Saturday, October 31, 2015

Recap: Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. "The Strongest One There Is"

In 2014, a S.H.I.E.L.D. auxiliary team was framed for the destruction of Vista Verde. These....

Nah, I'm halting the A-Team running gag.

The Agents of S.M.A.S.H. aren't exactly going around righting wrongs. As we'll see in this episode, they seem to be causing more problems than anything else. And their goal isn't so much "helping others" as it is "proving their innocence."

So on this All Hallow's Eve, let's finish Hulkoween right with a tale of monsters, aliens, mutations... and wrestling.

One of these things is not like the others....
Our episode opens with Red Hulk throwing a train at Hulk in an abandoned train depot. A-Bomb's cut-away explains that this isn't a Hulk-on-Hulk fight; they're playing "dodgetrain."

Skaar: "Hulks train with trains!"

I would remind you all that these guys are on the run from the military. Stopping to cause needless havoc might not be the best idea. Still, I'm glad that Skaar has learned how to make puns.

Anyway, they all have trashing antique trains that probably belong to somebody else... except for A-Bomb. See, he's actually the weakest member of the team, and they want to keep him from getting hurt from the trains. So his job is to look after Devil Dinosaur while the Hulks play.

I'd point out that not only are A-Bomb's fingers the size of She-Hulk's biceps, but he's covered in an armored exo-skeleton, which should make him at least stronger than She-Hulk... but then I'd have people pointing out to me that She-Hulk was briefly the most powerful hero on Earth. See, she started working out in her human form, making her She-Hulk form exponentially st... oh, right. the episode.

Red Hulk decides that if it's train-tossing A-Bomb wants, then it's train tossing he's gonna get. Rulk lobs a caboose right at A-Bomb and it simply crushes him. He's fine, of course, and Red Hulk decides to laugh at the misfortune he caused.

Red Hulk: "Face it, kid. Strength is not your strength."

She-Hulk tries to cheer A-Bomb up by talking about his other cool abilities that no one else has.

"You can turn invisible, Rick! Who else can do that?
"Susan Storm. Tony Stark, with the right armor.
"Well... what about turning into a ball and zipping around? Who else can..."
"Sonic the Hedgehog."
"He's fictional."
"Tiger beetle larvae. They roll around in a ball to avoid predators."
", you really prepared for this conversation, didn't you?"
But this isn't making him feel any better. Mainly because Red Hulk decides it would be fun to roll up A-Bomb and toss him around for a bit. After a bit of catch at A-Bomb's expense, the team notices a flaming object heading straight for them from out of the sky. A-Bomb once again tries and once again fails to catch it, and we cut to the opening titles.

After A-Bomb proves to be fine once again, they examine the strange mechanical sphere that just descended from the heavens. Theories are tossed around, but the team decides it must be alien when it transforms into a robot. Because it's not like we've seen transforming robots from Earth before, right? In two episodes. Called "Hulk Busted" and "The Trouble with Machines." Nope. Not at all.

Anyway, a fight breaks out, but the...
Wait a second, let me pull up a screenshot.

My God.
The Hulk has ventured beyond his own reality and discovered the truth to his own nonexistence as a fictional being with no free will! Or maybe I'm thinking of Animal Man again.

Man, I haven't read Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man in forever.
Anyway, the robot seems to have a very interesting function apart from beating up Hulks. It has a dial hooked up to lights and sound that seems to be... well, rating the Hulks. It goes "ding" when they land good hits and "bzzt" when they take hits. A final blow from the Hulk sends the "ding" into overdrive. The robot stops fighting and projects a hologram of a white, fuzzy space monster: Xemnu the Titan, voiced by Fred Tatasciore.

Honestly, I have to say that I appreciate the character's inclusion as a little nod to continuity. See, Xemnu the Titan was one of the many monsters called "The Hulk" before Bruce Banner's alter ego debuted in 1962. He's been seen a few times since, but with a retconned name. In tribute to his original name, though, he most often appears as a Hulk villain.

For some reason, Xemnu is wearing a big belt and holding a translator that looks just like a microphone.

Xemnu: "Listen up, Earthies. This is Xemnu, the undisputed fighting champion of the galaxy! On a thousand worlds, I've never been defeated in physical combat!"

He must be looking for Hulk Hogan and got confused.
Xemnu: "I've heard rumors about you so-called 'Agents of S.M.A.S.H.' So I sent my scout-bot to assess your strengths! You pass! ...Most of you. So what'll it be, Earth-wimps? Do you accept Xemnu's challenge? Or are you too weak?"

But how will they get into space to fight this alien?

Hulk: "No time, no interest, and nothing to prove. So do us a favor and get..."A-Bomb: "Your furry white butt down here! Yo, the Agents will take you on any time, anywhere."

It's funny how eager A-Bomb is to start a penis-measuring contest when we can clearly see that he doesn't have one.

Anyway, Xemnu is nice enough to let the Hulks decide the arena. Hulk picks the Sahara Desert, where no people will get hurt.

Xemnu: "Then we shall battle in the Sahara in one hour for the fate of the Earth! So says Xemnu!"

Way to screw this up, Rick.

Hulk: "Rick! Never let your mouth make promises your fist can't keep."
A-Bomb: "Hey, I'm sick of being called a weakling! I'll prove I'm strong enough to play with the big boys."

I'd just like to note that this whole "A-Bomb is weaker than the others" plot point never existed before now.

One hour later, Xemnu and the Hulks arrive on the scene.

Xemnu: "I'm also known as Xemnu the Undefeated! Xemnu the Living Hulk!"
She-Hulk: "Wait, what was that last one again?"

Huh. That joke was more subtle than I expected.

Here's the deal. If Xemnu wins, he gets to destroy the planet. If the Hulks win, they get his belt. But Xemnu shows that it's not just any belt! It has the power to create wrestling arenas out of nothingness with the push of a button. And in my next Dungeons and Dragons campaign, that's totally going to be in a treasure chest in a dungeon.

Anyway, we get a brief sequence of our heroes in wrestling-esque promos, narrated by Xemnu, complete with new gimmicks for them.  Red Hulk is Colonel Crimson (even though Red Hulk was a General), She-Hulk is Jade Maiden (not bad), Skaar is the Manimal (which I think Glen A. Larson's people might have some legal issues with), and Hulk is the Green Monsoon. For some reason.

They never wear these costumes.
Actually, can we zoom in on Hulk?

Is he looking a little more... Confederate than usual to anybody else?
A-Bomb: "Saving 'the Blue Bomber' for the main event, right?"
Xemnu: "Sorry, boy. Cool name, but the rest of you is weaksauce."

With the world at stake, the Agents are more than happy to have the Hulk stand back for a bit while they take a crack at Xemnu. To make it more fun, of course.

Round 1
Red Hulk gets a disqualification and a missing tooth for bringing a gun to a fistfight.

Round 2
Skaar gets his sword broken almost right away. Then he proceeds to land a series of blows directly to the only piece of protection Xemnu's wearing.

The crotch, Skaar! First, you attack his crotch!
Skaar goes down in a single hit. A-Bomb asks Coach Hulk to put him in, but She-Hulk rushes in while they argue.

Round 3
Xemnu doesn't punch girls... so he hits her with his elbows, knees, and a good old-fashioned piledriver.

Round 4
Hulk vs. Xemnu

Xemnu: "The unstoppable force vs. the immovable object!"

Um, I don't see the Blob or the Juggernaut anywhere.

Hulk manages to hold his own for a bit, but gets smashed by a world-record elbow-drop, finishing the match. A-Bomb tries to jump in, but gets smacked down as Xemnu declares victory. He jumps up into the air and lands with a gigantic boom... and then the dust settles. As Xemnu then explains, every planet has a "sweet spot" that only needs one good hit to crack the whole thing in half. And he's going to search for it on his hoverbike until he finds it.

Hulk: "You can't destroy Earth; there are billions of people here!"
Xemnu: "If you were so worried about your people, you should not have accepted my challenge."

Yeah, the others are a bit ticked at A-Bomb.

A-Bomb: "I didn't know what we were fighting for!"

And so, as Xemnu heads off, Mr. Rebel-without-a-Known-Cause and the other Hulks take off in the Hulkjet. Red Hulk laments his missing tooth as She-Hulk moans about her kneecaps. And Hulk... well....

Hulk (cutaway): "Guess no matter how strong you are, there's always somebody stronger."

Always a bigger fish.

Hulk: "Time to sulk later."

I'd make an Incredible Sulk joke, but that's low-hanging fruit.

After some global scanning, they spot him in Iceland at a tectonic rift; perfect for trying to crack the crust of the planet. But how to defeat him? After all, Hulk is the mightiest man there is. Or something, I forget the exact phrase.

She-Hulk: "So we call in some more muscle. Thor, Power Man, the Thing...."

All of whom are canonically weaker than the Hulks. And also on the hunt for them for the whole Vista Verde thing. Man, Earth is screwed. And A-Bomb doesn't know what to do.

A-Bomb (cutaway): "Well, I always say when you're out of dumb ideas...."

Get someone smarter?

A-Bomb: "Try something dumber."

He says while looking at the Hulkjet's Gamma reactor. Which can’t be good in any way.

He turns up the Gamma as far as it will go and enters the convenient Hulk-sized chamber in the reactor to start absorbing it all. This manages to drain all the power that's keeping the jet in the air, so it starts falling. The Hulks rush in and break the reactor to rescue Rick from the ungodly amounts of radiation, but it's too late to save the jet. They crash in some desert as Rick emerges from the reactor as... Uber-Bomb!

You know, if he looks down, he'd stab himself through the heart.
Yeah, we all know this is temporary. After all, the last episode showed us exactly how temporary Gamma mutations are. Except when they're not. Like with the Hulk, She-Hulk, Red Hulk....

The main problem with this new form is that he's not used to his new dimensions and is really clumsy, smashing up the jet.

Hulk: "We only have one jumpjet."

Ah, so you finally used up all the others by crashing them in every other episode? I presume that this includes the one that could talk?

Getting an idea regarding the word "jump," A-Bomb picks up the whole jet and starts leaping towards Iceland. Once there, A-Bomb challenges Xemnu to a grudge match, and they fight, evenly-matched. The other Hulks start working on preventing collateral damage to the area, and A-Bomb tries to use his camouflage power to gain an edge with... limited success.

Thanks for the split-screen with She-Hulk exclaiming "Gross!", show.
I wouldn't have known that seeing A-bomb's cloaca from the inside was gross, otherwise.
The fight continues, with A-Bomb's efforts causing damage to a nearby bridge as well as the tectonic plates below, threatening to crack the planet in half. Well, more than “threatening.” Thanks to A-Bomb's immense strength, it starts happening.

Xemnu: "But we can still finish our fight before the world ends."

They keep fighting at Xemnu’s insistence, the Hulks keep bracing the Earth, and A-Bomb suddenly shrinks back to normal. But Xemnu won't call the fight off, having given his word that they would fight to the very end. So A-Bomb, having learned his lesson about brains and brawn and playing to your strengths, uses his other powers to steal Xemnu's hoverbike and flies them both to the Blue Area of the Moon, so they can at least breathe while they fight in space.

Down on Earth with the Hulks, they’re grabbing the cables of a suspension bridge to keep the two halves of the Earth from drifting apart, in flagrant disregard as to how suspension bridges actually work. As that happens, A-Bomb wins his moon battle with some clever applications of his camo and ball (which Xemnu didn’t know about because A-Bomb wasn’t using them when Xemnu’s robot scanned the Hulks) abilities by picking up speed and knocking Xemnu into deep space.

"Hmm, clever. If I'm ever fighting a powerful tyrant on the Moon, I think I'll try that technique."
But from space, we can see that the Earth has a crack going through most of it now.

Wow. I didn't know Iceland was somewhere in the Midwestern United States.
The Hulks and some really strong cables are basically holding the whole Earth together at this point. Luckily, A-Bomb flies the hoverbike into a nearby mountain, covering all the emerging lava in snow, which somehow is cold enough to freeze the magma solid and allows Hulk to pull together a planet that is literally cracked in half, despite the fact that the cables and bridge infrastructure he’s holding on to should rip apart.

I'm ignoring the blatant lack of accuracy on plate tectonics.
Because neither you nor I have the time to go over it in enough detail.
Later, the Hulks have apparently found a way to return to the abandoned train yard, despite having a jet that doesn't work. A-Bomb beats the Hulk at a Mortal Kombat clone by using a ninja against the Hulk's big bruiser character.

As they talk about what they learned, Xemnu hits the ground nearby and relinquishes his belt to A-Bomb, vowing to never destroy another world. But if there's one thing the Hulks are good at, it's forgiving mass-murderers who have destroyed entire planets. So A-Bomb, seeing how devastated Xemnu is, invites him into their shack for video games.

Xemnu: "This is more enjoyable than actual combat! Shall we play for stakes? If we win, I destroy your sun!"
A-Bomb: "How about you get the last donut?"
Xemnu: "It's onnnnn!"

As Hulk talks to the camera about being true to thine own self, he leaves us on a rather odd moral.

Hulk (cutaway): “It’s like I always say. Speak softly, and carry a big smash.”

Well, utilizing diplomacy until you have no choice but to defend yourself is a wise lesson. But what the heck did it have to do with this episode? Shouldn't the moral be "Don't run your mouth off to an alien destroyer of worlds"? Either way, the episode ends.

So... I really like this episode. Yeah, I was shocked too. You probably want an explanation, so let's go ahead and get to reviewin'.


  1. Speaking of reading good comics, I should probably read She-Hulk comics again. I almost forgot she's actually awesome.

    And BTW Blue Bomber is Mega Man's nickname. That's 40% of nicknames rip-offed. Fails, guys.

    - Faceless Enigma

    1. It's also a Canadian football team. ...and slang for Viagra, apparently?

  2. "The Hulks and some really strong cables are basically holding the whole Earth together at this point. Luckily, A-Bomb flies the hoverbike into a nearby mountain, covering all the emerging lava in snow, which somehow is cold enough to freeze the magma solid and allows Hulk to pull together a planet that is literally cracked in half, despite the fact that the cables and bridge infrastructure he’s holding on to should rip apart."

    That's either the most stupid, the most awesome, or the most stupidly awesome thing I've seen on this show

    1. I honestly couldn't decide, myself.