Sunday, December 8, 2013

Recap: Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. "Of Moles and Men"

Well, here we are again. The last episode I need to catch up on before getting to "Wendigo Apocalypse," the first really good episode. How does this one stack up? Well, it's either "meh" or the worst episode in the series.

Let us begin.

Why do I get the feeling that this episode ends with Hulk putting Skaar down after he kills a lady?
Rick: “Hey Gamma fans!"

Mmmm… I can tolerate that.

Rick continues to exposit that there is actually one place that loves the Hulk. The town near the test site where he was created, Vista Verde. As it turns out, the Agents themselves are at the opening of “Herb’s Gammaburgers.” Well, they’d have to be, wouldn’t they? I mean, we learned in the series premiere that Vista Verde has enough ambient Gamma radiation to allow Annihilus to rip through the fabric of reality, so, yeah. I’d be more impressed with a joint that didn't serve “Gammaburgers.”

That’s right, Gammaburgers! The only burgers with tangy Radioiodine sauce!
Mayor Stan (voiced by Generalissimo Stan Lee) presents Hulk with the big scissors for the ribbon cutting while spouting all sorts of alliteration.

Herb: “Before you cut the green ribbon, you like to say anything, Hulk?”
Hulk: “Uhh…nope.”

Applause erupts as a Gollum-looking creature appears slinking around in the background. Hulk cuts the ribbon, and Red Hulk goes and gives a souvenir vendor a piece of his mind over not selling any Red Hulk merch. This scene is over with no resolution, so if we never see the vendor again, I’m going to assume that Rulk killed him. Over with She-Hulk, she’s inside Herb’s Gammaburgers arm-wrestling two beefy truckers at the same time. The camera pans over to Rick, Hulk, and Skaar ordering from the diner before She-Hulk can undoubtedly make it explicitly known how she doesn’t care for these two men because of all their manliness and she’s a strong independent woman who don't need no man! Rick orders a few “appetizers,” and Skaar downs a bottle of mustard. Makes sense to me; if there’s one thing we learned from Teen Titans, it’s that aliens drink mustard.

Skaar: “Mmm. Yellow.”

No doubt because of synesthesia. After the Agents order, a little girl and her mom come over to say hi to the Hulks. The creepily-detailed girl has THE MOST DISTURBING TEDDY BEAR I’VE EVER SEEN.

The girl apparently made her “Gamma Bear” by herself, being a big fan of the Hulk’s. Now, anyone who ever saw Star Trek: Generations, Mulan, Die Hard 2, or Oz: the Great and Powerful should know by this point that the only reason this girl has a doll is so in can be used to either represent a dead kid, or to be used as a point for pathos when it gets destroyed in some cataclysm. Expect symbolism ahead. But before any symbolism can happen, the ground begins to rumble. Somebody call Bert Gummer, I’ve got a bad feeling about this. As soon as the Hulks rush outside, what appears to be a gigantic Graboid makes its way down Main Street.

"We have wormsign the likes of which GOD has never seen!"
A-Bomb recuses a bus full of people from the menacing worm, and the others attack the thing in their own unique way. As the humans flee the area, the little girl does indeed drop her bear with a cry of “Gammy!” Told you. She runs off in the creature’s path to get it, but gets saved by the Hulk. Then they both get eaten by the worm. Thankfully, after the titles, Hulk manages to force his way out, bringing the little girl back to her mother. More carnage ensues as the worm deflects She-Hulk’s tank-car-thing into the diner, and Devil Dinosaur and Skaar get webbed up by the worm. Red Hulk’s gun proves useless, and A-Bomb gets quickly launched far away. Hulk, gaining some common sense, throws the creature far away from the town into the desert.

Rick: “Nice finishing move, guy! ‘The Hulk-Hurl!’ Which has nothing to do with throwing up. Oh, speaking of spewing bile, where’s Red?”

Red is in the rubble lamenting the loss of his beloved gun. Speaking of rubble, the town is pretty much decimated. Flaming cars, wrecked buildings, and the new diner’s been set ablaze. Even the Gamma Bear has been decapitated, which means that the audience gets to hear an adult voice actor portraying a kid get to pretend to cry. Which means that if you close your eyes, it sounds like you’re watching Rugrats.

Hulk (cutaway): “Should’ve been able to stop it sooner.”

Yeah. I agree. It really is your fault that you didn’t open with that move. You could have thrown that thing away at any time, but you waited until most of the city was wrecked. Yeah, your fault.

Mayor: “Don’t worry, Hulk. We’ll rebuild. Just like we always do.”

Ah, I see. The town has Stockholm Syndrome.

Hulk sends the team on clean-up duty while he goes off alone to finish off the worm.

She-Hulk: “Fine. Be antisocial.”

Well, if that ain’t the She-Hulk calling the Hulk green.

Rick goes after Hulk to talk to him, and She-Hulk lures Skaar away from sniffing the sewer. But Skaar’s not doing it just because he likes the smell of butts. Not this time. As they go to help the town, the same Gollum-esque figure is caught by Rick’s cameras.

Rick (cutaway): “Alright, who was that little creep? And was he controlling that beast?”

Thank you for spelling it out to us like we’re stupid. Over with the Hulk, he’s found out where the knocked-out monster landed. Speaking of monsters landing, Rick shows up to ask Hulk what’s bothering him. As it turns out, Hulk feels guilty about Vista Verde getting wrecked all the time, “like it’s my fault.” Before I, or anyone else, can scream "IT IS YOUR FAULT," Rick counters with the fact that the earliest settlers called Vista Verde “Via Diablo.” Turns out that the area has always had bad stuff happen to it. If it weren’t for the Hulk, Vista Verde would probably not exist anymore. Um, was this town ever called “Perfection”?

As Hulk wonders whether or not Vista Verde would be better off without him, the ground opens up and the two fall deep inside the Earth, where they’re quickly taken away by a few hundred Gollums. Hulk lets them do it because he has a hunch that the Gollums just want to show the Hulks something. After Hulk takes note of some cave drawings on the wall, he surmises that other “visitors’ have been there before. Why? Because there’s drawings on the walls? Maybe the Gollums drew them, Hulk? Maybe that’s kind of racist of you to assume that these guys didn’t create art on their own walls because they’re ugly and therefore stupid?

Anyway, the two get taken to what appears to be the subterranean Silurian city from “The Hungry Earth,” and a cloaked she-Gollum tells them that, because Hulk has defeated the giant worm, their gods chose the Hulk to be the next ruler of Subterranea. So… giant worms, and a prophesied messiah who’s also a genetic superman? Hulk is the Kwisatz Haderach!

Hulk gets a crown, and they all start worshipping him. Hulk, reluctantly, accepts his post and the feast begins. Of course, it’s typical brains, eyes, and bugs that Hulk devours before letting loose what can only be described as a burpslosion.

Rick tells the Hulk that they might want to get going, and Hulk tells Rick to go off alone.

Hulk: “It’s good to be the king.”

Well, that's an odd reference.
Hulk explains that the Moloids (the real name for the Gollums) would be wiped out if another worm comes. They need a protector. Rick counters that the Hulks need him too. Hulk parries that if he’s underground, he can’t cause problems on the surface and he can stop underground monsters from ever reaching the surface. Rick then uses his trump card; he found some cave art (proving that, yes, the Moloids are creating this art, Hulk) depicting Hulk fighting of monsters for the rest of his life. Hulk stubbornly insists that it’s better this way, and Rick bitterly goes off to the surface.

He is our new king, he is! Our Pr-r-r-r-ecious king!
The Hulk may be stubborn, but he isn’t stupid. He questions the… I’m gonna say “priestess” about the drawings, and she merely waves them off as stories to scare the kids. Suddenly, the ground starts shaking and the Moloids quickly give Hulk a spear. Before long, another worm burrows into the chamber. Hulk realizes that he’s probably been had, but he still can’t find it in himself to abandon the Moloids. As the Hulk smashes the worm, the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. are busy repairing the town. Except for Red Hulk; he’s busy “supervising.” Skaar and She-Hulk worry about Rick and Hulk, but Rulk insists they’re fine.

Red Hulk: “Besides, you’ve got me calling the shots now!”
She-Hulk: “Hmm, I think I’ll get the jet.”

Hulk defeats the mighty worm, but not only do two more show up, but the first one wakes up. They worms web up Hulk and knock him out. When he comes to, Hulk finds himself webbed upside down to a stalactite alongside the Mole Man, the former ruler of the Moloids. Hulk recognizes him as one of the Fantastic Four’s villains, but Mole Man shoots that down as the propaganda of a “libelous newspaper mogul.” Mole Man insists that he was just a ridiculed scientist who made his way into the hollow Earth before becoming leader of the Moloids. He further explains that the worms were likely lured to the surface by the Moloids to test the Hulk’s ability to fight them.

"Captain Cold finally found out that I stole his glasses and took his revenge."
While Mole Man yammers on, Hulk breaks the stalactite with his foot, sending it crashing down into the worm nest, where bay worms start to stir. Thankfully, Rick comes and slashes the webs, allowing the baby worms to defeated by… Mole Man. Okay, I didn’t see that coming, but it makes sense. I mean, he’d need to be able to fight them in order to be their king for any amount of time. Hulk and Mole Man put their heads together and figure out that the nest is where it is because there’s a lava tube underneath them. Hulk, to no one’s surprise, hits the ground and sends torrents of lava into the nest, destroying the baby worms. In a logical world, the convection of the heat through the air would at least fry the Mole Man if not also the Hulks, but… meh. Fiction always treats lava like little kids do when they pretend the floor is made of lava; as long as you don’t touch it, you’re fine. They defeat all the baby worms, and Mole Man tells them that only the queen is left.

Meanwhile, the team shows up at the hole into the Earth that Rick and Hulk fell into. Before they can jump in, the bug queen bursts out of the ground, looking more than a bit like Mister Mind’s Hyperfly form from 52.

Somebody call Booster Gold.
The Hulks’ attacks prove useless, and the beast heads straight for the nearest town, like all monster in fiction do. But this town proves to be populated by badasses, as Mayor Stan drives a truck straight into it. It doesn’t work, and the Hulk has to save him from acid spit, but at least he tried. She-Hulk, meanwhile, fires the Hulkjet lasers as Skaar attacks its eye with his sword. It bounces off with that “tink” sound that video game bosses make when your attacks don’t hurt them, but full points given for attacking it in the eye.

A for effort.
The jet gets hit by acid spit, causing She-Hulk to jump out. Hulk shoots Rulk’s new grenade launcher down the queen’s throat, but to no avail. Thankfully, Mole Man spurs the Moloids into action, and their solar-powered spear (which even make a lightsaber noise when they power up) fire energy blasts at the darn thing. After Rulk mentions that they “need a big shoe” to squash this thing, Hulk formulates a plan to lure the monster out of town, which works disgustingly quickly. Hulk, you need to lead with the “get the monster out of town” plans.

Anyway, they grab a giant rock formation and squish the queen, and the day is saved. And an endangered species may have just been wiped out forever. Later in town, the Moloids try to get the Hulk to come back as their king, but Mayor Stan insists that the Hulk is theirs, and no one’s changing that. I guess the Stockholm Syndrome was worse than I thought. Hulk gives the title of king back to Mole Man after the creepily detailed girl begs “Mistiw Hulk” not to go.

“I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that's why," right, episode?

Not only does she have the voice of an adult pretending to be three, but she has the head of an adult. WTF?
Later in the diner, after an admittedly funny gag where a Moloid tries to pay for his meal with a diamond, the team gets their meals. A thankful Herb tells the team that the Hulks will always eat for free there. If you ask me, that might drive him out of business.

She-Hulk: “What about dinosaurs?”
Herb: “Ah-uh…seriously? …really?”

Strike that, he’s definitely going out of business. Rick and Hulk have a trite little wrap-up about “family,” Skaar drinks more mustard, and the episode ends.

Good? No. Bad? Not necessarily. So why did I say that this might be the worst episode in the series? I'll get to that in the review portion.

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