Friday, March 2, 2012

Of Green Hair, Purple Pants, and Concentric Circles

Incredible Hulk #150 (April 1972)
"Cry Hulk, Cry Havok!"
Archie Goodwin-Herb Trimpe/John Severin

Doug: When Karen and I reviewed the first appearance of the Beast this past Monday, I mentioned that I was reading from the X-Men Marvel Masterworks, volume 7. Included in that tome is Incredible Hulk #150, containing an appearance by Alex Summers and Lorna Dane, known in the longjohn world as Havok and Polaris. I appreciate that Marvel has taken care in the Masterworks and Essentials to sometimes add in books that are not in the main series the volume is dedicated to. Many owners of the dvd-roms have long lamented the exclusion of Giant-Size issues and crossovers from those otherwise fine collections.

Karen: I'm working from a genuine, 1972 copy! And yes, it has that "old comic" smell!

Doug: Ah, yes -- a little newsprint mustiness! I just get ink when I open one of these Masterworks... Well, if this is the Hulk's book, then you know we have to begin with the Jade Giant on the run from some army-types. And so, we find our hero hiding from soldiers led by none other than General "Thunderbolt" Ross. In the bowels of a Project Greenskin base, Hulk had battled the Inheritor the previous issue. Now he steps out into plain view and is immediately hit with nerve gas. The antagonists don gas masks, and Hulk is able to grab one before he passes out. Now stable, he fights his way to Ross. Grabbing his nemesis, the Hulk decides it would be better to let him go; using the most powerful legs on Earth (and the hardest head), Hulk jumps up and out of the base.

Karen: First off, Trimpe's Hulk never looked so good as when John Severin inked him. Secondly, this scene points out how much more powerful Hulk became over the years. I doubt that any writer in the last ten years would even imagine that gas could affect the Hulk. The Hulk is also much more man-sized here; bigger than a normal man but certainly not as huge as he would become.

Doug: I think you can chalk that up to modern creators without much of an appreciation of the history of our beloved characters -- today it's all for show, for effect.

Doug: Once free, Hulk rests on a large plateau where his mind drifts back to Jarella. He loved that pretty green maiden in a sub-atomic world and misses her now. As he muses the Air Force has located him and brings a little shock and awe his way. If you think back to the first Hulk film, the attack scene in the desert is very reminiscent of this scene. As Hulk scrambles against both air and ground assaults, the attack is suddenly squelched by an order for Ross to appear at a Congressional hearing in Washington. With the Hulk in their sites, the mission is abandoned.

Karen: The scene on the mesa was very beautiful. I also thought of the first Hulk film when reading the battle scene. But then the Hulk did spend a lot of the time in the desert fighting the army. I was a wee bit surprised that Ross backed off so readily.

Doug: We then look in on Glen Talbot and Betty Ross, speeding along in a jeep trailing the Hulk. Suddenly the Hulk takes off, bounding quickly across the sands. We then get a nice camera angle on a convertible being run down by a biker gang. Hulk lands right in the middle of the motorcycles, scattering bikes and riders everywhere. But he quickly realizes that the car is still moving and being hotly pursued. Hulk mutters to himself that he must save the girl driving; he must save Jarella, for you see -- our driver has green locks. Hulk makes another leap, but when he lands he finds motorcycles littering the landscape and the car open and unoccupied. He picks up one of the riders, but all the guy can say is that the girl pointed her hands at them and caused all the destruction.

Karen: The panel where the Hulk comes crashing down on the biker gang is just full of energy; I really like it. I think it is interesting that the Hulk never really seems out of control or furious -he's driven but still surprisingly calm.

Doug: We then see our damsel in distress up close, and long-time X-fans should have immediately recognized her as Lorna Dane, one-time object of Bobby Drake's infatuation and soon-to-be girl of one Alex Summers. Speaking of, as Lorna walks toward a house the last biker suddenly revs it up over a dune. He's picked right out of the air by a powerful blast -- but not from Lorna! It's Alex, aka Havok! Lorna runs to him and they greet each other. It's pretty obvious that our green-tressed lady was on her way to find Mr. Summers; he's happy to see her. But when he finds that she's come to recruit him back into the X-Men, he's less than thrilled.

Karen: Lorna, the mistress of magnetism, makes some remarks about how she feels so weak. "Each time I over-extend my magnetic powers, it's always the same!" She's got the same disease that the Scarlet Witch, Marvel Girl, and the Invisible Girl all had back in the 60s and early 70s - the inability to use her powers more than once in a fight scene! It's a bit maddening how all of these so-called heroines are pretty much useless. I doubt Magneto would have had any trouble with those bikers.

Doug: As they reflect on the tussle between Bobby and Alex over Lorna, Alex remarks that his power is still his worst enemy, and that he's a true danger to anyone around him. Enter the Hulk. Lorna, upset at Alex's stubbornness, fled crying just as ol' purple pants sets down. Alex, sensing this isn't headed in a positive direction, sprints into his hut and emerges seconds later in costume, the concentric circles that limit his atomic powers much more important than sartorial splendor. Hulk, in the meantime, has grabbed Lorna and is doing his best King Kong impression. But once at the top, he gets his first good look at the girl he now knows is not Jarella. Now believing he's been tricked, Hulk's anger is interrupted by the sound of an approaching jeep -- bearing Glen and Betty.

Karen: You gotta love how Alex runs into his little adobe shack to change into his costume -and then notes that while he did that, the Hulk took off with Lorna! I was thinking that the way Hulk was holding Lorna by the arms -surely they'd be pulverized?!

Doug: The Havok costume is one of my all-time favorites. I just love it. Neal Adams outdid himself on that one.

Doug: Everything is also interrupted by a blast from the ground. It would seem that Havok wants his girl let down gently. What he gets is about a half ton of gamma-irradiated rage jumping on him. And, this is where it gets weird. We know Havok hadn't had too many appearance prior to this, so perhaps his powers were undefined. But telekinetic-like prowess? Havok stops the Hulk's descent and keeps him aloft, lowering him ever so gently. Hulk's not really interested in rationalizing this mess, and strikes Havok. Grabbing his arm, Hulk gets a faceful of energy from Alex's other hand. Yeah, not a good idea. Hulk then uproots a huge chunk of the plateau atop which still sits Lorna. He squats with it over his head, looking a lot like Atlas. Alex knows that he's got to do something incredible (no pun intended) to right this. I said above this is weird -- Alex focuses his powers into the thinnest beam, aiming it right at Hulk's forehead. As the pain becomes acute, Havok coaxes the Hulk to put the rock down. He then envelopes Lorna in energy and lowers her to the ground.

Karen: Everything about this sequence was weird. The Hulk seems far stronger than I recall, but it's Havok's bizarre use of his powers that really throws me, especially levitating Lorna! How would that be any different from Cyclops pulling that stunt? Of course, she should be blown to bits. But maybe Archie Goodwin just didn't have a handle on his powers. Or -I guess he was trying to re-define them. But yeah, it seems odd. But the big panel with Hulk ripping the mountain up was pretty sweet!

Doug: As Lorna and Alex walk away, the Hulk changes back to Bruce Banner, resting under the very mountain he'd just moved. The jeep pulls up, and Betty runs to Bruce, much to the chagrin of Glen Talbot. Betty is moved to tears, however, when Bruce whispers into her ear and says, "Jarella... my love". You see, Glen knows all about that adventure, and he's now right there to pick up the pieces. As they say, to be continued!

Karen: Oh, that infamous love triangle! Or is it a quadrangle now? Well, it was a fun little romp, and a good looking book for sure.

Doug: This was a really good story, much better than some of the others in the Masterworks volume and certainly among the best Hulk stories I've seen in my very-limited Hulk-reading. John Severin's inks quite simply work miracles over Herb Trimpe's pencils. I remarked to Karen that while there is no doubt that the Hulk is Trimpe's, the rest of the book has Severin's fine stamp all over it. It's a really nice-looking story. Archie Goodwin's script is OK -- he has everyone's voice down pretty well. But as I said earlier, I'm just not sure about the abrupt change in Havok's powers. To the best of my knowledge, we've not seen Alex do any of this since. Does it make him more interesting? Well... yes. So maybe others should have run with it instead of always falling back on the "I'm too powerful, I'm dangerous" schtick. What sayest thou?


Anthony said...

Karen and Doug I completely agree with you about John Severin's inks. If you like the art here I suggest you check out issue 155. I mentioned that it was my favorite issue in a previous post and the Herb Trimpe John Severin art is a big reason for that. Archie Goodwin also tells a much more original tale in that issue which I think makes it a Bronze Age classic.

During the Trimpe and Buscema run the Hulk was usually depicted around 7-8 feet tall and I prefer him at that size. Later artists would have him approaching 15 feet tall which was ridiculous.

As far as power levels go Karen is right he usually wasn't shown to be this strong at this point in the comic. I say usually because as far back as 125 the Absorbing Man after absorbing the Hulk's power does use it to lift a sizable chunk of mountain to crush the Hulk. It just takes the right moment or his power in the wrong hands for it to manifest itself. It will be 12 more years before he's holding up 150 billion tons in Secret Wars 4.

Havok's use of his power does seem strange now. I didn't know too much about Havok when I first read this story in Marvel Treasury 17.
It makes me think about when Cyclops used his optic blasts to slow Wolverine's fall. The big difference is Wolverine has an Adamantium skeleton and a healing factor. Isn't Havok supposed to have less control of his powers than Scott ?

Good call about the first Hulk movie. It's been years since I've read this issue and I missed the similarity. He has fought the Army many times but this sequence could be storyboards for the first movie.

cecil said...

I bought this one off EBay to read, then send to a really big Alex and Lorna fan as a surprise. He wrote a definitive breakdown of ALL Claremont X-Men issues over on Geoff Klock's Remarkable blog---highly recommended!
Yes, cool Army fight, strange use of Havok's power---and this was the second time green hair mixed up the Green Goliath...tho Jarella had green skin and blonde hair, but hey!
Other cool Hulk issues you can check out: the aforementioned #125, the return to Jarella's world in 156, a quick Rhino fight and then a strange, enjoyable trip to Counter Earth, where we meet happily married Bruce Banner---Steve Gerber's fill-in script, #158. I'll have to read #200 one day, as that's widely heralded as the best Hulk anniversary issue (#300 has a nice Marvel grab bag, too).

Fred W. Hill said...

This came out about a year before I started collecting the Hulk regularly, but I did read the story in one of the Treasury Editions. I can't really remember if that came out before the X-Men revival but I wasn't familiar enough with Havoc to notice the discrepancy in his powers and it was several more years before I read any of the Thomas/Adams issues he appeared in. I agree that Severin's inks made Trimpe's pencils shine. Under most other inkers, Trimpe's art often had a cartoonish look.
I hadn't really kept up with the Jade Giant since I quit collecting in the mid-80s, so I didn't see his size magnify so much in another apparent bad case of power creep. Admittedly, when I read the scene of Hulk lifting up a huge chunk of mountain, my main impression was, "how ridiculous" rather than "how awesome."

humanbelly said...

Wow Doug, Karen--

This is an almost embarrassingly HB-friendly post- Sheesh!

This is a quintessential wore-it-out-from-reading-it-so-much book in my collection. The Hulk's book had a really long, solid, undersung run of surprisingly good comics for at least five or six years, IMO. I think what kept it from being recognized as such is that there were maybe a few too many clunky issues interspersed throughout to make it completely reliable (Herb in a rush, or Herb with a bad inker were both tough visual rows to hoe). Sort of like a great QB who throws too many interceptions.
Many of Archie Goodwin's issues are great pieces of comics writing, and 150's a particular favorite. 151 was also a nail-biter (that snarky senator comes to a horrific end, and darned near takes the Hulk with him).

That final moment is a seminal 11-year-old comic book memory for me w/ my buddy Bryan:

"He called Betty Jarella-!"
"Oh man! Oh MAAAAN!!"
"He called her Jarella! He actually did-!! Can you believe that??"
"I can't believe that!! Oh MAAAANNN!!!"
"What's he gonna do now??"
"She's DONE, man! Done!"

And then we had a similar response the following month with a brilliantly laid-out sequence that results in Betty & Glen making out in Glen's jeep. If "Game Over" had been in the vernacular, that's what we would have been crowing. . .!

Remember the whole soap-opera thread a few weeks ago? I wrote one for the Hulk--- and it was too long for this forum. . . (and then it was lost. Sigh.) But this book was the most relentlessly soap-opera driven of them all. Make no mistake.


Matthew Bradley said...

Speaking of Severin, I can't recall if you folks commented on his passing last month at the age of 90.

The size discrepancy was one of the countless things that bothered me about the first Hulk movie; he practically looked more like Kong than Greenskin (or at least MY Silver- and Bronze-Age Greenskin).

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