Episode #4: Hard Knocks
Original Airdate: September 23rd, 2006

When an old friend of Reed's shows up looking for help, the Fantastic Four are in for the fight of thier lives. His name is Bruce Banner and he has a terrible secret - he's The Incredible Hulk. And when Banner Hulks out and goes on a rampage through New York City, it's up to the FF to stop him.

Written by Joshua Fine
Directed by Franck Miohel
Music by Noam Kaniel
Animation By Sunmin/ The Animation Studio/ Fantasta

Mr. Fantastic - Hiro Kanagawa
Invisible Woman - Lara Gilchrist
The Thing - Brian Dobson
Human Torch - Christopher Jacot

Review By Screw On Head - “Hard Knocks” is easily my favorite episode to come down the pike so far.

After watching the first three episodes of Fantastic Four, I’ll admit I was concerned about the animation quality for the future of the series. Was “Doomed” really the best animation they could do so far? Thankfully, “Hard Knocks” proves what the Fantastic Four’s animation studio Moonscoop is capable of. Not only was the animation fluid and extremely impressive, but the direction style, which I’ve complained about prior, was this time around very clear and easy to follow. Obviously animation is the real selling point for this episode to me, and rightfully so given the guest star.

Story-wise I also really enjoyed this episode, which guest stars the Hulk. If you’re a Hulk fan, you’re not going to find anything new here, but thankfully the story is written so well that one is never left bored or uninterested in what is going on. I found the opening of the episode very cool. Seeing Sue, Johhny, and Ben come across Reed unconscious in his lab along with a raging Hulk and uber cool atmospheric lighting, well, what’s not to love? This works extremely well, in that the episode opens with an awesome Hulk fight, and it is explained very painlessly that Bruce Banner arrived to seek Reed’s help, only to unintentionally unleash the Hulk and wreck Reed’s lab. With that established, the Government comes to town and this is another staple in the Hulk mythos that is handled very painlessly here. A group of Rogue government agents arrive to capture Banner in the Baxter Building, and the ensuing struggle is very entertaining. This is another part of the episode where the animation is key and works like gangbusters. There’s a lot of fun moments here with the Four taking down some agents in an effort to save Banner. The end of the episode is another fight with those same government agents, who managed to leave the Baxter Building with Hulk, but this time it’s a fight in some desert canyon. Banner Hulks out again and after some action Hulk hops away, evading government capture again. The ending wraps the story up very nicely, and you definitely get the right feel here, that Hulk and Banner are again escaping, heading off to wherever life will take them, after seeing a flock of birds fly off into the sunset.

I especially enjoyed the voice work in this episode along with the music. I most enjoyed The Thing’s moments in this episode, because he’s written very well and Brian Dobson does a truly fantastic job here. Thing’s rivalry with Hulk gives Dobson a lot to work with, and it’s clear in his performance that he gets it and he really goes to town with it, providing a very on-the-nose performance. Lara Gilchirst as the Invisible Woman gets some nice moments as well, thanks in part to the well-written lines she has in the episode. Yet again Hiro Kanagawa nails Mr. Fantastic’s demeanor, who is also written particularly well. The music in this episode worked really well for me, especially during the opening Hulk fight.

At the moment “Hard Knocks” is a defining episode for the series in my eyes. It proves what we already know, that the writing in this series is extremely well handled, and it also proves something that I’ve waited to see, that Moonscoop can animate an episode just as well as they can design one. My concerns for the series have been lifted for the moment, because this series potential just got a lot bigger.


Back to Episode Reviews