Monday, February 17, 2014

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

So, you know that running gag where the Hulks crash their jet every episode? Well, I guess it’s not a “gag.” Okay, so you know that running happenstance where the Hulks crash their jet every episode? Well, this time, the jet’s out for revenge! No, seriously, that’s the plot of the episode. That’s… a clever idea. I’m suspicious. Who are you and what have you done with Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.!?

The Hulkjet's back, and it's out for blood. Green blood. And some blue blood. And orange glowy blood.
The episode opens with Rick “A-Bomb” Jones hosting “Greatest Smash-Ups.” This weeks “Epic Fail” subject, as determined by fan votes… is the Jumpjet! (Or as I’ve been calling it, the Hulkjet.) We see Rick and the others going over a montage of crashes, laughing heartily at the millions of tax-payers’ dollars lost. Well, except for She-Hulk. She visibly cringes at the footage, most likely because she’s the one flying most of the time it crashes. That’s not me making a “women drivers” joke; she’s actually the pilot. If I’d said that it keeps crashing because she was fixing her hair in the rearview mirror, that would be a joke. A sexist, unfunny joke, but a joke nonetheless.

Hulk tells her not to worry, though, because Red Hulk got them an endless supply of them. From… where? S.H.I.E.L.D.? Most likely, but they've never said, which is frustrating. Are the Hulks working with S.H.I.E.L.D.? Do they have S.H.I.E.L.D. oversight? Seriously, why are the Hulks allowed to operate out of an old military base with S.H.I.E.L.D. hardware? It’s never explicitly stated, and I’ve given up on it ever being explained. So as far as I’m concerned, the Hulks are outfitted by Hydra.

Anyway, moving on, Rick’s introducing another segment to the show, “Follow the Leader.” Yep, he’s just straight-up saying “Hey, world! We’ve got a super-genius terrorist imprisoned on American soil! And we’re just a bunch of untrained civilians with no legal right to detain him! This is a good plan!” Although, you could easily handwave that Red Hulk is ex-military…. But still.

Anyway, Rick makes faces against the glass and taunts him a bit, and the Leader gives the cryptic clue “Rise and shine.” Rick taunts him some more, before getting bored and walking away. Meanwhile, the Hulks are watching Rick do this on their giant monitor when Nick Fury’s face suddenly shows up, asking for the Hulks’ help. Buh-whuh… whah? The Hulks… are working for S.H.I.E.L.D.? …well, I take back what I said about the show not explaining that. Well, it’s never actually outright stated, but I’m chalking this up to “show, don’t tell.” I’ll tell you what, this episode’s off to the best start in the entire series. I’m legitimately shocked at the level of quality on display so far. Like, seriously.

Anyway, the threat this time is not actually a giant monster, it’s a space station. And it’s heading toward a meteor shower. Red Hulk pipes up that this is more like something the Avengers would handle, and Fury says that he needs the Hulks’ indestructibility. Mainly because of the anti-alien-invasion weapons on the space station that S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t want falling to Earth. And with that, the Hulks fly the Hulkjet into space.

When they approach the station, it’s not so much a “meteor shower” as “Holy crap why are there so many meteors”. Even the actual asteroid belt (a cosmic formation defined by being entirely made of space rocks) isn’t this densely packed. The Hulkjet, unexpectedly, interjects that the boosters are being engaged, and they speed up. Hulk tells She-Hulk to slow down, but she protests that she’s not the one doing it. The controls are locked, and they’re speeding towards the space station with enough velocity to destroy it. Roll intro.

When we return, the controls are unresponsive, and She-Hulk rips out the control panel, stopping the boosters. But since space is a frictionless vacuum, they still have all their speed, and all they can do is brace for impact. I’ve got to say, that’s better attention to physics than “All About the Ego” had. Heck, that’s better attention to physics than “Hyperion” had. But then, Hulk punches out the side of the jet, and the escaping air turns the jet enough to miss the space station. …the jury’s still out on the physics of that. The only problem now is that they’re running out of air, as noted by Red Hulk who…

…sticks his head out the hole to confirm that there is, in fact, no air in space. Rulk, that’s the sort of thing I expect from Skaar. Rulk plugs the hole up, and Hulk turns his attention back to the station, which is still imperiled. She-Hulk says that the system reboot will take too long. I’m not sure how you reboot a system after removing half of it, but whatever. The team puts on their spacesuits and fly their rocket boards out of the jet to smash up the meteors by hand. I’ll let them get away with the dodgy physics involved. After all, Silver Surfer gets away with it.

They start smashing and shooting and slashing. She-Hulk helps a team of S.H.I.E.L.D agents remove meteor debris from the space station thrusters, and the station flies free. Well, except for the Armageddon-sized asteroid heading their way. But, Hulk effortlessly smashes it. Later, on the station, the team celebrates.

A-Bomb: “We came, we saw, we smashed!”

Nick Fury pops up on the station monitor, and tells A-Bomb that the mission is classified as top secret. So A-Bomb asks everyone watching his webshow to not tell anyone. Okay, that was kind of funny. She-Hulk goes and looks over the damage to the jet, but can’t figure out what made it lock up. She runs a diagnostic, and the jet computer gives the results as “All Systems Normal.” She-Hulk chalks up the incident as a glitch, and they tell Skaar that it’s time to leave.

Hulk: “Skaar! Quit poking that missile. You’re gonna cause Armageddon.”

The Hulks fly back to Earth, and… strange things happen aboard the ship. A door slams She-Hulk, a lid hits Red Hulk, and Rick falls down a hatch. Everyone blames Skaar, but he insists that it’s not him. She-Hulk checks the computer, and they’re way off course. She goes to fix it, and…

Computer: “Access denied… She-Hulk.”

She-Hulk gets electrocuted, and begins reconfiguring itself.

A-Bomb: “You know, horror movies where ships go bad never turn out well.”

Suddenly, the Leader appears on the monitor, having apparently broken free, repeating the code-phrase “Rise and shine.” The thrusters ignite, pinning the Hulks down from the G-forces, and the Leader monologues about the virus he planted in the ship computer remotely. Actually, it’s not a virus per se, he just gave the computer free will, and he decided to take revenge for all the times he’s been destroyed. He remembers each and every one due to the black box data from each crash being installed on the each next jet. To top it all off, he’s got the red HAL 9000 eye. Uh-oh. The jet arms the missiles and turns around to the space station, firing the Gatling guns. The station’s trajectory will put the wreckage smack dab in the middle of DC. Convenient. The Leader gloats about how the Hulks will be to blame and he can take over, but the Hulks start a-smashing. Hulk tells them to try and destroy the memory core under the floor.

Computer: “I’m afraid I can’t let you do that, Hulk.”

Okay, I’m naming this computer. He is now “JET 9001.”

JET: “I’m going to have to ask you to step outside.”

Naturally, this means that he’s ejecting the Hulks into space. And he does. And their still bodies hit the moon.
Wow, that was a short episode. I mean, you can't breathe in space. But surprisingly, A-Bomb stands up and immediately wonders why he can breathe in space, coming to the conclusion that he’s a ghost. Hulk explains that they’re on the “Blue Area” of the moon; an artificial atmosphere, where the Watcher lives.

Hulk: “A big, bald, cosmic weirdo who likes to… well, watch.”

You can see the gears in Rulk's head moving....
Said weirdo is right behind the Hulk, naturally. The team asks for his help, but he just stands there and… watches. Hulk tells them that the Watcher won’t interfere. Just watch. A-Bomb, who expresses surprise at his phone working on the moon, tries to contact Nick Fury.

A-Bomb: “I got four bars. On the moon! I can’t get a signal, no.”
Hulk: “Must be the Jump Jet jamming us.”

Speaking of which, the jet swoops around for a strafing run, narrowly missing the team. Hulk says that someone needs to sneak onboard and rip out the black box, and Skaar volunteers A-Bomb. The jet turns into a robot…

A-Bomb: “Since when does the jet have a robot mode?”
She-Hulk: “It’s in the manual.”

And deploys remote drones. The Hulks start distracting the robot so that A-Bomb can sneak aboard the robot, and the Leader contacts JET to demand that he destroy the space station. JET refuses, and fires missiles at the Hulks. Leader and JET argue the merits of killing the Hulks vs. letting them watch the Leader’s victory, and A-Bomb has managed to get to JET’s memory core. It looks suspiciously like HAL’s from 2001: a Space Odyssey. Unlike that film, JET counters with Doctor Octopus arms that capture A-Bomb. Rick tries to talk JET down, but JET’s not having it.

JET: “You treat me as if I have no value. Being unappreciated makes me… angry. And A-Bomb… you would not like me when I’m angry.”

A-Bomb swipes a storage box of weapons and escapes. The Hulks power up and start a-fightin’. None of their weapons do much in the way of damage, though, so Hulk crunches all their weapons together, sets it to overload, and detonates it on the robot, knocking it over. The Hulks turn their attentions to the falling station, when JET activates super-transforming powers like the ones seen in “Hulk Busted” and now bears a striking resemblance to Soundwave.
Transformers: Jumpjets in Disguise.
More fighting ensues, and Hulk realizes that they need to appeal to its sense of free will. The team starts speechifying about what it means to feel unwanted, saying that they get no respect in any mission they go on. JET counters that he’s just another disposable weapon to them, but Hulk tells him to check his data files on the number of lives saved with each crash of the Hulkjet. Hulk teaches Jet that this means he’s a hero, and promises to appreciate the sacrifices he’s made.

JET decides to keep the streak alive and goes to rescue the station, with Hulk tagging along inside. A-Bomb contacts Fury, who informs them that the crew is safe, but the missiles are still on board. Hulk pilots the jet under the station and redirects the momentum to push the station back up. It works, but the G-forces activated the weapons, which are ready to detonate. JET pushes away the station to a safe distance, and ejects the Hulk. The station explodes, and Hulk lands near his teammates along with JET’s black box. Hulk asks Fury for a lift home, and Red Hulk pays the Watcher one final visit.

Red Hulk: “Hey, Watcher! I almost forgot to ask. Can you see stars?
Watcher: “Yes. I see every one of them.”

Red Hulk lands a haymaker right in the Watcher’s face.

Red Hulk: “Betcha’ve never seen those before! Next time, get off yer keister and lend a hand!”
A case of cartoon imitating comic. Nicely done.
Back at the base, A-Bomb and the jet bond a bit. And by “bond,” I mean, the jet blasts exhaust at Rick as a prank.

JET: “Epic Fail. A-Bomb style.”

Hulk reiterates the “do what’s right because it’s right” moral, and the episode ends. I don't think much more needs to be said about this episode, but I will anyway. Actually, I'll just do the review right here.

Excellent episode. It was creative, tense, funny, and exactly what this series needed from the beginning. In fact, my only gripe is the inconsistency with the episodes after this, where the jet is unable to talk despite being able to at the end of this one.

Other than that, this is one of the best episodes of the series. And hey, maybe we can start up a Red Hulk/Watcher rivalry? It would certainly be an interesting direction for the character! And there's precedent!

Now that's the definition of "Passive-Aggressive."

1 comment:

  1. Rulk better hope that he never gets near a black hole in this show