Saturday, October 31, 2015

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

After making that joke about Xemnu showing up trying to find and challenge Hulk Hogan in the Recap, I can't help but wonder what would have happened if Xemnu did find him and got the 24-inch pythons unleashed on him.

I said "inch," not "meter." Take her away before I have to start putting money in the jar again!
Having a villain that can easily overpower the Hulks through sheer strength means that the heroes have to resort to more than heroic resolve to save the day.

And that's a good thing.

Too often, the Marvel Animation Universe relies on the heroes fighting until somebody figures out the right thing to smash. Here, we get several exciting fight scenes which are all different from each other (the robot fight, the Xemnu fight, the final showdown on the moon) and each have different stakes and energies. It's more varied than the usual "fight the thing to stall for time" plan.

In the end, though, this episode is just fluff. But that's not a bad thing. A little side story about fighting an alien wrestler can be a nice breather from the ongoing subplot. And you know what? It is. But unlike many other examples of filler episodes done just for fun, this episode actually has some very good themes running through it.

This episode actually demonstrates a few very good lessons that aren't hammered into our heads. It seems as though they've actually learned... subtlety!

First of all, the episode demonstrates that you don't need to be the biggest or strongest to be the best at something, sports in particular.

Little Mac here is living proof.
Second, maybe you're simply not cut out to be able to do what you want. You can't win a race if you can't run fast. But that's not to say that you won't be able to excel at something else.

So while it sucks that A-Bomb is a weakling, relatively speaking, his speed and abilities like invisibility give him an advantage that Xemnu could only dream of. As a wise man said, you can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need. He also said something about painting red doors black, but I don't think that applies here.


A-Bomb's envy seems to come out of nowhere for this episode and disappear by the next one, but it's still fairly consistent with his personality, all things considered. Remember, he's always looked up to the Hulk. As soon as he got his powers in the premiere, he wanted nothing more than to kick butt with his buddy. So if he's unable to keep up with the Not-so-Jolly Green Giant, that's got to cause a bit of a personal crisis for Rick.

His decision to challenge Xemnu to a fight shows that he was desperate to prove him self somehow... and also that he wasn't paying attention to the stakes. Which makes him look like an idiot, but it's still in character. And to be fair, there wouldn't be a plot otherwise.

"So what'll it be, Earth-wimps? Do you accept Xemnu's challenge? Or are you too weak?"
"We'll pass."
"...well, poop."
Xemnu (Fred Tatasciore)
Making Xemnu a wrestler parody was a stroke of genius. In the comics, he's kind of boring. He's a dime-a-dozen alien conqueror with immense strength. Yawn.

Here, he's got charisma, showmanship, and an actual personality. So while it might be fairly shallow parody, it's a lot of fun and infinitely preferable to his bland "Behold! I am your doom! Kneel before me!" personality.

But alas, Avengers Assemble did it first and best with Torgo, who sounded just like Randy "Macho Man" Savage, while Zemnu just sounds like Fred Tatasciore doing something halfway between that and Hulk Hogan.

Same as ever, nothing to report.

Except for the Hulk momentarily escaping the bonds of reality.
Final Thoughts
It's nothing more than fluff. It's just a breather between two episodes relevant to the overall plot of the season.

And yet, this was actually an above-average outing for our Agents of S.M.A.S.H. Far above average, in fact. Xemnu is a fun villain, the stakes were high, and the characters were interacting with each other using emotions beyond aggravation, annoyance, and mutual hatred.

Does it have flaws? You bet. The animation, while the same as ever, isn't the best I've ever seen, tectonic plates and suspension bridges don't act the way they do in real life, and A-bomb seems to have been nerfed offscreen between the last episode and this one.

Is it silly? Well, there's an alien yeti with a wrestling championship belt. So yes.

Is it deep and mature? No, see above.

But of all the episodes I've covered so far this season, this is definitely the best one. So far. Things will get better than this... but I they'll get worse, too. Oh, boy, will they ever.

But enough about that. I'm just glad that I got to end Hulkoween with a third great Hulk-related episode. And that's no small feat for this show.

Next time, it's back to the main plot of the season as the Hulks fight their greatest enemy yet: themselves. And not in the usual way they fight amongst themselves. See you then!

Oh, and before I forget, have a safe and happy Halloween!

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