Monday, March 10, 2014

Recap/Review: The Incredible Hulk (1996) "Doomed"

For a change of pace, keeping the green theme for this month, let's visit a cartoon closer to the Hulk's roots. Specifically, the '96 Hulk cartoon. This series is pretty close to the status quo for the majority of the Hulk's run up to that point in the comics. The Hulk (and Bruce Banner) are on the run from the military (led by a non-Rulkified General Ross) while trying to do some good in the world with his super powered alter ego. General Ross' daughter Betty is the love interest, and Bruce Banner actually appears in this show. That's a plus already. Now that you're up to speed, let's begin!

Hey, now, "incredible?" Don't let your title write checks your show can't cash.

The episode opens on a shot of Washington DC as Dr. Robert Bruce Banner (don't ask about the name change) narrate his continuing story. His run from the military has brought him to Washington DC, which he notes to his tape recorder is the home of his cousin, Jennifer Walters. He quickly dodges the army vehicles patrolling the streets before running into a floating security drone that makes me think that A-Bomb is going to show up and say "Hey, Hulkies!" into it. Bruce darts up a fire escape and across a building top before swinging down on a clothes line to safety. And by "safety," I mean "right in the path of all the military vehicles." Oops.

General Ross: "One move, Banner... and I'll level you into a Class-1 forensic nightmare."

...what does that even mean? Are there actually documented "Classes" of forensic nightmares? Is this a scale from 1 to 5? Or 10? Is a "1" good or bad? Maybe it's just overdone 90's dialogue. Yeah, that's most likely it. The pumping theme song plays over the intro, which is also a plus, and the episode continues.

One of the robot drones fires at one of the army helicopters, and Banner gets away in the confusion. Some of the army guys in robot suits (it was the 90's) are instructed by a mysterious voice to abduct Banner, and they give chase. They follow Banner through buildings and into the street before shooting him with a laser and capturing him. And now Banner's angry. Banner Hulks out and starts doing what he does best: smashing. Despite the best military hardware on the job, the Hulk gets away and the news crews show up to pester General Ross. Watching this footage is Jennifer Walters, wearing what I can only assume is a purple sport bra and shorts. I guess she was working out earlier? Because now she's eating popcorn at home on her couch watching the news.

She hears someone fumbling at her door, and grabs a baseball bat. As the news begins to report on some incident with a "Victor von Doom," she pretends to talk to big guys cleaning their guns, to scare off any possible intruders. What a coincidence, that's what I do. She opens the door and finds her shirtless, sweaty cousin Bruce collapsing at her door. That sentence makes me suddenly feel like I'm typing Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. fanfic.

After break, Bruce wakes up on his cousin's couch wearing a pink, flowery shirt. Either she just wanted him to be wearing SOMETHING, or this was a prank and she couldn't get away with drawing the male anatomy on his face in a cartoon. She asks what's been going on, and Bruce starts getting really shifty, acting like he's a fugitive from the law, or something. But that's only because he is. Jennifer realizes that he's in some kind of trouble and offers to represent him in court as his lawyer if need be.

Jennifer: "Running is never the answer."
Bruce: "It is if you're being chased. Or someone wants to destroy you...."

Oh, so he's not paranoid. Everyone's just out to get him.

After more half-answers and such from Bruce, Jennifer reminds him of the childhood pact they made in a treehouse. Not like that. This is a "friends to the end" pact. It also comes with a cool thumbs up/fist bump thing. Jen demands answers, and a robot drone attacks before Bruce can explain. After a scuffle, Jen shorts it out with a pot of water, and the two run to Jen's conveniently close convertible and get in.

Jennifer: "All these years, I've never seen you so angry before."
Bruce: "Oh, that wasn't angry. Seeing me angry isn't something you'd by likely to forget."

Bruce drives off with Jen, chased by drones. Unfortunately, he begins to Hulk out in the car while avoiding drones, and they go off the side of a cliff. An unconscious Jen lands on the ground, and wakes up to see the Hulk destroy the drones. She puts two and two together, and figures out that Bruce and the Hulk are one and the same. And unlike HatAoS, this Hulk is actually a separate personality from Bruce. Because of this, Hulk merely recognizes Jennifer as "Not-Betty." Jennifer introduces herself to the Hulk as his family, and the Hulk calms down, realizing that he's not alone.

Suddenly, more drones attack, and the Hulk fights them off again. But this time, Jennifer gets kidnapped in order to lure the Hulk. The Hulk grabs on to the escaping ship that the drones are coming from, which speeds off to its destination.

Okay, this is getting a bit complicated. Let me recap this Recap. The military is chasing Bruce Banner/the Hulk. Someone sinister is manipulating rogue army drones/hardware to capture the Hulk for their own purposes. This sinister, unknown figure has just had his drones kidnap Jen to lure the Hulk to his base. Got that? Let's make it more complicated, because it also turns out that the Leader (you remember him, right?) has been monitoring this.

To simplify the Leader's part in this episode, let me summarize it: he banishes his hideously mutated Russian assistant (named Gargoyle) who goes off in search of a new place to stay, after having stolen a floppy disk.
Back in the main plot, the ship and the Hulk arrive at a castle, which Hulk begins breaking into. Arriving in the main sanctum, Hulk comes face to face with the unknown sinister mastermind: Victor von Doom. 11 minutes into the episode, and the twist here was given away by the title. Doom explains the situation simply.

Dr. Doom: "Hulk wants Jennifer? Then Hulk obeys Dr. Doom."

He reveals that Jennifer, who had been injured in the scuffle, is hooked up to a life support machine, but is otherwise fine. But she's booby trapped. If the Hulk tries to save her, then bombs go off. Same thing happens if Hulk attacks Doom.

Somebody set us up the... wait, I checked that meme off the list last year...
Jennifer asks the Hulk to stay calm and play along with whatever Doom wants, and Dr. Doom goes off to invade America. We cut to the news, which exposits that the UN Security Council has been giving sanctions more time regarding Latveria, but are now demanding his surrender before they take him in for war crimes. Doom rationalizes his actions regarding a neighboring country to himself, and puts DC under a shield dome. He then announces DC's new existence as his prisoners of war. So, if Doom just took over the nation's capitol, including all the politicians, has he just taken over America? Well, that was easy.

Insert your own political joke, I've filled my quota already.
Back with Jen and Hulk, Hulk Banners out and Jen explains the situation. She's lost a lot of blood and needs a transfusion. With no time left, Bruce draws his own blood to use in the transfusion.  Meanwhile, Doom tells the army that if they take any action, then the Hulk will destroy DC. Dr. Doom then turns on the news to see the American reaction.

Anchorman: "And here's the official word live from the President of the United States: Dr. Doom can shove it... uh, rather, Doom's demands are officially rejected."

Insert Fox News joke here.

Meanwhile, Banner completes the transfusion before Doom's goons bring him to the good doctor. He explains that his technobabble will now put the Hulk under his control, and says that Jennifer's fate... is to be released into the American healthcare system! Oh, God, Doom's giving her Obamacare! That inhuman bastard!

Doom brings forth the Hulk and commands him to destroy, and he does, thanks to the technobabble on his neck. Hulk smashes some tanks and begins smashing buildings at Doom's command, making his way towards the capitol building.

Now... we get to the most infamous part of the episode. Thanks to Bruce's Gamma-blood, Jennifer turns green, muscular, and becomes a She-Hulk before breaking her bonds and going after Doom. Why is this part "infamous"? Well, during her transformation, she writhes around on the table in a very... "suggestive" way. Also, here's what she says during her transformation.

Jen: "Ohhhh... Ohhhh, hahahhh....aaaaaauuuuuugh, I'm feeling goooooooood.... Mmmmmm... feels like somebody's lighting my fire!" the heck did that make it onto TV? No hyperbole here, She-Hulk just had an orgasm in a cartoon. Meant for kids. Ostensibly.

Anyway, she goes after Doom, fights his robots, admires her abs, steals Doom's transmitter, and commands the Hulk to stop and rip the thingy off his neck. Doom shoots her and takes over the mic, but it's too late. Hulk rips it off and rushes to save his cousin. Arriving at Doom's estate, he smashes some robots and saves his cousin. Doom escapes, the place blows up, and the shield bubble comes down.

"Is that Agents of S.M.A.S.H. on TV? Someone change it."
Meanwhile, without the Gargoyle, the Leader seems to be as useless as he is in Agents of S.M.A.S.H. Good thing that he's cloning himself some Hulk helpers! Later, Bruce tries to hitch a ride out of DC, but the car that stops only does so because She-Hulk shows some green leg. Bruce and She-Hulk get in the car and head off to New York. She-Hulk winks at the camera, and the episode ends.

Before I get to reviewing, I've got to say that I find it hilarious that the guy driving the car doesn't react to any of this. He's just like, "Green skin. Okay, I ain't gonna question it. ...Should I tell these two that I'm heading for Chicago? Nah, they'll figure it out." And now the Review.

Not a bad episode. I'm not really a Hulk fan in general, but this episode was not only an excellent adaptation of Jennifer Walters' transformation into the She-Hulk, but also a darn good Doctor Doom story to boot.

My only criticism is that the stuff with Gargoyle and the Leader only makes sense to people who have been watching this show from the beginning. But oh well, that's what happens when you jump in the middle.

All in all, this episode represents the two things what Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. needs:
A modicum of respect for the source material...
...and some darn good plotting with a minimum of stupid.
Take notes, Paul Dini.

1 comment:

  1. Remember when Hulk cartoons were good and Doctor Doom had a personality beyond "evil overlord"? Yeah, I miss that. Seriously, 90s animated trollish Doom is best Doom.

    - That One Anon