Monday, May 10, 2010

Why Can't We Be Friends? The Incredible Hulk vs. the Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Thing -- Part 2

Fantastic Four #166 (January 1976)"If It's Tuesday, This Must Be the Hulk!"
Roy Thomas-George Perez/Vince Colletta

Doug: After last time's knockdown/dragout, this issue begins a two-parter that has an interesting twist. As we get rolling, just a couple of comments on the creative team. First, Roy Thomas seems to have really hit his stride by the time 1976 rolls around. Earlier looks at his tenure as writer on Marvel's flagship title found me wanting a return to the days of Stan Lee. But Roy seems right at home, establishing firmly each character's voice. George Perez makes a very early appearance in what has certainly become a hall of fame-worthy career. However, the inks of Vinnie Colletta, while familiar in their fine line and feathering, don't fit Perez's style. It's not an eye-appealing marriage of talents, although either man paired with another artist has certainly been incredible.

Karen: At this early stage in his career, Perez's art is still rough. While his talent for design and layout shows through, many of his figures appear stiff. Still, I agree with you Doug - Colletta was probably not the best choice to team with Perez. I felt the same way with the issues of Avengers they did together.

Doug: We begin this tale aboard a 737 bound for the Midwest, in what appears to be some sort of VIP lounge. The FF are joined by a young couple and their son, and mom and dad are definitely engaging in a Public Display of Affection. Ben, in his normally gruff manner, takes exception and a big blow-up results. The team is obviously under some duress, as Reed explains that their mission is to find, capture, and cure the Hulk. The restoration of Bruce Banner and a cure for his gamma-induced personality changes is the goal.

Karen: A VIP lounge? Do they even have these any more? It doesn't really make any sense that the FF would be flying on a civilian aircraft. It's just a way to get the action rolling.

Doug: You're right -- no Pogo Plane? Anyway, the FF is forced into action as, would you believe it?, the Hulk leaps right through one of the plane's wings. What I really liked about this scene, and even a later bit of action, was that this FF had a plan -- they acted like a team of heroes, rather than a bunch of self-indulged individuals. In a dramatic sequence, Reed, Sue, and Johnny save the plane and bring it to a smooth landing on a highway. Ben, however, feels useless as his skills were not appropriate to the rescue.

Karen: I suppose this is why Reed is considered one of the best leaders in the super-powered community. And I have to admit. it's a pretty cool scene. Although I could do without the stereotypical response by the Invisible Girl -"Oh Reed, it was horrible! But you and Johnny were wonderful!" Come on Roy, it's 1976! Ever hear of a little thing called Women's Liberation?

Doug: Once down, the team is immediately taken away on a military helicopter. Their mission is completely explained -- capture the Hulk so that Reed can remove the essence of the creature from Banner. Upon his cure, Banner would then be released to Reed's supervision. It's interesting that this is a goal held for quite some time, as this was a plot point in FF #112 as well.

Karen: It's interesting to compare how the heroes treat the Hulk over the years. Here, and in earlier times, the overwhelming sentiment was that Banner was a blameless victim of the an experiment gone awry, and that he could not be held responsible for the Hulk's destructive rampages. Later on though that attitude pretty much disappeared and that's how we wound up with a group of Hulk's supposed friends -including Reed - shooting the Hulk into space. Was it just a reflection of the times? Public outcry trumps personal rights?

Doug: I think part of the switch in philosophy had to do with a realization of the damage that the Hulk had done through the years. Mark Millar, to me at least, really put it in perspective in The Ultimates.

Doug: As fate would have it, who should appear on the gamma sensors but ol' Greenskin himself. The team moves quickly to board a military bird and zero in on the signal. The Hulk, sensing the same old/same old, uproots a tree and launches it at the craft. As the FF regroups, they spring into action with an obviously practiced plan. Johnny strikes first in an effort to stun, followed by Reed restraining the Hulk. Sue envelopes the Hulk's head in a force bubble, and Ben (with much coaxing from Reed) moves in for the final blow. Ben is obviously bothered by the fact that he just laid out a restrained, panicked creature on the verge of unconsciousness. It's a feeling that will hang on him for the duration of the issue.

Karen: It's a great plan, and it stinks. Roy does a nice job of making the reader feel how Ben feels - unclean. When he tells Reed to take his hand off him, it sounds absolutely right.

Doug: Once back at the military base, with the Hulk restrained, Reed begins the process of removing the gamma influence. But the FF's understanding of the next chain of events is betrayed as young Col. Sellers orders his men to grab the limp body of Banner and fit him with smaller manacles. This is about all the smoldering Ben can take and he lunges forward to destroy the machine. You guessed it -- it's Hulk time again!

Doug: Now free, the Hulk stands side-by-side with the Thing. Ben proclaims, "The Hulk and me -- you and the rest of humanity's had us at each other's throats -- when we shoulda been fightin' on the same side -- right, Hulk?" Game on, as they say!

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