Thursday, September 25, 2014

Recap: Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. "Planet Leader"

Friends, Bronies, Star Trek fans. Lend me your ears.

This is the story of the Hulk, and how he came home. This is the story of Planet Hulk.

'Tis a tale as old as... I don't know, 2006, I think.
One day, several of Earth's foremost protectors, including Tony Stark, Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange, and Professor Xavier banded together to form a secret council. There, they would defend Earth in ways that no one else could. That no one else would want to. Eventually, a topic came up that they had been putting off for quite some time.

What do you do with a problem like the Hulk?

Eventually, they reluctantly decided that the best thing to do would be to rocket him off to a peaceful, primitive planet to live out his days in solitude and peace. Unfortunately, the rocket missed. Hulk woke up slightly weakened on the planet Sakaar. He became a gladiator, and ended up pulling a Spartacus. He formed a crew of former slaves and overthrew the tyrannical Red King. Eventually, he ruled the planet, with the beautiful Caiera as his queen. Sadly, it was not to last. Hulk lost his wife as his planet burned. Eventually, he returned to Earth to take his revenge on those who had exiled him. But unbeknownst to him, Caiera had left behind the Hulk's son. The protector of the ravaged planet, born in lava, baptized by combat. The son of the Green Scar. The defender of Sakaar, named in its honor.

The one and only.
All in all, 'twas a bittersweet tale of gain and loss in the life of a monster.

This episode is nothing like that.

Consider that to be your one warning.
The episode begins with a dejected-looking A-Bomb sadly greeting us from the room where characters do their cutaways. You know, like in reality shows where contestants will talk about what's going on in the show? Remember this for the end of the episode.

A-Bomb recaps for us the events of the previous episode. Long headed freak, framing the team, stranded on Skaar's homeplanet. We then cut back to the gladiatorial arena from last time, where the crowd's going nuts. The Leader (who seems to actually be leading something for the first time in his life) welcomes them to his realm.

Hulk: "Couldn't take over Earth, so you settled for this primitive mud ball? ...sorry, Skaar."

All I can think about during that line is how the Hulk found someone he could be happy with an another version of this planet. How heartwarming that was. And how much this episode is mercilessly crapping all over that with all of it's intestinal might.

Leader gloats about his plan to take over Earth, and the games begin! It seems that the crowd actively hates Skaar for something he had done in his past. Leader reveals (in the most painful way possible) that the Hulks' chest-zappy-things are linked to his mental control crown. In a scene reminiscent of Attack of the Clones (which, let's face it, is not something you should be reminding people of), Leader unleashes a monster for them to fight.

Here's where I level with you guys. I don't know everything. Shocking, I know, but true. So I don't know if this arena monster is like a Brood Queen, some alien from the comics, or something made up for the show. But I do know this. If this is something they made up for the show, then they may have ripped off JJ Abrams' Star Trek alongside Attack of the Clones.

Or maybe all fangorious monsters look alike?
But I'm not really holding the scenario against the show. I mean, the starting premise of Planet Hulk itself isn't really that unique. Characters being forced to fight in a sci-fi gladiatorial arena?

Seems familiar....
She-Hulk: "Personally, I've been waiting all morning to punch something."

Uh, no you haven't. At the very best, you spent all morning unconscious on Sakaar as aliens dressed you in gladiator gear, and at the worst you were punching the Agents of C.R.A.S.H. this morning. Yeah, I can remember things that happened last episode.

Hulk decides that now is not the time for entertainment (...too easy) and tosses the monster miles away. Leader declares that they should throw the Hulks into the Pit, and he zaps the control chips on the crowd to get them to agree. Insert political joke here.

One zap later, and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. wake up in... the Pit. Except for She-Hulk, she's missing. This is when the guard, Hiroim arrives. He's a jerk, and that's his entire personality. He takes the team deeper into the Pit, where we find out that this pit is actually a mine, and therefore terribly named.

Korg: "Skaar...."

What's with the rock-faced rock-guy vowing whispered revenge on Skaar? I don't know. The show is going to be introducing and naming a bunch of characters all willy-nilly. None of them will be very important. They're only here because they were in the Planet Hulk storyline that this episode is loosely based on. Very loosely.

Anyway, Rick makes a failed joke, as per his idiom. This causes a bug-faced prisoner to blink a couple times. Apparently, these blinks are enough for him to warrant a subtitle informing us that this meek individual is called... Miek. How "funny."

Meanwhile, Skaar remembers something. He used to have Hiriom's job as a slave driver. Some growling from the bowels of the mine leads Miek to inform the Hulks that there's a monster of some kind down there. Hulk gets zapped for asking the perfectly legitimate question of what they're actually digging for, and they find a buttload of control chips that are just chilling on a table for some reason. Hulk quickly figures out who'll end up wearing them.

Hulk: "Earth."

Meanwhile, She-Hulk wakes up in a palace and finds two robots with LEGO binoculars for heads trying to make her pretty. Naturally, she responds by smashing them. I like to think that these robots were given the ability to feel pain. Because 25 episodes of this has made me a horrible person.

Leader comes in and tells her that she's his queen/hostage and blings her out with a crown.

She-Hulk (cutaway): "Whatever the boys are up to, it ain't as bad as wearing a tiara."

Oh, shut up. I've worn a tiara before, they're not that bad. Long story. Short version: Theatre Major.

Over with said "boys," Skaar remembers that everyone hates him for being a torturer, Korg especially. Speaking of him, the guards take a short break, which gives Korg a chance to deck Skaar one. So Rulk starts a full-blown brawl with all the prisoners. Skaar gets thrown into the "Belly" of the Pit by Korg, and Hulk jumps in to try and save him.

The guards come back to restore "order," and Rulk gets angry. As has been established in earlier episodes, this makes him get really hot. In fact, the intense heat he's generating seems to be making his control chip spark. This will not become important, and will not be used to escape. Because f*** logical foreshadowing!

Rulk tells A-Bomb that Hulk will be okay; they need to focus on getting the prisoners on their side so they can stage a breakout. He tells A-Bomb to get invisible and look for She-Hulk.

Skaar and Hulk, meanwhile, meet up in underground caverns after Skaar accidentally hits Hulk with a bone club. They exit the Belly, and there's a very short scuffle with the monster that scared Miek so badly earlier. After some climbing, the two head into a cave that Skaar recognizes.

At the palace, She-Hulk gets her hair brushed by a maroon-skinned alien maid named Elloe Kaifi. In the comics, Elloe was a great warrior and well-developed character. Here, she's a nameless handmaiden.

As an aside, this episode was written by Henry Gilroy, who has worked on many incredible shows like Batman: TAS and Clone Wars. I would like to send him my deepest sympathy for whatever head injury made him think that taking a Wonder Woman-esque character and making her a maid was a good idea. It must have been debilitating.

I mean, he couldn't have thought that up while not impaired in some way... right?
She-Hulk gives Elloe the "fight for your rights" spiel, and asks her to snag an extra control chip.

A-Bomb: "Am I allowed in here?"

First of all, how long have you been watching? Second of all, you had literally the entire planet to search. I refuse to believe you got up to the palace and found her before Hulk and Skaar did.

Shulk tells her to go find Hulk, and he sets off to not do that, but instead reports back to Rulk.

A-Bomb: "Found Jen. She's engaged. How's it going down here?"

Rulk tells A-Bomb to get Korg on their side, and he does this with a speech about freedom. They have a fake fight to distract the guards, and Rulk turns this into a real fight. After some Braveheart speechifying by Korg, the slaves handily win. Because this evil oligarchy is pretty darn fragile.

Miek informs A-Bomb (as his bug lips change shape in a very distracting way) that Skaar will not be forgiven so easily. Speaking of Skaar, Leader tells Shulk that he and Hulk have escaped. She sasses him, so her zaps her. Over with Skaar, he takes Hulk deep inside the cave, where he painted his life story on the walls... for some reason. There's some lip service to Leader being able to make people forget things, but that's not an explanation.

Apparently, Skaar was an abandoned baby, then he was raised by a kindly couple, then the Leader made him do bad things. Also, there are paintings of goats, a turtle, the sun, and- hey, a newt!

I like to think that was put there just for me.
Suddenly, the Leader somehow shows up with troops and captures the two heroes, who wake up in the arena. Leader zaps Shulk to get Skaar and Hulk to start fighting each other, and Skaar starts fighting Hulk to save Shulk.

"Just put it down, Skaar. You can barely use a fork correctly."
A-Bomb and Rulk go to hijack the Leader's ship, and Skaar and Hulk fight while Elloe gives Shulk an extra control chip. Hulk convinces Skaar that they can win against the Leader, and Skaar throws a sword at Leader and apologizes to the crowd for being evil while Leader zaps him.

Korg shows up for no other reason than to demand their release, and Leader zaps everyone. Shulk slaps the extra control chip on Leader, and his system shorts out, deactivating all the chips. Shulk throws him into the arena, and Hulk and Skaar hit the helpless Leader before A-Bomb and Rulk show up with Leader's ship, dropping its payload of control chips on him.

Leader goes missing, Korg and Elloe decide to reform the government, Hulk leaves them a camera to keep in touch (yeah, right), the lesson about second chances is learned, and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. head off in their ship, which has coordinates set to Earth, conveniently enough.

Leader (cutaway): "Correction. It was set for Earth."

But, yeah, warp drive craps out and they don't know where they are.

Hulk (cutaway): "Don't worry, we'll get home somehow."
A-Bomb: "No, we won't! We're lost in space! Danger! Danger! Danger! Danger! Danger! Danger! Danger!"

Wait, how are you filming this in the cutaway room? Is there a room with Agents of S.M.A.S.H. wallpaper in Leader's ship? WHAT IS GOING ON!?

Just... just... let's review.


  1. Wait, so you're calling She-Hulk 'Shulk' now? Not sure if Xenoblade Chronicles reference...

    - That One Anon

    1. No, I just refuse to call her "Shulkie."

      I figure if Red Hulk is nicknamed "Rulk" and not "Rulkie," then She-Hulk gets to be called Shulk. The nickname "Shulkie" always seemed... I don't know, almost dismissive? Like you'd say "Get back, Shulkie, and let a man do that. Stay in the kitchen."

    2. Fair enough. Also, I'm pretty sure that the "space gladiator" plot first started with tge John Carter books. Not criticizing you for omitting that detail, just offering a bit of trivia.

      - That One Anon

    3. True. I was just unsure whether a pic from something John Carter-related would be recognizable enough/