Sunday, November 24, 2013

Recap: Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. "Incredible Shrinking Hulks"

I have finally figured out Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.
It’s a paint-by-numbers kit. After I go over this episode, I’ll let you know exactly what I mean.

Why don't any of these titles have a "the"? What's wrong with a "the"?
The episode opens up on Vista Verde, late at night. The Agents of S.M.A.S.H are taking some time off at a local mini-golf course. I have no problem with this. Normal people enjoy mini golf, and just because you become a giant, green rage monster doesn’t mean you stop enjoying things like this. A-Bomb lines up his putt while the others trash talk him. He hits the ball right before the hole, and Hulk sinks in it by lightly stomping his foot for a hole-in-one, no doubt damaging the terrain underneath his foot. The others start rasslin’ A-Bomb a bit, revealing that it’s actually his birthday.

Am I the only one who thinks that Skaar's about to eat that golf ball?
And that She-Hulk is pretending she doesn't notice?
Hulk (cutaway): “Even guys like us need to have fun. So we dressed down and rented a miniature golf course for A-Bomb’s birthday. …and, yeah, we lost the deposit.”

That's what you get for cheating with a destructive footstomp, Hulk.
A-Bomb thanks the camera for all the birthday wishes from his fans, and Skaar reveals that he’s never had a birthday because he doesn’t remember a lot of his past, including his family. No doubt because they're setting it up for the later reveal that Skaar is secretly Hulk's son!
...what, you think that's a joke? That's how it is in the comics.

""Get real, what are the odds of you ever meeting one of your parents?"
In the cutaway, Rick develops a sudden animosity towards Skaar that hasn’t presented itself in the previous episodes since Hulk told Rick that Skaar was a traitor. Again, this show seems to think that a story arc is created by retconning problems into a character, then solving said problems in twenty minutes. But here's what really happens:

Newt: "Rick is angry and doesn't trust Skaar? I wonder what effect this will have on th- oh, he's fine now."

Back on the course, Rick prepares to wow the team with another hole-in-one, but his ball bounces off a structure in the middle of the course, which unfolds into a SCIENCE ray. The ray shoots the Hulks with its bright yellow beams of SCIENCE, and they begin to shrink down until they’re the size of the golf balls they’ve been hitting around. They dodge a falling rack of clubs, but She-Hulk gets her foot pinned and has to be saved by the Hulk, who bends the gigantic golfclub into a boomerang and throws it away.

Now, I’ve gone over how this show plays fast-and-loose with physics in the past. Now that we have an episode where several laws of physics are now being actively broken as a plot point, expect an inconsistent free-for-all, because that’s what you’re getting. The show will now begin to flip-flop on what constitutes a peril at this size. Actually, wait. Ant-Man has full-size strength at micro-size. Why don't the Hulks? I assume the Leader's using Pym Particles, unless he popped over to the universe next door and borrowed a dwarf-star lens.

The shrink ray fires up again, and tries to track down the escaping Hulks. They take shelter from the beam behind a bit of scenery, which doesn’t shrink. Instead of being something for me to nitpick, this is actually acknowledged by Red Hulk. Hulk surmises that the beam must be programmed specifically for the Hulks. And their clothes, I'd like to add. I like to think that the Leader just didn't want to deal with a naked Hulk. Actually, I'm pretty impressed that they wrote an explanation of the lack of collateral shrinking into the script. It’s a cop-out that I can poke holes in if I felt like it, but I’ll take it.

Suddenly, a hologram of the Leader appears and congratulates the Hulk on his deduction.

Rick (cutaway): “Hey, hulkies.”

What did I say about calling me that? Gettin' tired of your malarkey, Rick!

Rick (cutaway): “If you haven’t been streaming my show, Dr. Uber-brow here is a dysfunctional member of our Gamma family out to destroy Hulk and take over the world. Yikes!”

The Leader reveals that he knew about the Hulks’ plans tonight, so he installed the shrink ray. His prerecorded hologram gloats over the Hulks before turning off, and the shrink ray resumes firing. Hulk tells Skaar to go attack any bugs or other creatures that might attack them. While he’s gone, Hulk confers with Rick about Skaar having possibly tipped off the Leader.

Let's put the episode on hold for a second. Hulk? Rick? Did you ever stop to think that maybe the fact that you're broadcasting your personal lives all over the internet for everybody, their brother, and the Leader to see? Maybe you're leaking the information, Rick? Have you never seen the part of Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog where the titular character has this exact same problem

Back in the episode, Rick votes for attacking Skaar.

Hulk (cutaway): “Yeah, Skaar works for the Leader, but now he’s shrunk along with us. Why? Dunno. But until I know, I don’t want Rick jumping the gun.”

It’s important to note that, what with the urgent events in this and other episodes, these cutaways are likely “filmed” after the events of the episode, like on reality TV. Now, spoiler alert, but the Hulks get back to normal size by the end of this episode. But in this cutaway, Hulk is tiny. So, this means that either Hulk got shrank down again to film these cutaways, or he somehow left the golf course, recorded this in the usual room, and then came back. Yes, I know, it's "just a cartoon," but that's no excuse. I wouldn't let them get away with this crap in live-action, either. I’ll stop harping on it; I’ve probably put more thought and care into it than the writers did.

Back in the episode, Hulk vetoes attacking Skaar as She-Hulk and Red Hulk wonder what they’re talking about.

Red Hulk (cutaway): “Me, I don’t like keeping secrets. But that’s just between us, got it?”

Okay, that was pretty funny. You know, I find myself saying that more and more often. Could it possibly be that this show is improving? I don’t know, the episode’s not over yet. For all I know, they could start up with the toilet humor again. ...don't you dare, show.

Skaar returns, having apparently slaughtered some ants in what was no doubt a battle worthy of Klingon poetry, and A-Bomb uses his memory of the course to figure out a path towards the shrink ray. As they run to the shrink ray, an owl swoops down and nearly snatches them. Red Hulk wants to smash it, but She-Hulk protests that the bird’s endangered. Red Hulk counters that they are, too. Skaar gets grabbed, so Hulk jumps after him.
There's a "Give a hoot, don't pollute" joke here somewhere....

She-Hulk: “Hulk!”
Hulk: “I know, it’s endangered!”

Hulk frees Skaar by… humping the owl in the face. I know that’s not what it’s supposed to be, but I'm sorry, that’s what it looks like. I get that they didn't want the Hulk punching an endangered owl... but I like to think there were alternatives to humping it in the face. Anyway, A-Bomb, Shulk, and Rulk catch Skaar, and Hulk jumps down.

"Here, let us catch our comrade by not moving this broken glass out of the way! This is a good plan."
The shrink ray doubles back towards the Hulk, and the team hides. Rick and Hulk discuss Skaar’s actual gratitude towards the Hulk, and Rulk rushes over saying that he’s timed the shrink ray’s sequence. Rick makes a veiled comment about Skaar's alliances, and Rulk rushes the shrink ray, getting blasted for his troubles and shrinking into nothingness. Except that this is the Marvel Universe and we all know that if you shrink down enough you go into the Microverse. Oooh, who else wants to see the Micronauts show up? Oh, wait, they're not owned by Marvel anymore.

As the team flees the ray, Skaar gets stuck, but the beam deliberately goes around him, to She-Hulk’s surprise. Rick gives more veiled hints as to Skaar’s traitor status, and the team jumps down the 18th hole, before being followed by golf balls that appear to have spontaneously generated above them. Hulk saves them team from being crushed by golfballs (which I'd have thought Hulk could have at least punched away), and they all continue walking down the ball return tube.

They start mourning the loss of Red Hulk, until a squeaky voice pipes up. Before they can react to that, a giant scorpion shows up, dripping venom from its fangs and grabbing the Hulk. They beat it up and before I can wonder why golf balls were more of a threat than a scorpion the squeaky voice pops up again.

A-Bomb: “Alright, dude, your hair is screaming?”

Red Hulk climbs out from behind Hulk’s ear, revealing that he was just shrunk proportionately, not into nothingness. The team exits to the surface… somehow? And they rig up a putting machine to spit out a rolled-up A-Bomb to cross a water hazard.
The others lift the putting machine into position, but Skaar purposefully trips She-Hulk at the last moment, resulting in A-Bomb ricocheting back into Hulk instead. A-Bomb attacks Skaar in retaliation, and reveals his status as a traitor to the rest of the team. Red Hulk and She-Hulk get understandably upset about the whole thing, and they do what they do best: fight with each other. Suddenly, the Leader teleports in as the team bickers.

"Behold! I have dressed myself in such a way that my giant head looks less weird by comparison!"
Leader: “Ah, the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. doing what you do best: fighting amongst yourselves.”

I know, right? Finally, a character I can empathize with.

Leader: “How amusing.”

Not really.

Leader: “How predictable.”

I’ll give you that.
The Leader takes out Hulk with a psychic blast and congratulates Skaar.

Skaar: “Leader… promised to help Skaar.”

Leader rewards Skaar by restoring him to full size, and puts all of the mini-Hulks into psychic bubbles, promising their destruction. Ah, no doubt the Leader will reduce the size of these bubbles, crushing the Hulks to a fine pulp. As Hulk tries to smash his way out, he also tries to remind Skaar of the family that he has, and the times they’ve shared, and all that. Leader counters that only he can give Skaar the secrets of his past, and Skaar explains that all he wants is to learn where he came from. Uh, Leader? Crush them? Crush them now? You are literally one step away from winning? Or you could expand the bubbles, keeping the same amount of air in there which would suffocate them faster? You have a lot of options here is what I'm saying.

Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. DO IT. DO IT! You could have killed them seven times over!
The Hulks continue to plead for Skaar to help them, except for Red Hulk who yells at him for being a traitor. Skaar makes his choice and assaults the Leader, chasing him through the course. His concentration breaks, and the Hulks escape their psychic bubbles.

She-Hulk (cutaway): “Now I get it! Skaar tripped me to trick the Leader into thinking he was on his side!”

Or he tripped you for the Leader and he just now had a change of heart? Or the Leader's pulling a double-double-double cross?

Skaar continues to follow the Leader, who pulls out a laser.

Leader: “Stay back, savage!”

What? You're the one with the laser here.
Skaar gets hit, and the Hulks all attack the Leader, with Red Hulk actually jumping up and PUNCHING THE LEADER IN THE EYE. That hurts me just thinking about it. That tiny fist should have been like a needle!

A-Bomb rolls up and trips the Leader so Hulk can land a solid blow, and Leader gives the “I have a new family” spiel. Leader counters by teleporting away after setting the ray to shrink everything at the course. Skaar slashes the shrink ray tower, and She-Hulk rewires the ray, using the logic that the purple and yellow beams shrunk them, so they should switch out the purple and yellow wires for the blue one! Of course, this assumes that there’s even a growth option, which would be a no-no if your plan only includes shrinking, but let’s move on.

Skaar switches the wires successfully, and the team grows back to normal size. Hulk and the team forgive Skaar, and they all come together as one big family. Later, we see that they rebuilt the mini golf course with the Hulks as a theme, while the shrunken down course is now a true “mini” golf course, being played by a couple kids. A-Bomb teases Red Hulk that the course doesn’t have a Red Hulk statue, but he’s instead painted on the red golf balls.

Later, Skaar gets a birthday cake of his own, and they all fight over it.
And with a “Hulk Out” cutaway, the episode ends.
Now let's go over why I called the show "paint-by-numbers."


  1. By the fact that "How to humiliate the giants - turn them into ants" line didn't inspire Ant-Man cameo, I can tell this review is old.

    1. You're right; it was a little while longer before Ant-Man begun sticking his nose into my Recaps.