This week, we might as well be saying “And now for something completely different” as USM goes “found footage” in an encounter with the Incredible Hulk.
We open, not with Spider-Man fighting some Z-list villain, which is nice, but with Mary Jane, testing out “stage names” for her budding career as a hopeful Daily Bugle News reporter. Apparently, she’s gotten an “exclusive interview” with Spider-Man and is going to use it to win a contest and snag a job from Jonah Jameson. Immediately, she seems to notice that his voice is familiar but Peter dorkily tries to cover it up. Just when she’s about to begin her one-on-one with the webslinger, they’re interrpted from the rooftop by a loud explosion. They turn their attention to the street, where they see a cloud of smoke and some general mayhem. But from behind the smoke, a figure emerges- none other than the Jade Giant himself- The Hulk.
This entire episode is pretty much done in the “found footage ” style of Cloverfield, so a lot of POV shots, animated-shaky cam, and all that, so none of the fights are presented in their normal fashion. Peter tries to get Mary Jane to safety but she insists on covering the story to win the contest. The Hulk is seemingly on a rampage (and also dutifully voiced by ‘Avengers Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ Fred Tatasciore.) Peter tries to figure out why the Hulk is smashing up the public block, and Mary Jane has a run-in with Stan the Janitor, who says “What passes for monsters these days is sad.” before rambling about the something of 1960-something. I like Stan. After duking it out with the green guy for a few moments, he goes back to Mary Jane, who wonders how he manages to even do what he does. “Gotta let them think they beat you and then go back in.” But the moment Peter goes back in, he’s all but swatted away by the Hulk. “Hulk not fighting Bug Man!” (This Hulk is about 200% less erudite and sardonic than his EMH counterpart voiced by the same man.) When Peter and Mary Jane slow down her footage, they discover that the Hulk is actually fighting something- an invisible being made of energy that the human eye can’t see.
Peter goes to intervene, since the police seem to think that the Hulk is just smashing for the sake of it, and explains the situation: The Hulk is trying to fight an invisible energy monster that normal people can’t see. “That sounds really stupid when you say it out loud.” he admits. When the police don’t believe him, he calls in SHIELD for backup. Fury says that they’re too busy saving the world from something in Jersey. “Can’t you just let Jersey go?” But for now, Peter’s on his own, until the backup arrives.
He manages to both gain from semblance of trust from the Hulk (via smashing) and manages to get a few punches in on the energy monster (his name is Zzzax and he’s a baddie from Hulk’s rogue’s gallery but he’s so generic here that he doesn’t even merit a name.) Mary Jane gives Peter the idea to unleash water from the water tower on it and it drives the monster into the subway. Mary Jane films the scene from a hole in the ceiling while Hulk and Peter use the energy from an oncoming train to overload the monster into temporarily self-destructing. But when they emerge from the subway, SHIELD backup has arrived and their only priority seems to be arresting the Hulk.
Peter begs SHIELD to stand down, telling them that they have it all wrong, but Fury seems to be pretty convinced that the Hulk is nothing but a menace. But before anyone can make a move, the monster reappears, now inside the helicarrier, and sends it plummeting towards the city. It halts before crahsing to earth, and Fury tells Spider-Man that he needs to work this out. “Otherwise you’re-” “I know.” Peter says bitterly. “A menace.” They manage to drive out the monster and use another electrical surge to try and destroy it- but their charge is coming up short. Mary Jane offers up her camcorder, willing to sacrifice the entire story for the safety of others. She tosses the camera into the charge and the “film” whites out, fading out to our normal way of seeing the show. (Not that it’s much different.) The Hulk is not taken into SHIELD custody. Peter turns to Mary Jane and reveals that he saved the memory card form her camera, all the footage intact.
At Mary Jane’s house, she and Peter (now out of costume, obviously) watch her contest entry about Spider-Man’s heroism. She says that she never entered, because Jameson would have never allowed a story about Spider-Man not being a “menace.” But she did post it to YouTube, and moments later, a new camera arrives with a message from Jameson, asking Mary Jane to come work for them.
Hooooo boy, where to start. This episode wasn’t…awful? But it sure felt like a waste, and completely disappointing as Mary Jane’s first spotlight episode. She wants to get the story!….Yeahhhh….that’s about it. She believes in Spider-Man. Not a lot going on. Also, the idea of a found-footage cartoon episode was so exciting to me, mostly because of what the animators could have done, when it came to perspective and color and tone, so the fact that it never actually went to any of those places? Disappointing. The Hulk could have made a great “Cloverfield” style monster, but everything about this was pretty lazy.
And The Hulk. Maybe USM should just leave Avengers cameos alone, because the Hulk’s debut here was just about as ineffective as Tony Stark’s. Considering the surge in popularity the Hulk’s been enjoying because of ‘The Avengers’ film, this episode is well timed. But his portrayal is so one-note, that too feels like a waste. When it comes to the Hulk, they had a really good chance to talk about the negative aspects of being super-powered, and they…kind of start to go there, since everyone calls him a “menace” and so forth. And everyone seems to know who he is- so many questions here- is the Hulk not an Avenger in this universe? Why is he so hated, what’s the past history here? Why does he just…show up? And they never bother to answer any of them. Also never mentioned- Bruce Banner. You have two superheroes with brainy alter-egos who’s bodies were altered by scientific accidents, and not going there ALSO feels like a waste. Hard to play the “misunderstood” card when your hero is so just generally flat and destructive.
SHIELD comes off as super incompetent here and is reliant on Peter to save the day. They should know more about the Hulk than Peter does. It’s just inconsistent writing and I was so disappointed. I say this all the time, but the EMH version of the Hulk is fantastic- just as smart as his troubled human counterpart, but less repressed, so much more sarcastic and violent, and amazing to watch. (It doesn’t help that the green guy is my favorite, so to see this after crashing down on the triumph that is his portrayal in ‘The Avengers’ just hurts.) Also, if anyone needed proof of how different USM is from the comic series of the same name, Peter Parker’s run-in with the Hulk also coincides with thousands of people being drowned in the city and Bruce Banner begging Peter to kill him because he thinks he’s responsible. Yeah.
Bad puns, no appearances from our other teen heroes or Coulson, and barely anything from Fury. I’ll just forget this one and hope next week’s round two with Venom goes better.
If you missed the previous episode be sure to read our ‘Ultimate Spider-Man: Why I Hate Gym’ recap to catch up.