Monday, October 18, 2010

Why Can't We Be Friends? Spidey vs. the Hulk, Part Two

Amazing Spider-Man #120 (May 1973)
"The Fight and the Fury!"
Gerry Conway-Gil Kane/Paul Reinman/John Romita/Tony Mortellaro

Doug: Back to wrap up this little two-parter, friends. When last we saw our hero, he was in deep water -- literally.
After journeying to Canada to visit an attorney who had mysteriously sent Aunt May a telegram, Pete became entangled with a wandering Hulk. After scrapping for a bit, they found themselves at a dam on the St. Lawrence River. And as the Hulk grew more irritated, the dam began to give way, finally near-bursting as a torrent came through, sweeping our combatants beneath the churning waters. And it's here that we pick up the tale.

Doug: The first thing you'll notice from the panel samples we've provided is the re-arrival of Gil Kane to the penciling chores. While the inks of John Romita bring some overall unity to this story, it is always a bit unsettling when Kane shows up. Now I say that not to disrespect the man -- he is a fine storyteller with a unique, dynamic style that is all his own.
He is a Silver and Bronze Age master. However, in my opinion Kane's frenetic energy has a harshness to it that is a stark departure from what I'll call Romita's "smoothness". So while the bodies are under the heavy influence of Kane's style, I think it's Romita's faces that bring that consistency between the two issues. Thoughts?

Karen: The change was very noticeable. I've said before, Gil Kane has been an acquired taste for me. I much prefer Romita's art on Spidey, but Kane is no slouch either. It did help having Romita do the inks.

Doug: Spidey and the Hulk begin this issue tussling under the river waters. Shortly after, Spidey is ejected to the surface and the Hulk follows, the latter in an effort to get away from the fight and from the Canadian soldiers -- who are being led by the Hulk's nemesis General "Thunderbolt" Ross. And that's about it -- the reader is left to wonder if the Hulk will show up again. But, this is where Gerry Conway proves his mettle as a character-driving scribe. When the action appears to over, that's when the story starts to be told.

Karen: I thought it was interesting that much of the action in these early pages is focused on the dam rather than a straight up fight with Hulk and Spider-Man.
Reminds me a bit of all those disaster films back in the 70s!

Doug: Spidey switches to civvies, and calls Gwen to inquire about Harry Osborn, who'd collapsed last issue. Gwen tells Pete that she's afraid Harry is "backflashing" to a trip he'd had some months earlier (ASM #'s 96-98?), and that Pete should get home quickly to help Harry. Pete wonders to himself what in the world he could do... After hanging up, he heads to an appointment he'd made last issue: namely, getting in touch with the attorney who'd sent May the telegram that was for her eyes only.

Karen: "Back-Flashing"? A flashback? Was Conway making a joke about Gwen's naivete?

Doug: Along the way, Pete senses he's being followed. Ducking into an alley and changing back to his Spidey togs, he does his best Batman impersonation, grabbing the goon and hauling him to a rooftop. After a brief interrogation yields no info., Spidey drops the guy.
Of course he webs him and pulls him back up; at that point, the guys squeals, telling Spider-Man that it was Doc Ock who wanted Parker followed. And then something weird happens... Ross shows up with a small detachment of troops and accuses Spider-Man of knowing where the Hulk is. That they are in Canada at the same time just proves that they are working together. Spidey hurls a couple of insults, then hightails it out of there, hoping to keep his meeting time. Pete arrives at the legal offices, only to be told that Mssr. Rimbaud is away at an island on the St. Lawrence River in Montreal.

Karen: I really doubt that even Ross is dull-witted enough to believe that the Hulk could be in cahoots with anyone, let alone Spidey.
But then, this was all about Spider-Man and this is the kind of thing that happens to him all the time, isn't it? He's always suspected of being up to no good.

Doug: Accompanying Rimbaud's secretary in a car, and not knowing they are being tailed by another of Ock's henchmen, Pete heads to the island. However, our guest star reappears and destroys the road in front of our hero. Throwing Pete, the secretary, and the driver from the car, the Hulk is on the verge of another rampage. Bounding a short distance away, Pete does yet another switcheroo and comes back at the Hulk as Spider-Man, hoping to draw the behemoth away from the civilians. Spidey succeeds, luring the Hulk to the grounds of the 1967 World Exposition. It's there that they battle, Spidey always staying a step ahead and goading the Hulk into more fighting. As Ross and the Canadian army arrive, the Hulk leaps away.

Karen: The fight scenes here were very enjoyable. Spidey does what he does best, jumps around like a maniac and spouts one-liners.
The Hulk in these two issues has really seemed like a menace. He's constantly putting people in danger and just seems absolutely clueless - more so than he did in his own title, as I recall.

Doug: Spidey changes (again!) and it's Pete who finally gets to meet Mssr. Rimbaud, who has arrived at the accident scene. But, as they begin to speak, Ock's assassin delivers a fatal bullet to Rimbaud's back -- thus ending the entire purpose for Pete's journey to the Great White North. Dejected, Pete heads back to Manhattan, and to what will become the worst day of his young life.

Doug: I really thought this was a character-driven story, as I said above. There is so much evidence here for what drives Peter Parker -- his sense of duty to his fellow man in engaging the Hulk, his sense of allegiance to his friends in his worry over Harry Osborn, and his sense of love for his Aunt May.
I also thought that Conway provided us a very sympathetic Hulk. When written this way, he truly is a tragic anti-hero. Many times over this the course of these years I found myself wanting to just scream at Ross, "Leave him alone!" I actually thought it was a great plot device to deliver and remove the Hulk so quickly from the scenes he was in -- it really gave off that sense of a man on the run.

Karen: I agree, these issues are a sort of 'Spidey 101' - his entire character is delineated in the course of the story. He's self-sacrificing, guilt-ridden, loyal, a smart-alleck - anyone who wants to understand Peter/Spider-Man need look no further than these issues. Conway truly understood who the character was, and was at the top of his game here -and in the issues to follow.

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