how many valuable one-of-a-kind things the Collector had that were lost. The team's teleported back to base, and a hologram of the Collector admits he was wrong about Hulk and Spidey, telling them that next time he'll go after them first, then he disappears. Then they all go off and have a burrito-eating contest. Hulk scarfs down number 25 as the episode ends.

Final Thoughts
This episode... ahem...  sucksucksucksucksucksuckSUUUUUUCKS. But the worst part? IT'S THE BEST EPISODE SO FAR. Yeah. This show's a mixture of non-compelling, lazily-animated (The animation fluctuates between Good and Cheap; the animators cut lots of corners, like "animating" scenes with static images moving over static backgrounds, like something you'd see in a Flash cartoon), and plot hole ridden (seriously, She-Hulk, THEY'RE NUMBERS!). Also, the "jokes" are rarely, if ever, funny. Oh, you think this was the only episode with fart jokes? In She-Hulk’s first appearance, there was a joke about how bad the bathroom smelled after she used it. I guess they’re trying to go against the “Fart-jokes-are-a-boy-thing” stereotype… but it’s all just unfunny toilet humor.

The only good thing about this series is the voice crew. Fred Tatiascore as Hulk, Eliza Dushku as She-Hulk, Clancy Brown as Red Hulk, Seth Green as A-Bomb, and Benjamin Diskin as Skaar. Other than that, I find few-to-no redeeming qualities with this show. Having said that, I pass no judgement on people who like the show, though.  If you like it, fine, you're entitled to your opinion, and if you do enjoy this show, I’m not going to stop you. But I don't like it. I really don't. But I hope it gets better. 

I want to like this show, but just watching it leaves me feeling drained. It’s wasted potential.  If this show, called "AGENTS of S.M.A.S.H.," actually used the characters as extensions of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as, like, a secret ultimate black-ops weapon against cosmic threats, this could be GREAT. As it is, it's basically Hulk and his Muscular Friends are Hated by All, but are Still Allowed to Roam Free and Fight Bad Guys. Meh. I'll see you next time, where I'll be lifting all our spirits with a People’s Choice Recap/Review!

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