I start working on the 12 Days of Christmas Episodes early. I like to have them all done before the first one runs, so I don’t have that extra holiday stress. That means I was watching a lot of Christmas episodes in November. And more specifically, it means that the very first thing I watched when Disney+ came online was not The Mandalorian but rather, an episode of Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.

Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. – “It’s a Wonderful Smash”

Original airdate: December 3, 2014

I know more about superheroes than most people, and this episode was completely baffling. Hulk, who in this show is somewhere between “Hulk Smash” and Dr. Mark Ruffalo, leads a team of Hulks. It is not explained why they thought a team of people with the same power is a good idea. They also don’t really explain who the other Hulks are, but you have She-Hulk (Bruce Banner’s cousin and long-running solo character soon to get her own live action series), A-Bomb (former Hulk and Captain America sidekick Rick Jones), Red Hulk (former Hulk antagonist Thunderbolt Ross), and Skaar (Hulk’s barbarian son from the future or maybe a parallel dimension).

I don’t know how this team operates or why things happen – at one point, J. Jonah Jameson yells at them and I don’t know why Spider-Man’s boss is involved with the day-to-day goings on of a team of Hulks. Apparently A-Bomb is making a reality show about the Hulks and that’s why they’re always followed by cameras, but that is not at all clear from anything I saw here. I was confused by everything.

Also, I should spoil right now that the Guardians of the Galaxy appear in this episode. And they are not based on the movie versions. Check the release date – this came out the same year as the movie. And instead of using the versions that people know and love, they went with older comic versions that now just look like off-model knock-offs. They might be the Custodians of the Cluster for all I can tell. The only ones clearly identifiable are Drax and Rocket (the latter by virtue of being a talking raccoon). Even Groot…. like, the only thing you need to convey Groot is a pleasant looking sentient tree. This is how he looks on this show:

And that is a nightmare. But maybe I’m not being fair. That Dollar Store Starlord may be influencing my opinion.  Maybe we can take a look from a different angle:

WHY IN GOD’S NAME DOES HE HAVE HUMAN TEETH?

The last thing I want to mention is that this show does a lot of whip pans and extreme close-ups and every time a character is introduced the action freezes and their names appear onscreen. It’s a very Genndy Tartakovsky approach, only it’s done completely artlessly and is hard to watch.

OK, so this starts as a story that A-Bomb is narrating, but this is never referenced again. Blastaar (a Fantastic Four villain) shows up in Rockefeller Center and the Hulks punch him and throw him into a portal. Then J. Jonah Jameson appears on the Jumbotron to yell at them and as I said, it is not clear why a newspaper publisher gets to order the Hulks around. Or why he can hear their responses to him. He’s mad that they ruined the city and seriously, all they did was knock over the Christmas tree and bisect a giant nutcracker. There is no other damage. Then we see a child who would have had to be standing in the middle of the fight burst into tears because they ruined Christmas.

On the way home, A-Bomb makes a wish on a shooting star for a perfect Christmas. And suddenly, they’re in their skyscraper shaped like a fist (it’s not clear to the new viewer whether this is actually where they live or if it’s part of the fantasy) and everything is perfect. Red Hulk is the President, A-Bomb is dating Eliza Dushku, She-Hulk is a famous actress and a Supreme Court justice, Skaar is the world wrestling champ, and Hulk is just happy that everybody is happy. This should be funny, but I assure you, it is not.

And then off-model Rocket Raccoon comes down the chimney and starts shooting. And even though he is definitely shooting at (and hitting) Hulks, he claims he’s just trying to destroy a projector. Once he does, the Hulks discover that they’re all trapped in this weird chamber, enslaved by the Collector. (Who is not based on the Benicio del Toro version with whom people would be familiar.) There’s this orb that will prevent an intergalactic war and the Guardians of the Galaxy were trying to steal it from him. He locked them in their fantasies and did the same with the Hulks, even though it is not at all clear when that happened or even why. Don’t bring five Hulks to your house if you don’t want stuff getting wrecked.

They fight robots while locating the other Guardians, who do not look or act like the beloved movie versions. I don’t know if they didn’t have all of the licensing in one place or if this episode was in production before the movie release and they wanted to hedge their bets in the event of a bomb but it’s so weird to bring in these characters and not use the version that people like.

The Hulks and the Guardians fight for a bit even though one side of the conflict is made entirely of Hulks, and then Rocket introduces everybody. And then the Collector puts them all back in a fantasy where they’re all having the perfect Christmas together. Hulk knows something is amiss and destroys the fantasy again. Then they fight the Collector, who is a giant. But they shoot a laser at the orb and that makes him shrink and there is no explanation for why this works or how they knew to do that. I watched this episode twice because I was sure I had missed key plot details, and I did not.

They avert war by giving the orb to the proper authorities and then they all celebrate Christmas together at “Herb’s Gamma Burger”, which is a Hulk-themed restaurant where the Hulks also hang out. It’s also named after longtime Hulk artist, the late Herb Trimpe, which is nice. There are two good things about this episode and that’s one of them. Oh, also A-Bomb gets an email from Eliza Dushku that is apparently just her sending a picture of herself. Here’s the thing – it seems weird that they would fixate on this actual not especially famous actress, but the joke is that Dushku is the voice of She-Hulk. And yet, they didn’t just have a scene where she calls him. They have Dushku in the room and she still sends an e-mail.

 

Best Line: “I am Groot.” — Groot

Boy, that’s such a fun character. Let’s have a quick look at that character who sells millions of dollars of merchandise all by himself:

AAAAH! I DON’T LIKE SUPERHEROES ANYMORE!

 

Holiday Tropes

Christmas Decorations – We get a look at Rockefeller Center, which is decked out for the holiday. The Hulks’ apparently imaginary headquarters is also decorated appropriately and there’s plenty of tinsel at Herb’s.

Christmas Outfits – Hulk wears a reindeer sweater in the fantasy scenes and A-Bomb has a Santa hat. Their pet dinosaur, who appears to be a small version of Devil Dinosaur, wears antlers in the fantasy scenes and his one real world scene at the end. Did I forget to mention that Hulk has a pet T-Rex?

A Christmas Miracle – A-Bomb wishes for a perfect Christmas and then they apparently get abducted by a space giant. But they make new friends, so that’s something.

Celebrity Guests – The Guardians of the Galaxy probably count as celebrities, but these versions are like the Asylum mockbuster. It’s like they cast their weird siblings. We do get a legit fun guest and the second thing I liked about the episode in J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson! Simmons played Jameson in both the Tobey Maguire and Tom Holland Spider-Man movies, and he did this episode the year Whiplash came out and set him up for an Oscar win. I love J.K. Simmons.

 

Holiday Cheer-O-Meter – You know how I love superheroes. I love the Guardians and the Hulk and some of his friends (I could care less about A-Bomb and Skaar, and I only like the Red Hulk when written by Jeff Parker). This show was baffling and frustrating and not at all fun to watch. Frankly, I spent 30 minutes feeling like I had maybe suffered a stroke and couldn’t understand visual input, so I’m giving this a 1.

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