Even though “Avengers Assemble” has not always made the best of it, I see Thor and the Hulk being buddies a natural thing. Honestly I see a Sean Thornton/Will Danaher vibe from The Quiet Man between them – mortal enemies, but best buds after a few punches and drinks. Now, it looks like we’re finally getting our Thor/Hulk buddy episode – meet me after the jump, for my thoughts on “Valhalla Can Wait.”
The Classic Hulk Fights
The Hulk/Thor fight is one of the classic fights in Marvel Universe legend, perhaps only overshadowed by the Hulk/Thing fight, but just edging out the Hulk/Iron Man fight. It’s just an unwritten rule that when two of these characters get together, eventually they will fight, and it will go on for quite a while. Whenever the Hulk fought any of these guys it was a big deal, an event.
I’ve talked about my first exposure to a Hulk fight before here at Biff Bam Pop!, you can read about it here, but my first epic Hulk fight was during the classic Avengers/Defenders clash in the early 1970s. Through the manipulation a of (who else?) Loki, the Avengers fought the Defenders and Thor paired off with the Hulk in Los Angeles. It was a mighty battle that ended in a literal standstill armlock on a full page, a rarity at that time. Man, those were the days.
One line from that fight stays with me, the Hulk says, “Hulk was Avenger once, didn’t like it!” Most folks these days think Avengers and they think Hulk. That’s thanks to the movie, and later comics and animated series. Let me be clear, for most of his existence, the Hulk was not an Avenger. Yeah, believe it or not, it’s true.
Hulk was an Avenger for two issues before leaving. It’s true, he did return a handful of times to help them, but the fact is he has far more appearances in the Avengers as an enemy than as a friend. Even in the above example he was a member of the Defenders, not the Avengers. And to be fair, he noted he wasn’t all that happy with them either.
As we open on this episode, Loki (again?) is manipulating the Hulk and Thor into battle. It begins where a interviewer from the Daily Bugle, a television network in the Marvel Animated Universe, is talking to the Avengers about the mayor declaring today ‘Avengers Day.’ We get some nice character bits and a sweet nod to the comics as Loki is disguised as the female interviewer.
She/he goads Thor and the Hulk into fighting and then the fun begins. Or at least it starts as fun, then thanks to Loki, turns ugly. She/he makes sure the two angered heroes end up in Valhalla, realm of Hela. Hulk and Thor think they are competing in a ‘friendly’ competition to see who’s stronger, but Loki has made a sinister deal with Hela.
While Loki brings an army of the dead to take on the Avengers and conquer Midgard (that’s the Earth for those of you not Norse, mythologists, or comic book fans), Hela has make the best of the deal between gods. Loki gets an army and the horn to control them, and Hela gets to watch Thor and the Hulk do battle.
Nothing is ever that simple however. Hela, whose animated visage is awesome (although I thought she needed more of a rack (and I’m talking about her horns, get your heads outta the gutter, guys), gets the winner, and the loser goes back to Earth. Let the battle begin.
Once Hela explains the rules to this pissing contest, one that has been brewing since the start of the episode, the question of who’s stronger – Hulk or Thor – the Thunder God shows his wry intelligence and makes a proposition. He will beat the Hulk so he may go and help the Avengers. Yeah, you don’t have to be a genius to know the Hulk gets the first punch in.
After a moment or two however, the posturing and punching of Thor and the Hulk gets as old as the annoying echo in Valhalla. On Earth, once the Avengers take down the Ray Harryhausen skeleton army, Loki reforms it into a giant skeletal creature, one even harder to stop.
I love that the Black Widow is instrumental in taking giant monster down. I hope the days of ignoring this great character are long over. Speaking of things from the previous season that I hated – Thor is no longer being portrayed as an oafish fratboy with a hammer. He actually shows gile and intelligence in defeating Loki here.
The second season has been off to a promising start, and I have been impressed. I hope this is just the beginning of more to come. What have you folks thought of “Avengers Assemble” season two so far?