Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The 5-in-1 Threat!

The Incredible Hulk #213 (July 1977)
"You Just Don't Quarrel With the Quintronic Man!"
Len Wein-Sal Buscema/Tom Palmer

Doug: This is a great cover, isn't it? If I had been a Hulk fan when I was 11, Ernie Chan would have made me buy this.

Doug: This one hits the ground running. The splash page features our hero with his young charge, Jim Wilson, facing a barrage of bullets. When last we saw these two, Hulk had just vanquished the Constrictor -- a super-baddie who had a hit on young Wilson! As New York's Finest continue to blast away, Hulk keeps moving forward until eventually the boys in blue have fled or had (as in the case of the last brave fool) their weapons crushed in a big green fist. But what should our wondering eyes next reveal to us? How about a huge box truck from Stark International that stops right on Hulk's doorstep, opens, and unleashes a huge robot-like construct -- the Quintronic Man!

Doug: Piloted by five techs, this "multi-million dollar piece of merchandise" prepares to engage the Hulk. And right away, we have a cutaway -- to Gamma Base, where Doc Samson is trying to help some transient get his memory back. OK, back to fightin'. This Quintronic Man is weird, in that the tech in the head orders the guys running the four limbs to do certain things. Of course it's all pictured as if it would be fluid, but I'm thinking the delay in reaction time is going to cost somebody down the road here. Hulk scoffs at this new robot, but is soon on his backside. Foolishly thinking they've KO'd him on the first kick, the Quintronic Man moves in. Bad choice. He's barely able to parry the Hulk, who despite falling backward is able to rip the asphalt from under the giant.

Doug: Cut to Banner's boarding house, where April Sommers is watching all of this transpire on the news. We see a shadowy figure outside of her OPEN DOOR (duh), but he scoots away when she investigates a noise in the hallway. She assumed it was going to be Banner, and as we saw last ish, he's been a mystery-man and she wants some answers.

Doug: Cut again to some hoods, who are about to get their seedy meeting busted up by the Jack of Hearts! Jack's on a revenge mission for his dead father (carried over from Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #23) and wipes up the place pretty easily. Hearing about the Hulk on the radio, though, makes Jack want to test himself as a real superhero -- so it's Hulk-hunting he will go!

Doug: There are numerous further indignities heaped upon the Hulk, but none like the "somna-gas" that he's blasted with -- and you guessed it -- la la land. Oh, shoot -- another cut, and back to the SHIELD tanker. Except this issue they've transferred the gamma-irradiated cylinder to the Helicarrier. General Ross is aboard to be debriefed on the thing. Trouble is, all attempts to breach it have been unsuccessful. And wouldn't you know that as everyone vacates the room, the bugger starts to quiver a bit. Hmmm... OK, back to the Hulk. He's loaded into a vault-like truck, and Jim is detained and made to ride in the front with the police.

Doug: What follows is an odd scene, with several squad cars leading the heavily-armored truck and all followed by the Quintronic Man. As the processional moves, Jim suddenly jerks the wheel from the driver and steers the truck right into a wall. And you know what? The armored roof cracks. Give. Me. A. Break. Look at the thing! If it wasn't tailor-made to hold the Hulk, and it cracks? Solid steel (or whatever) cracks?? Well, I'm going to be surprised if this one ends well.

Doug: Of course the somna-gas is allowed to escape, Hulk wakes up (question -- why didn't he switch back to Banner when he was zonked?), the Quintronic Man gets in a couple of good shots, but in the end Hulk hurls a chunk of concrete that lands in the construct's chest cavity -- and oh-so-conveniently backs up the air system, reversing the direction of the somna-gas. Robot can't function if its five pilots are all out. The end. Well, except that Jack of Hearts arrived about two seconds too late to get in on the action -- throwdown coming up in a future issue.

Doug: Tom Palmer's inks are much heavier in this issue than were Ernie Chan's in the previous book. And I think Chan's generally got a heavy brush. Certainly we see elements of Palmer overpowering Sal's pencils, and while that's not terrible it does tend to make me think more of the John Buscema/Palmer collaborations than really getting a Sal-feel for this art. After two issues of Len Wein, I see the trouble that all Hulk, and Superman, authors must face -- how do you have a fight each issue where your protagonist is nearly omnipotent? Tricks, gags, deus ex machinas -- I guess you have to have all of that. Neither the Constrictor or the Quintronic Man should have been worthy of battling the Hulk, but Wein manages to squeeze a 22-page story out of each bad guy. Of course, all of the foreshadowed plot threads help to stretch things out. So, while I'd have rather seen the Hulk take this big robot apart limb by limb, I'll settle for the dumb luck that ended this fracas. But I'm only giving this book a B- because of it.


dbutler16 said...

Before I even read your post, I said to myself "wow, that is a tremendous cover". Ernie Chan did it, then?

Lemnoc said...

"I'm thinking the delay in reaction time is going to cost somebody down the road here."

Especially when each command is accompanied by an expository explanation of the attack and technology or application that underlies it.

Sometime it would be fun to watch the Hulk just demolish a villain concept as fiddly as this.

Anonymous said...

I think this cover is PURE Ernie Chan. If there ever was an artist under Chan’s layers of inking, he’s long gone now, but from the layout, I’d say it was Ernie alone.

You have to wonder why, when Stark delivered this, SHIELD or Ross or whoever didn’t say ‘excuse me, you’re the guy who invented the Iron Man armour, right? Which is clearly massively superior to this piece of barely automated junk which needs 5 guys to even move its arms & legs about? So, given that even Iron Man has never stopped the Hulk for long enough to even squeeze in a decent heart attack, how do you figure this piece of junk is going to accomplish anything? And why haven’t you delivered something more akin to the Shellhead suit?’

I am however always baffled that, given that we worked out a long time ago that the way to floor the Hulk is to gas or asphyxiate him, why the US army still spends trillions of bucks on ever-more complex and unlikely hardware to combat old jade-jaws when the recommended method is just to put a bag on his head?

I like Palmer’s inks here, but I think you definitely see it’s over Sal, except maybe a couple of panels that look more JB than SB. But I’m just splitting Buscemas now.


Inkstained Wretch said...

I remember reading this one back in the discount bin in '82 or so and even then as an 11 year-old thinking, "Five guys running different limbs of the same robot? That can't possibly work."

And to think we kid the Silver Age writers for their nutty ideas ...

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