Despite some stylistic hiccups that might alienate adult fans, but for young ones, this is the perfect cartoon to introduce Hulk concepts of the Hulk comic that have kept fans coming back for decades. With Paul Dini at the helm, fans know that this series is ripe for potential greatness. The show presents a unique art style, with action sequences broken down into comic like panels to show many different points of view during chaotic battle scenes. At times, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. feels like a frenetically paced, moving comic, and while it takes some getting used to, it sets this show apart from Avengers Assemble and Ultimate Spider-Man.
The characters are multi-layered with easy-to-grasp but effective motivations and personalities. The show’s conceit is that it is a pseudo-web documentary, filmed by floating cameras for a web series created by Rick Jones, with action interspersed with Real World style confessional interviews by the cast. It takes some getting used to when Hulk smashing an invading armada from the Negative Zone is cut away from to a first person shot of reality show Hulk. The verdict is still out on whether this serves as a distraction from the smashing or serves as a convenient character building tool. The show’s feature players are:
The Hulk: Of course the central figure of the show is the Hulk himself, and don’t expect much Bruce Banner. Voiced by Fred Tatasciore, who has voiced the character in both iterations of the Avengers cartoon, this is a smarter Hulk than most fans are used to. He is multi-syllabic and is more prone to strategy than chaos. He is a pure hero, misunderstood but steadfast.
Rick Jones aka A-Bomb: Voiced by Seth Green, Rick Jones is the eyes and ears for young viewers of the show. He is the one that tells the audience what a great hero the Hulk is. He’s like the Hulk’s younger brother, and serves to prove that the Hulk is a protector not a threat. One major misstep the show took was not revealing that Rick was responsible for the Hulk’s creation, a fact that creates an effective dynamic between the two characters in the comics. Rick’s transformation into A-Bomb was well-handled, as the Hulk still wants to protect his pal despite Rick’s new status as a monster hero. A-Bomb can become annoying with his “dudes” and oh-so-modern, hip references, but his role as neophyte hero is well defined and opens up many possible stories.
Red Hulk: Voiced by Clancy Brown (YES! YES! YES!), the Red Hulk serves as the Hulk’s foil, but more importantly, he establishes a sense of time and place for the show. All the familiar classic tales featuring Hulk vs. Thunderbolt Ross have taken place, and finally Ross is able to see the Hulk as a hero. Their adversarial relationship is built from a mutual respect that only old adversaries can have for each other. Ross’ and Hulk’s banter and need for one-upmanship adds a welcome layer of comedy to the show.
She-Hulk: Voiced by Eliza Dushku, the shows biggest misstep. In the later parts of the premier episode, She-Hulk is the Jen Walters old time fans love, smashing, quipping, a strong woman who seems to be having a blast running around and holding her own while with the big boys. But for some reason the showrunners have decided that She-Hulk is a pilot and stunt woman. Hmm, keeping an always open mind, it seems that a pilot She-Hulk is just a green Carol Danvers. Jen Walters has always been a cerebral, professional woman, a lawyer struggling to keep the respect of her peers while running around in a spandex outfit and smashing threats to the world. Stripping Jen of her lawyer background is robbing the character of her uniqueness, and while the character in the show is fun and likable, fans who have been waiting to see Jen, the real Jen, for years will be disappointed. It’s understood that a lawyer doesn’t incite events that will lead to the type of action where smashing is required, but Ross is still a soldier, Banner is still a scientist, and Jones is still a young man, it doesn’t seem fair to not let Jen be Jen.
Skaar: Voiced by Benjamin Diskin, Skaar is the enigma of the show. He first appears controlled by Annihilus, so he plays the Clint Barton Avengers role as a mind controlled beat stick for most of the premiere episode. He has his trademark sword and Conan hair, and is welcomed into the fold by the others after Hulk frees him from control. No mention of Skaar’s parentage, but that will be an interesting direction for the show if followed. The opening episode ends with a surprising revelation involving Skaar and the Leader that creates a sense of intrigue and a nice continuity as we get ready to dive into the meat of the series.
Many parts of the show really work and flow together nicely even though the threat of Annihilus is a bit generic. Rick fluctuates between being an engaging character and an annoying one, things need to stop comically falling on the Hulk every five minutes, and I really wish the real She-hulk would appear instead of this almost She-Hulk voiced ably by Ms. Dushku. At the end of the day, this show isn’t for me, a veteran comic reader of eight thousand years, but for the kid that has not discovered the worlds and characters created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Roy Thomas, Herb Trimpe, Bill Mantlo, Peter David, Grek Pak, and Jeff Loeb. It’s designed to expand the world of the Hulk character that was introduced in the Marvel Animated Universe, and in that, it works.