Monday, October 26, 2015

Recap: Avengers: EMH "Gamma World, Part 1"

Happy Hulkoween, everybody! Let's start the season off right by looking at a tale of horror, monsters, and people wearing costumes. Of course, that description could easily apply to The Rocky Horror Picture Show....

I hope I haven't disappointed anyone who apparently didn't read the title of this post and thought I was doing something for the 40th Anniversary of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I'm sorry.

Here's Harley Quinn doing the Time Warp. I hope this makes amends.
Anyway, let's get Hulkoween started with a couple episodes that use most of the leftovers from when this was going to be a Hulk cartoon.

No, really. A Hulk cartoon. Look it up.
Nighttime in New York. A shadowy figure is running across the rooftops, followed by the other shadowy figure known as the Black Panther. Alongside him, the other Avengers are on the scene. As Captain America gradually catches up to the strange fugitive, it turns out that the figure their chasing is wearing bright purple.

Captain America: “This joker’s fast, I’ll give him that.”

“Why, thank you! I’ve been working out a bit lately.”
But alas, this isn’t an animated Marvel/DC crossover. When Iron Man gets a good look from above, it becomes obvious that they’ve been chasing a rather familiar-looking hero….

Hmmm.... Spider-Man?
Hawkeye gives Iron Man the slip real quick, leading Wasp to comment that this guy’s one of the better HYDRA goons they’ve encountered. Yeah, I bet Hawkeye’s kicking himself over that big ol’ “H” on his forehead. Wasp tries to swoop down and cut him off in an alley, but he’s waiting for her with an arrow drawn.

Not impressed, Hawkeye. Anyone could hit her from that close.
The other Avengers successfully surround him, but the arrival of a S.H.I.E.L.D. airship distracts our heroes long enough for him to escape. Agent Quartermain (Troy Baker with a Texas drawl) tells Iron Man that Hawkeye’s small fry at the moment. S.H.I.E.L.D. needs help with a slightly bigger problem. Soon enough, the Avengers are all flown out to the desert.

Iron Man’s pretty whiny over how sketchy the whole situation is, seeing as how not only are the Avengers in the dark about what’s going on, but Nick Fury seems to be off the grid. Remember, this show came before Ultimate Spider-Man turned Nick Fury into a petty little dictator. In that case, no sign of Fury would be a good thing.

But the Avengers finally reach their destination: the Cube. And it’s spewing a big bubble of green.

Thor: “What manner of sorcery is this?”
Iron Man: “Wow. It’s pure Gamma radiation.”

You know, I’m not going to nitpick the idea of a visible radiation bubble. It’s no more absurd than the idea of a force field, and we let sci-fi slide with those things all the time.

Iron Man: “Man, I bet Hank is sorry he stayed behind in Wakanda now."

Especially when you consider the fact that if Black Panther’s in America, then Wakanda must currently be in the process of overhauling their government. And given Wakanda’s history of isolationism and distrust of outsiders…. Welp, Hank was no doubt executed for the heinous crime of being a foreigner.

Voice: “Where’s Bruce Banner? I was told he was on your team.”

Ah, yes. Time to explain.
So, for those of you who might not remember, or never saw this show, or haven’t read my previous Recaps (shame on you, by the way), this is Doctor Leonard Samson. He was Bruce’s doctor while he was imprisoned at the Cube during the Micro-Episodes/"Hulk vs the World". During the events of the premiere, every supervillain prison ever broke open. The Cube, which houses Gamma mutates, got pretty radioactive during the incident. Doc Samson got hit with some of that, and that’s why he’s become that magnificent wedge of a man.

Captain America: “Why does that man have green hair?”

“Kids today. They only get stupid haircuts, tattoos, and body piercings just to shock people.”
“You’re the only one shocked by it, Cap.”
You know, Cap's old-fashionedness has me thinking. Someday, I'll probably have politically incorrect opinions on topics that don't even exist yet. Like... I don't know, forbidding my daughter to marry a robot, or something. Or "Electronic-Americans," as the future will probably call them.

Tangent over, Iron Man quickly covers for the Hulk's disappearance.

Iron Man: “Hulk is on a… vacation.”

Yeah, they’re not buying it. And they’re not exactly put at ease by that statement.

But the Avengers are shown the camera footage from S.H.I.E.L.D.’s incursion into the Cube, looking for all the world like somebody’s doing a co-op Halo Let’s Play.

"Okay, I'm gonna go left. Cover me."
"**** you, you noob. Stay in formation."
"Don't call me a noob, buttmunch."
"Guys, protect me, my Hot Pocket's ready!"
The scene from the end of the last episode is shown, and the hand that clearly belonged to the Abomination is revealed to have, in fact, belonged to the Abomination.

Doc Samson: “Strong as the Hulk, twice as mean. And with military training.”

“So it’s a good thing he was never pardoned of his crimes and put in charge of capturing the Hulk, huh?”
“Good God, that would be idiotic.”
But the main problem is the subsequent energy dome. There were S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives caught inside the initial blast radius, which means that S.H.I.E.L.D. has footage of what happens when anybody enters the dome.

I'm sure it's not as bad as it looks.
What I really like about this is that these mutated agents appear to be references to minor Marvel characters. The woman in back grows wings (in reference to the Betty Banner's tenure as the Harpy), the man in the background gets some generic bruiser powers (possibly referencing Skaar in the process), but the guy in front bears a striking resemblance to Terror, Inc.

But alas, as much as I'd like to go into detail about the character and brag about how I own the non-Marvel comics that Terror, Inc. originated from, this guy shows up in a more mutated form later. So this was probably just a minor shout-out at best.

Anyway, here’s the problem. The dome’s expanding, and it’s due to hit a town within six hours, and a major city in eight. When Cap asks who’s behind it, Doc pulls up a profile on the Leader. He’s as smart as the Hulk is strong, and it seems as though he’s amassed a Gamma army, including the Abomination, Absorbing Man, and Zzaxx Zzzax (Why can’t I ever spell that right the first time?).

Agent Quartermain: “We want you to go into the Cube.”

Wasp has a good laugh at this.

Wasp: “Oh, wait, you’re serious.”

Meanwhile, in New York, Black Widow has decided to be a part of the show again.

At least, her butt has.
She finds her way inside a secret HYDRA hangout, spotted by Hawkeye.

Hawkeye: “Gotcha.”

It’s probably important to mention that earlier in the season, Black Widow was caught by Hawkeye while trying to sell Hulk’s blood to HYDRA, only for her to claim that Hawkeye was the traitor the whole time, putting him on the run. I mean, we haven’t seen these guys for like 6 episodes now. Of course, the Ultimate Spider-Man route of telling us stuff we already know at the beginning of every episode isn’t much better.

Hawkeye sneaks in behind her and starts drumming up some havoc while the dome in the Nevada desert gets bigger. The Avengers suit up in radiation suits that Doc Samson prepared for them. Except Thor.

Thor: “An Asgardian needs no such protection.”

That’s right, Thor’s immune to Gamma mutation, unlike his Avengers Assemble counterpart. Point to Avengers: EMH.

After Wasp takes a second to check out her own butt real quick….

As does some of the audience. Yowza.
Iron Man activates his armor’s radiation shielding, and the team’s good to go. Because Iron Man’s the leader of the team, Cap volunteers him to go first. After he suffers no ill effects, the others follow. They survey the wreckage of the area, only to get attacked by one of the mutated S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who became a rock monster. I’m not sure, but I think this is a reference to the imaginatively-named Gamma mutate “Rock.” Don’t quote me on that, though; there’s a buttload of minor Hulk villains that are too obscure for even me to recognize. And I knew who Xemnu was before that episode of Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. aired, so that's pretty darn obscure.

But I'm just going to assume that I can't correctly identify any of these characters and call them by names that I know are 100% incorrect.

Grawp, Cuddles, and Flap-Flaps.
A fight ensues, and the three mutates are taken out in a couple minutes. A quick scan of them reveals that their mutations aren’t permanent quite yet, so they could be cured by getting them out of the Gamma Field. The Avengers compliment the good doctor on his fighting skills, but he’s staying focused on the mission. As he explains, he’s been wracked with guilt about this whole thing since Bruce warned him that this was inevitable. Iron Man hypothesizes that something has to be generating all the radiation; it’s not coming from nowhere.

Black Panther: “If the Leader is as brilliant as Samson says, then this is probably a trap. He will be prepared for the Hulk at the very most, and S.H.I.E.L.D. at the very least.”
Wasp: “I forgot you talked!”

Can't say I blame you; that was his first line in this episode.

Thor: “If this is a trap, warriors. Then so be it.”

Over with Black Widow, she’s selling the Hulk’s blood to Viper/Madame Viper/Madame Hydra. (She has many names, and the various sources I've found list variations on the above. Either way, she's a high-ranking Agent of HYDRA and she's voiced by Vanessa Marshall.) But alas, Viper doesn’t get the vial. When she’s distracted by Hawkeye’s raid on her facility, Widow puts it back in her wrist gauntlet for safekeeping before swinging down on a rope to attack the purple archer. Inside the Cube, one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents gets grabbed and pulled into the chartreuse mists. And then the other members of the U-Foes appear. Ironhide, X-Ray, and Vector.

A skull in a containment suit? 10/10 BEST EPISODE
Doc Samson recognizes the devices the U-Foes are wearing. They were designed to drain Gamma energy, but the Leader modified them to make Gamma mutates stronger. But either way, they go down. Thor starts patting himself and the others on the back, but Black Panther realizes that all these thugs aren’t supposed to stop the Avengers, but merely slow them down. Then Zzzax arrives to slow them down even more. Thor manages to disperse the energy creature, but in the blast, the damage is done. Wasp’s suit ruptures and Tony’s shielding gets damaged.

But Wasp might still be okay. After all, as we’ve seen in the old Incredible Hulk TV show, Hulk, and The Incredible Hulk, the transformation isn’t unstoppable until we get a close-up shot of the character’s eye turning green.

Well, poop.
With glowing green eyes, Wasp slowly, horrifically becomes an affront to Man and God.

Personally, I think this is taking the idea of a “wasp waist” a bit too far
What I find interesting is how they took the whole "half-animal transformation" route and did the exact opposite of the usual route. Which is to make the ensuing mutation sexy. Instead, they made it horrifying.

Now, I understand that there are people out there who do find the mutated Wasp to be sexy.

Okay, then. That's fine. By and large, I don't care about other people's fetishes. Furries? Feet? Leather? Juggling geese? Whatever floats your boat; it's not my business. But I still submit that whether or not you find Gamma-Wasp to be attractive, her final design noticeably breaks from the usual method of female anthropomorphic character design.

So. Let's take Disney's Robin Hood as an example of anthropomorphized character design.

This vixen (pun intended) is Maid Marian.
Maid Marian is the love interest of the protagonist. As such, the protagonist finds her desirable.

To convey to the audience that Robin Hood sees her as one foxy lady (pun definitely intended), the character design includes features that we as humans might find desirable in females.
  • Noticeably feminine eyelashes
  • Humanoid facial proportions
  • Humanoid figure
  • Et cetera.
The result is an anthropomorphized animal that one could conceivably call "sexy" because attractive human features were added to a non-human form.

Now, some anthropomorphized characters will be more humanoid, some less humanoid, but generally speaking, when an anthropomorphic character is supposed to be attractive in-universe, then human features considered attractive will be generally included in the design. And actually, Wasp herself briefly got this treatment in the 90's, when her attractive human features were augmented with the aesthetically pleasing parts of insect anatomy in her X-TREME redesign.

Wings, basically. Ovipositors are a bit of a niche fetish.
But as opposed to creating a deliberately "sexy" mutated form for Wasp, they did the opposite of what I described above with Maid Marian. They took a human woman with attractive features... and replaced the typically-desirable parts of the body like eyes, breasts, and skin, with the most horrifying parts of insect anatomy, like compound eyes, mandibles, and possibly the aforementioned ovipositor.

And when you factor in what such an unnatural transformation would look like in real life, the whole design gets even more unsettling.
Well, there's my nightmares for tonight.
But basically, all that was a very long-winded way of saying two things.
  1. Good job, EMH, on not going the stereotypical route of purposefully sexualizing the transformation.
  2. I'm not judging anyone who does find it sexy. Whatever butters your parsnips.
And the previous few paragraphs gave the excuse to link to Penny Arcade.

Anyway, from his control room, the Leader (Jeffrey Combs) watches the Avengers struggle for a bit before deciding to use his mind-control headband to order the Wasp to kill Doc Samson. She tries, but Thor gets in the way of her claws (which can charge up with her energy “stings” now).

Thor: “Remember who you are!”

It works for a second, but she resumes her attack while more Gamma monsters appear. Black Panther knocks one down and runs off, despite Iron Man yelling at him to get back with the rest of the team.

"Panther! You're not earning my trust! You're not earning my trust!"
And to make matters worse, Zzzax and the U-Foes get their second wind. Iron Man realizes that they’re completely outmatched, with their armor being the only thing their enemies have to damage, and orders Cap, Thor, and Samson to retreat back to take out the Gamma generator.

Back in New York, Black Widow has Hawkeye at her mercy. He yells at her to just finish him off, but she doesn’t. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Hawkeye tries to trip her as she hesitates, but she dodges the attack and counters with some attacks of her own. Their fight takes them through the burning HYDRA warehouse until a few lucky shots break Widow’s wrist-gauntlets and wrap her up against a wooden crate. She tells him that he can’t take her to S.H.I.E.L.D. because they think he’s a traitor.

Hawkeye: “Yeah. I remember. That’s why I’m not taking you to S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Uh, what are you doing with that knife, Hawkeye?

"Let's put a smile on that face."
Thankfully, he cuts her down.

Hawkeye: “I’m taking you to the Avengers.”

That’s gonna take some doing, seeing as how they’re getting their butts kicked as they flee through the Cube. Cap and Iron Man go down hard, and Iron Man yells at Thor to keep heading toward the generator. Doc Samson and Thor find their way there, but the generator is guarded by the super-Gamma-charged Wrecking Crew instead of the Leader.

I like how Piledriver's powers are literally just "FIST."
Doc Samson’s suit gets wrecked in no time, but it seems as though he’s not affected by the ambient Gamma energy. But he is affected by punches, as is Thor. With the Wrecking Crew having quite the surplus of punches to unload on the two heroes, both of them lose the brief scuffle.

Luckily, Black Panther is sneaking around up at the top of the generator, using Thor’s fight as a distraction so he can shut the power down. He accomplishes this by throwing some vibranium darts into the core. The ensuing reaction shreds his radiation suit, but the Gamma blast shuts the reactor down, reverting all the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and the Wasp back to normal as the dome disappears.

Meanwhile, Hawkeye is taking the tied-up Black Widow to the Avengers on his hoverbike. It’s a bit awkward.

Or should I say… hawk-ward!
Later that night, all the Gamma villains are escorted out of the Cube into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody. Everybody gets a medical examination, and they all seem to be doing fine. And even though the Leader was nowhere to be found, Doc Samson’s simply happy that they foiled his plan and saved the day.

Black Panther: “Did we?”

Well, the episode’s labeled as a “Part 1,” so I’d say… no. And we soon see the Leader and his remaining henchmen looking over Las Vegas.

Leader: "I would call that little test run a success. And now… we begin.”

A green glow envelops the city.

"Soon... the whole world with be bathed in minty freshness."


  1. One nitpick. Viper is actually voiced by Vanessa Marshall, not Grey DeLisle.


    - That One Anon

    1. *thinks to self* "I didn't type that, did I?"
      *checks* "Wow, I don't even remember writing that down."

      I think I mixed up some notes from another Recap in some draft of this Recap. Thanks for spotting that!

  2. “An Asgardian needs no such protection.”

    Thor, one day you will recall that story to Hercules and he will be like "Yeah, my dad used to say things like that. Then I showed up."

    1. And just wait until Thor gets nerfed in two episodes' time.

    2. All the Asgardians' problems stem from Loki messing something up. All the Olympians' problems stem from Zeus' inability to keep it in his pants.

      - That One Anon

  3. Tonight on Avengers! Butt shots! Black Widow tied up! Wasp mutated with some people finding her attractive! And no one even brought up Vapor's sexual-harassment-that's-also-attempted-murder-but-I-know-someone-was-turned-on AKA trying to kill Cap with kiss.

    ....Happy Halloween?

    And now I wonder if anyone thought de-evolved She-Hulk was sexy. Anyone?

    - Faceless Enigma

    Oh, and I must add that I liked design of Rani Nagi on Secret Saturdays. Yes, she is more human-like that her minions, but she managed to do that without looking attractive in any way.

    1. Well, you beat me to it, but sexualization is something that I will be covering in my Review of both parts this Thursday.

      And I'm fairly certain that not even the internet found de-evolved She-Hulk sexy. Though I've been wrong before....

  4. After seeing the screencaps for the current Marvel/Disney shows, I never realized how great the art direction for this series was, it was so cool and stylish (and they never lazily photoshopped their backgrounds in). It's too bad they traded in this and Spectacular Spiderman's better designs for lame GI Joe/Jem generic and boring designs.

    1. Truly, we didn't know what we had until it was too late.