Just like "Iron Man is Born," this Micro-Episode compilation introduces us to one of the core Avengers. Unlike that episode, though, we also get introductions for several more characters, as well. But is it too much for one episode? Let's take a look.
First of all, let's go over our newly-introduced main characters all in turn.
There are two ways to deal with the character of the Hulk. Hulking out is either something the audience is supposed to cheer, or be absolutely terrified of. This episode gives us the former, with a bit of the latter. When Absorbing Man attacks Bruce Banner, the idea is to make the audience say "Oh, no! Don't Hulk out!" But during the ensuing smackdown, we're expected to turn around cheer the Hulk on. It's a bit of an indecisive tone, but not to the detriment of the episode.
The Hulk himself is a classic version. He has his moments of snarky wit, and he has his moments of unbridled rage. This Hulk is far from the one-note character he often gets simplified into, and this works to the episode's (and series') advantage. When the Hulk is just a rage beast, then the focus should be on Bruce Banner. But since this Hulk is so three-dimensional, even heroic, we can put focus on both Banner and the Hulk as an amalgamated deuteragonist.
...what? I've got to put that English major to work somehow.
There's really nothing special about this Bruce Banner, but he serves as an excellent contrast to the Hulk nevertheless. The dichotomy between the deliberate, careful Bruce Banner and the wild, brutish Hulk act as Id and Superego, with no real Ego to speak of.
...fine, I'll simplify.
Hulk is instinct, Bruce Banner is self-awareness. Showing the struggle between the two is infinitely more interesting then just having him be the Hulk 24/7 with no mention of Bruce Banner.
An excellent introduction to Hawkeye. Unlike other portrayals of Hawkeye, this portrayal is a witty wisecracker, but one with hidden depths. Sure, he's all jokes and arrows when he's fighting, but his scene alone with Bruce highlight his aforementioned hidden depths, showing us a well-rounded character right off the bat. Kudos.
Smart, sexy, dangerous. And a double agent. Not only do we establish her personality, but we also establish her rivalry with Hawkeye as their Spy vs. Spy subplot begins.
As we'll see throughout the series, she's not made out to be a perfect Mary Sue like in a certain other series, but is still a formidable adversary in her own right. Kudos again to the creative team.
Several! ...Okay, two.
We see that the ostensibly heroic S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing the morally ambiguous thing, trying to create more Hulks. Sadly, as a certain anonymous commenter pointed out previously, this ends up going nowhere. Oops.
But most importantly, the Hawkeye vs. Black Widow plot gets into gear. What can I say? It's a great little subplot (but perhaps not so "little"), and it gets off to a great start. The end of the episode is just bonechilling as Black Widow, one of the good guys, utters that most shocking of phrases.
It's a bold move, making a prominent superhero into a double agent, but.... well, let's not get into spoilers.
The only problem I can see is that the Hawkeye/Black Widow stuff sort of outshines the Hulk stuff... but who cares? Something good is being outperformed by something great. That's like saying, "My filet mignon is tastier than my sweet potato fries." It's not really something you can complain about.
All in all, a pretty good episode, though it suffers from the anachronistic order, like "Iron Man is Born."
See you next time!