Monday, November 30, 2015

Love Will Keep Us Together - Or Will It? Incredible Hulk 148

Incredible Hulk #148 (February 1972)
"But Tomorrow -- the Sun Shall Die!"
Archie Goodwin-Herb Trimpe/John Severin

Doug: A couple of weeks ago I sang the praises of John Severin's inks over Herb Trimpe on the Incredible Hulk book. I was initially going to review Hulk #140, which features the 1st appearance of Jarella. But after noticing that her second appearance contained the above mentioned art team, the decision was pretty easy. So here we are. I'll be reading and scanning from the trade paperback, The Incredible Hulk: Heart of the Atom. I've read several of the stories from the start of the book, and while certainly no Hulk aficionado, I have enjoyed myself so far.

Doug: We open in the New Mexico desert at Project: Greenskin. Assembled are General "Thunderbolt" Ross, Betty Ross, Major Glenn Talbot, and Dr. Peter Corbeau. This was a nice bit of Marvel history for me, as I'd only known Corbeau from the first Sentinels story in the All-New, All-Different X-Men. Everyone's there to discuss how Corbeau's plan for the Hulk, using his StarCore technology, is going to work. Corbeau is convinced that he can permanently free Dr. Bruce Banner from the Hulk. Of course, he has to have the Hulk to make this work. That's where the Hulk-Busters come in. Right then (because, you know, this is a comic book and we only have 20 pages to work with), Ross is alerted to a local Hulk sighting. Immediately four fighters are dispatched to bring in the Jade Giant. Quick comment -- Trimpe's love of aviation really shows in these few panels! We cut to the back 40, where the Hulk lumbers along, oblivious to all around him. We the readers, however, can see over his shoulder the approaching jets. Archie Goodwin does a nice turn when he writes, "Of machines that can out-distance their own sound, that can all but sit on your massive neck before they're heard...?" And then BRA-KOW! Seriously -- bra-kow and the Hulk goes tumbling, his ears ringing. The second pair of planes are on him immediately, strafing him with sedative-tipped missiles. Down, and out.

Doug: We cut to another world, where we see the fair queen Jarella leading a small detachment of men through a wilderness. Above, men loyal to the traitor Visis wait on winged steeds. As soon as Jarella's column emerges from cover, they are set upon. The battle rages, and most of Jarella's men are slain. The queen fights well, and still stands at the conclusion of the fracas. She thinks to herself that she needs a warrior, the man she loved from before. Bruce Banner. For those of you not aware, the Hulk had been shrunk to atomic size by the villain Psyklop, emerging on a microscopic world where he became a champion for the queen. That queen, Jarella, pledged to marry him, which really ticked off Visis, her suitor who would be dictator. As the Hulk could not speak the language of the strange world, Jarella's sorcerers concocted some magicks that not only allowed him to learn the language but also gave him the brain of Bruce Banner while still the Hulk. Got it?

Doug: Jarella makes her way to the retreat of her chief sorcerer and tells him that she would like to regain the services of Banner. Torla, the magician, says that it would take incredible sorcery, and might be so dangerous as to shake not only their world but the very cosmos! Cut to earth, where the Hulk is now bound in the presence of Dr. Corbeau. Corbeau relates that he has more than a humanistic stake in this operation -- he and Banner were college friends, so it's personal. Corbeau says that StarCore's sun-facing orbit is going to allow him to harness the energy of the sun, project it to Earth, and bathe the Hulk in enough solar energy that it will completely eradicate the gamma energy stored in his cells. Guess what? It works! The Hulk shrinks/changes to Banner, and nearby technicians report that there is no presence of gamma radiation anywhere in the area. Banner has indeed been cured! But immediately StarCore's sensors alert the scientists and military brass to a new danger -- a huge solar flare, large enough to have destroyed the Earth. Ross asks Corbeau for an explanation -- Corbeau can only hypothesize on the coincidence of what has just happened with the Hulk.

Doug: Cut again back to Jarella's world, where she is in the process of being sent in search of Banner. Her sorcerers warn that the consequences could be dire. Bravely, she goes through with it. But we see that someone spies on this process. It is Visis, who knows enough magicks of his own to be able to send his top assassin into the stream behind Jarella -- with orders to slay the queen and her champion. Back on Earth, all concerned are monitoring the sun's activity. Banner, hero that he is, tells Corbeau if he really thinks the process to remove the Hulk's presence is to blame, then reverse the process. Corbeau will hear none of it, and offers that Banner should go to Corbeau's retreat on the coast, get some separation and relax. Banner takes him up on it, and after a military flight soon finds himself listening to the surf. Just then a green aura begins to glow on the sands. Suddenly Jarella appears, human-sized, and greets Banner. Bruce is elated to see her and hops the deck's fence to embrace the girl he'd loved those months before. But Fialan the assassin has also made the passage and lurks just yards away. But his malevolent plan is interrupted by the noise of a helicopter. It lands, and Glenn Talbot emerges to ask Banner to return to the desert with him.

Doug: Back at Project: Greenskin, Banner is updated on the sun's status. It seems that the sun has been affected not only by the process they'd used on Banner, but also by "the appearance of some object that ripped the very fabric of our time and space... something that broke from another dimension." Yup - Jarella. And the sun's cure for it's current condition is to burn itself out! Banner speaks up and says that any thoughts of sending her back will surely send her to her death at Visis' hands. Corbeau says to relax, that he's working on an alternative. However, if the solar system burns out, Jarella's world will along with our earth. Very soon a SHIELD craft lands, piloted by none other than Dum Dum Dugan, who has brought Col. Nick Fury himself to the desert. And Fury's brought with him a present -- a Life Model Decoy of Jarella, perfect in every sense. The team gets to work immediately on making the dimensional transfer of the LMD in Jarella's place, which is a mystery to me. Was it just that any transfer was made, or is it Jarella's presence here that is the problem. Seems to me (and what the heck do I know about it?) that if they sent the LMD but she stayed here the problem would not necessarily be ended. Ah, Marvel science. Gotta love it! Anyway, Banner reports that his part of the operation is successful, so they should be good to go. Jarella suddenly appears, to speak in private with her potential betrothed. But again standing just off-stage is Fialan (how's that security at Project: Greenskin, hmmm?). He gets off a shot, and then hovers menacingly above our couple.

Doug: Bruce breaks from Jarella and runs away. Fialan scoffs, as the coward has now left Jarella to him and his mission. As he levels his blaster at her, the building begins to shake. A rumbling emanates from the closed door behind which Banner had locked himself. And suddenly, bursting forth is the incredible Hulk! Fialan levitates higher, out of reach of the behemoth. Hulk turns to see Jarella, and they come together. Just then Fialan blasts a large bank of machinery, causing a huge explosion. Jarella is killed in the chaos, and a distraught Hulk emerges from the smoke right in front of Fialan, whose ability to escape has been destroyed as well. Hulk grabs him, and in one of the very few times I can ever recall metes out his own brand of justice. The following panel is interesting, as Hulk cups his face in his huge hand and says, "Hulk did it... but... It does not bring Jarella back!" But it's Jarella who approaches to console the Hulk -- Corbeau and Ross had planned to employ the LMD once they knew Jarella's assassin was on site. But now Hulk is faced with a new dilemma -- the military still need to save our sun. Hulk stands against them, but he's shot from behind with the heavy tranquilizers. Now down, Corbeau tells Jarella it is time. She consents, and soon is back in her subatomic world. The sun almost immediately begins to quiet its activity and all is right with the world. That is, except for the broken heart of the Hulk.

Doug: I've found these tales of Jarella captivating. It's interesting to read them as stand-alones. Although they tie together, the many adventures that came between these stories make me wonder which is better -- to read this as a running narrative, or as treats dispersed to the reader along the way? Jarella's first appearance was in Hulk #140, the follow-up is in today's issue (#148), and then we saw her again in #156. Then we don't find her until #202, around four years later! So I'd love for any of our readers who came to these stories off the rack to discuss their impact on you. Did you feel that this was a plotline that should have been explored on a more frequent basis? Or did you think perhaps that, knowing Jarella's ultimate fate as we do, the story should have been compressed and told over the course of maybe just a year's worth of issues? While Goodwin's script forced me to suspend my disbelief a time or two, I thought the art was fabulous. Herb Trimpe is a penciler who has a unique style and I'm not always his biggest fan. But under the influence of John Severin, the art here is a winner. This was overall a nice 20-minute diversion.


Humanbelly said...

Wow-- early Christmas present for ol' HB, guys?
And of COURSE after a long weekend of rambling delightedly on about holiday decorating, I'm now faced w/ a beastly workload at the shop. . . gnrgh.

So, trying to do some capsule thoughts:

1) Doug, to answer your question, I think reading the issues in-between Jarella's surprisingly infrequent appearances does tell her/their story much more effectively-- at least through about issue #156 or 157 (and skipping #'s152 & 153). The very fact of her existence drives a heck of a lot of the more interesting sub-plot action. . . and #156, with a fairly final resolution (for the moment) just rips your heart out and steps on it.

2) This very issue, IIRC, has a rather delightful, brief, awkward moment when Bruce reveals that he has this alien queen that he's in love with and betrothed to. It's completely underplayed, yes? But-- this is ROSS (Betty's father!) and TALBOT (pining away for Betty for years!) that Bruce makes this big reveal to--! Yeesh-- weren't we all just attending Bruce & Betty's wedding a couple of years ago??

3) My one critique of the art here is that it's definitely more cramped than we're used to seeing w/ Herb. There was a LOT of story to get through for a single issue-- I bet this was initially conceived as a 25-cent exanded-size story-- and my memory always tags the visuals with the word "crowded". Boy, it's good stuff, though. Somehow. . . somehow you "get" that it's the Jarella LMD at the end there, even before being told so-- a subtle puppet-like aspect to her positioning?

Rats, rats, rats-- and with that, I've gotta get busy---

Recommended reading w/ this: Issues #147-156, minus 152/3. Definitely an unknown gem of enjoyable comics reading. . .


Martinex1 said...

This is indeed a serendipitous topic. Just this weekend the LCS was having a sale on Marvel Essentials for $5.00 each, and I picked up some Hulk volumes because I honestly have just a cursory knowledge of Hulk’s early issues. And HB had piqued my curiosity with his recent comments.

I have to say that I have enjoyed what I have seen thus far of Herb Trimpe’s work on the series. Again my limited knowledge of Trimpe’s work was more focused on late S.H.I.E.L.D. issues and Marvel Feature with Ant Man issues. In the past I always noticed how he drew teeth, but not much else. In the Hulk, I was taken aback by how detailed the panels were with lavish backgrounds and lots of good clear action. In the chapters I have read so far, the undersea landscapes in a journey to Atlantis and the swamp in the battle with Glob were really astounding. I also like his art on female characters, like his Jarella here, on various technology, on facial expressions, and on the Hulk himself. It is really quite nice.

I also like that the stories seem jam packed. As already mentioned, a lot of story is crammed into 20 pages. I know we harp on modern comics, but in the story reviewed I could imagine it being a multi-book epic. Can’t you just picture a whole splash page of the solar flare ending one chapter, and the appearance of Jarella on the beach ending another chapter, etc? I believe Trimpe co-plotted these issues in the old Marvel manner and I think they just threw everything in. The transitions are not jarring to me; it just makes the overall story more dynamic and crazy and fun. In any case, I am enjoying the Hulk right now and look forward to getting to these stories

J.A. Morris said...

FWIW, this issue was Chris Claremont plotted this issue and it's his first Marvel writing credit. Peter Corbeau must have had some sentimental value for Claremont, since he brought the character back several times.

Humanbelly said...

And those Essentials volumes are in B&W, too, aren't they, MX1? That's great that the art is still carrying so well in that format. The coloring in several of those issues, although uncredited, is just fantastic given that we're still talking Silver Age aesthetics, here. #118 (Subby), #121 (Glob, in a moody, Bayou-noir horror story), and the opening of #122 (involving a nighttime train incident) are all very much enhanced by the well-chosen color pallets employed.

Herb was also one of those artists who bemoaned how "awful" he was at drawing female characters-- which my buddy and I could never fathom at all. He certainly wasn't a pin-up type of artist-- but his female characters all had a wonderfully accessible "normal", attractive, real-person aspect to them. And yet beyond that, in #167 or 168 our adolescent hormones were nearly supernova-ed by Herb's BRILLIANTLY suggestive depictions of the normally-prim Betty Ross meandering plum-naked through the issue whilst under MODOK's mind-control. There was a particular panel- with Betty on a transformation table, barely covered by nothing more than a couple of strategic shadows- that my buddy and I could hardly do more than look at sideways before getting the shakes and dropping the book. . . Sheesh, you can see the lasting impression it made on us, yeah?


Martinex1 said...

Yes. The Essentials are B&W. They still look great. I really enjoy the art; a lot of detail and line work.

Doug said...

Thanks for the comments so far, gang!

It's interesting if you look through the 4-5 other Trimpe reviews we've done and check the inks. Sal Trapani, Jack Abel, Mike Esposito, and Pablo Marcos all give Trimpe's pencils a totally different feel than does John Severin. Of that band, I'd take Severin.

And speaking of Severin, if you've never seen Marie's turn as lead penciler on the early Hulk solo book (following the last several issues of Tales to Astonish), there's some really nice work to ogle. Check it out.


Comicsfan said...

"Planes! Where did they come from?!" Good lord, you'd think even the Hulk could figure that one out. The sky, pal!

I'm 100% with you on how much Severin's finishes added to Trimpe's work.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes great review Doug! HB musta been really happy with this one, being the Hulk lover that he is.

Well, what else can I add except to say that Happy Herb Trimpe and Johnny Severin make one heckuva artistic team. Yes, it's easy to see how Trimpe's love of planes comes out here. I have to admit when I learned he passed away I honestly felt as if an uncle had died, even though I've never met him.

- Mike 'Hulk cause solar flare!' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Humanbelly said...

I think Sal Trapani may have been the inker for at least one of the other Jarella stories, Doug. Possibly #156? If it was him, I thought he brought a nice sense of the exotic to the other-worldly K'ai (Ka'i?) setting.

And man-- let me second the Marie Severin plug. I've more than once cited the final page of the Hulk story in TtA #99 (a dreary, endless, tale of the would-be-fascists-- the Legion of the Living Lightning) as one of my all-time favorite visual sequences anywhere. . . ever. There's almost no dialog, it's a crowded series of smallish frames that are not directly sequential-- but get the pulse racing regardless as the story ends w/ an atomic Boom. You have a sense that it had gotten to the point where Stan was just asea, and simply resorted to asking Marie to wrap the darned thing up somehow.

She also had some pages a few issues earlier, during an interesting High Evolutionary arc where she showed a visual polish that was more than a little like what we'd expect from a young Neal Adams.

Lots and lots of really good folks worked on this book over the years, they did!


Edo Bosnar said...

HB, you're finally mentioning something I can relate to: those stories from Tales to Astonish just before the title was changed and it became Hulk's solo book. I read a bunch of those in that Hulk pocketbook from the late '70s, so I totally remember the High Evolutionary and Living Lightning stories. And I really remember digging the art: not just the material by Marie Severin, but also a few stories by Gil Kane (like the one that introduced the Abomination).

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