Monday, June 27, 2011
Big-Ears Doesn't Fight Fair...
The Incredible Hulk #196 (February 1976)
"The Abomination Proclamation!"
Len Wein-Sal Buscema/Joe Staton
Doug: It's about high time we get some Greenskin going on this blog! Yeah, the Hulk has been in some of our previous comic book reviews, but only as a guest-star. We've posted nothing from his own mag. But, I have to tell you -- unless Ms. Karen picks up the torch (she has the DVD-ROM), you aren't going to get much out of me. I just don't have but three issues! I never collected the title when I was a kid, although I did usually leaf through it. Budgetary concerns usually kept me from it, as Jade Jaws was never really a favorite character of mine. So until I get some more of these in an eBay lot, we'll have to make due with simply whetting your appetite!
Doug: This will be a stand-alone, as I don't have the previous nor succeeding issues. But it looks pretty good and has a great Bronze Age art team, so I'm optimistic we'll have a few minutes of fun right here. Our tale picks up with General Ross, SHIELD agent Clay Quartermain, and Doc Samson at the Hulkbuster Base, watching a battle between the Hulk and the Abomination. Ross is intent on reviewing tapes of last issue's battle between the two gamma-irradiated behemoths. As those of us new on the scene discover, it was Ross who orchestrated the Abomination's attack on the Hulk; when in the course of battle they decided to team up... well, that little detail and the responsibility that goes with it isn't lost on our blusterous general.
Doug: Cut to Cape Canaveral, where we get some small talk between a gate guard and a semi-truck driver. It's a nice little interlude, and just ahead of a more important detail -- namely, the driver's payload is two stowaways named Hulk and Abomination! The two giants burst out of the truck, and are immediately met with gunfire from the soldiers positioned to protect the base. There's a great scene of a soldier taking it all on himself to stop these guys -- with a moon buggy! Designed to move mountains on the moon, all our erstwhile hero does is further anger the two monsters. Initially successful, he, and the buggy, soon meet their fate.
Doug: Blowing the doors to Command Central open, the Abomination threatens the man in charge, who wisely backs off his on his alleged authority. The Abomination then commandeers the broadcast set-up, and issues a warning to the entire American military: deliver $100 million in uncut diamonds to the Abomination and the Hulk by midnight, or they level Cape Canaveral. Obviously Samson and Ross see this, and begin their pity party yet again. Back at Canaveral, Wilbur Manners, our man formerly in charge, ain't taking kindly to the Abomination's gruff demeanor. Gripping some cables marked "High Voltage", Manners whirls and assaults Hulk's ally. The Abomination reels, and Hulk leaps to his new friend's aid. But Manners defies the Hulk's claim that he will smash, and this confuses the Hulk. As the Abomination recovers, he states that Manners will be kept around, but only so long as he's useful. He then muses to himself that the Hulk has a soft spot, which may in the end prove his undoing.
Doug: As the time ticks away, Washington informs Ross that's this is all his show. Samson cooks up a plan that involves Betty Ross Talbot, who readily agrees to assist. Betty voice and image begin to appear on every monitor at Cape Canaveral. Seeing that the Hulk is distracted, the Abomination destroys the first monitor, but as they move outside to begin the destruction of the base (and by the way, when they do get outside, at 11:55 pm, it's broad daylight...), there are more monitors. Hulk begins to recognize Betty, and the Abomination steps up his efforts to get the Hulk to start destroying Canaveral. As the Abomination loses his cool and plunges his fist directly into the center of a large monitor, giving the impression that he punched Betty, the Hulk loses it and these two allies now face each other.
Doug: What follows, as you might expect, is one big melee! Hulk lands the first blow, and it's a pretty good one -- pounding the Abomination straight into the ground. As the battle rages, the Abomination breaks away and heads for an experimental rocket. Reaching the capsule, he enters and initiates the launch sequence. Hulk follows and grips the side of the rocket as lift-off commences. Using his steel-like fingers, the Hulk claws his way toward the capsule as the rocket reaches exit velocity. Finally able to pull himself to the top, Hulk smashes into the cockpit, only to be kicked away by the Abomination. As the Hulk falls into a flaming re-entry, the damage he'd done manifests itself and the rocket explodes, apparently killing the Abomination. And where does Hulk land on the earth? Why, in the Florida Everglades, of course, as next issue's teaser touts an appearance by the Man-Thing; "the story you've demanded!"
Doug: So in spite of the fact that the story actually began in the previous issue, I could argue that this is a done-in-one. I didn't need any backstory other than what I already knew about these characters to enjoy this story. It's formulaic, sure, and plot-wise is pretty much in line with the Thing/Hulk team-up we previously reviewed in Fantastic Four #'s 166 and 167. Do you think there's any coincidence that those two FF issues came out at the exact same time as Hulk #195 and today's issue? Hmmm... Maybe Len Wein and Roy Thomas had done lunch and unwittingly told the same story? Who knows? There is of course some suspension of disbelief required in parts of the story, such as the Hulk not only clawing his way up the rocket, but his apparent survival after his plummet back to terra firma. The art in this book is top flight -- Sal Buscema is just amazing; this was during the peak of his powers. His action sequences are exciting, and the facial expressions he draws are outstanding. Joe Staton's inks really enhance the overall look of the book. So, as I'd hoped, it was a fun little tale and actually leaves me wishing I had a few more Hulk books!