This week, The Avengers finally rescue the Hulk from General Ross to find that he might not be so happy to see them.
Okay, so you might say that I have, let’s call it an “emotional bias”, about this entire storyline. I have long been a fan of EMH’s take on The Hulk – instead of just a primitive destructive machine, he’s a glowering, dark-humored cynic, just as smart as his rarely-seen counter-part Bruce Banner. So when the Skrull masquerading as Captain America turned Bruce Banner over to General Ross during the Skrull infiltration, I was both horrified and intrigued – mostly intrigued because hey – turning over your biggest threat to his archnemesis? Pretty diabolical plan, and something so very Anti-Captain America that I thought it was a very adult move for a show geared towards kids. The horrified part really came after the end of ‘Secret Invasion’, where the Avengers defeated the skrulls and Captain America was pardoned. I thought ‘For sure they’re going to go get the Hulk out of captivity and defeat the Red Hulk. Any day now.’ After all, General Ross didn’t just want to contain the Hulk, he wanted to destroy him. They wouldn’t leave a teammate like that, would they?
Well, the good news is, they finally did. The bad news is it took 10 episodes to do it. I don’t know if this is maybe chalked up to a production issue or the unavailability of voice actors or something but that is… a long time. Looking at the timeline of events, a bitter person would say that they prioritized Cap’s shield higher than rescuing one of their own. But I could complain about this all day if you let me, so I’ll just move on to the actual events of the episode.
So Bruce Banner’s been kept by General Ross at the Gamma Base for awhile now, and Ross isn’t too happy that he’s being released. They get in to Bruce’s cell, where Bruce is waiting. “Hey Cap.” he says half-heartedly, narrowing his eyes. “My surrender turned out great, didn’t it?” All of the sudden, without warning, Bruce hulks out and breaks away from the compound. ‘Congratulations, gentlemen. You just freed the deadliest man alive.’ Ross says. So it’s up to the Avengers to catch up with a rampaging Hulk before Ross’s Hulkbusters do. They start to strategize about the Hulk’s behavior – Tony thinks he might be insane from the isolation. (At this point, I’m screaming ‘Maybe he has no reason to trust you guys yet?’) But Cap insists that they have to try and put it right, because he feels he owes a personal debt to both Bruce and the Hulk. So at least Cap’s got it together, but then again, Cap always does.
Somewhere in the woods, the Hulk is trying to ignore Bruce (as a visual manifestation of his psyche), who insists that the transformation back at Gamma Base was forced, and didn’t come from either one of them. But the Hulk is just focused on the Avengers’ betrayal. Cap shows up and tries to talk him back but the Hulk attacks without provocation again, prompting the other Avengers to show up as backup. “Wait a minute, are we hurting him?” Jan asks. “Are you kidding?” Clint says. But none of the other Avengers seem to be a match for him, until a familiar red figure shows up to take him out: the Red Hulk (also voiced by Fred Tatasciore. The two sound a little too similar. Red Hulk basically sounds like the regular Hulk, but with a faint air of being a total jerk.) Apparently Red Hulk wants to prove that he’s Avengers material, rescuing children and doing other heroics things. And the Avengers really seem to fall for it, voting him in after some deliberation. Cap doesn’t buy it whatsoever, even when Tony tells him that Red Hulk’s past indiscretions are due to Red Skull’s mind control. Cap’s still focused on trying to figure out what happened to the Hulk, now that he’s rotting at SHIELD as opposed to Gamma Base, reminding the team that they’re not supposed to give up on friends. The Avengers vote Red Hulk in, regardless.
Meanwhile, Cap breaks in to SHIELD to try and free Bruce, who is being kept strapped down to a table in a room with an airborne sedative. He breaks into the room and disables the machinery but Banner’s too drugged to move. When Cap tries to carry him, he noticed a device attached to his neck – and realizes it might have been what triggered the Hulk’s rage. Jan appears, having hidden in Cap’s uniform and says he was right – she should have known better than to just give up on the Hulk. She inspects the device, noting that it’s run with a computer chip and hooked into his central nervous system. Before they can get out, Bruce wakes up and the device activates, turning him into the Hulk. Red Hulk and the Avengers show up, and Red Hulk calls both Cap and Hulk traitors. Jan destroys the device and the Hulk is freed, and goes straight for Red Hulk. The two take their fight to the docks and the Red Hulk forces Hulk to make the decision between saving a boat full of workers and going after him. Naturally, because he’s a good guy, the Hulk chooses to save people, but the Avengers are on the scene, and Tony asks Red Hulk to turn in his Avengers card. The card quickly dissolves into a kind of gray mush, trapping Red Hulk in a nanite cast and rending him helpless. The Red Hulk finally turns back to his original form – General Ross. Ross is arrested.
Back at the mansion, the other Avengers try to smooth over the awkwardness between them and the Hulk, but the Hulk is still pretty cheesed at all of them – except for Cap. But he’s not going to quit the Avengers, because he’s decided to literally and figuratively be the bigger person about the whole ordeal.
- To briefly restate my point about this whole ordeal: this episode was poorly scheduled, it should have come earlier in the season, if for no other reason than it makes the Avengers look awful. They’re easily tricked by General Ross into accepting the Red Hulk into the fold and letting him call the shots. And they leave one of their teammates in the hands of a potential enemy for a long time. Doesn’t really fit with the “Forever fight as one” theme of the show.
- I’ve always liked the contrast between Gabriel Mann as Bruce Banner and Fred Tatasciore as the Hulk. Most probably know Mann from his role on ABC’s ‘Revenge’ and I hope that they keep him in the fold if Marvel Animation ever needs Bruce in the future. Tatasciore has kind of carved a niche as Hulk 2.0, inheriting it from Lou Ferrigno and his Hulk is great, with both comedic timing and actual dramatic gravitas.
- The Red Hulk is such a jerk, though. He didn’t have as many shades of gray as he does in the comics and people have tried to tell me that he’s an Anti-Hero on this show and I just see a big red bully.
- Continually baffled by the non-presence of both Betty Ross and Jennifer Walters on this show.
Did you miss an episode? Check out our recap of last week’s ‘Winter Soldier‘.