Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Really? Purple Pants ALL OF THE TIME?
The Incredible Hulk #212 (June 1977)
"Crushed by the Constrictor!"
Len Wein-Sal Buscema/Ernie Chan
Doug: Back to the Bronze Age lot for a double dose of Hulk done-in-ones. Yep, tune back in one week from today when we'll actually bring you the succeeding issue. I only got three Hulks in the eBay victory, and this next week will polish those off. So, without further ado...
Doug: We open with Jim Wilson on the streets of New York City. While pondering a huge wanted poster of the Hulk, a thug emerges from the shadows. As the attack commences, Wilson at first thinks it's a mugging. But we soon find out that there's a hit on Wilson's life, and this tough with the blackjack is the assassin. But Jim's no slouch and evades the initial onslaught. Clinging to an oh-so-conveniently-passing-by box truck, Jim makes his way far away. The thug, fearful now what will happen to him since he's failed, begins to run. However, a long silver cord snaps out and begins to reel our hood in -- by his neck. As he begs for mercy, the "boss" steps into view -- it's a super-baddie (or so the snake-themed longjohns would lead us to believe) calling himself the Constrictor. And he wants Jim Wilson real bad.
Doug: Scene shift then to a boarding house where we spy on Bruce Banner, frustrated because he's bored but looking nonetheless fetching in purple twill pants. Next to him sits a magician's top hat; I can only wonder. Suddenly in walks his landlady, April Sommers. Now I was never a Hulk reader, so I'm totally tabula rasa on this development in Banner's love life. Oops -- apparently she's not a love interest. The scene plays like something right out of the Hulk TV show, with Banner only just now -- after months of living in the apartment -- revealing his last name. Even then, he refuses to tell her anything more about his past. I had to laugh at this mag written over a generation before the Internet -- Banner gives his real name, and April doesn't even react. You just know nowadays she'd run back to her own apartment and Google the fool!
Doug: We next check in on one Betty Ross Talbot, on the lam from Gamma Base. Apparently last issue she'd run away to "find herself". She's evidently on the West coast somewhere, as we're told she's several thousand miles away from NYC. Betty basically reinvents herself in this several-panel vignette -- and runs up quite a hefty credit card bill! All the while she laments the influence, and indeed pressure, of the men in her life -- most notable her father, General "Thunderbolt" Ross. And hey, is it just me or are Sal's women evoking the voluptuous figures usually associated with his brother John?
Doug: Cut back to Jim Wilson, who's landed at a pay phone (this is so cool! Man, I miss these days!). Jim tries to 411 Bruce Banner, but no dice. So he asks for "Bruce Roberts", reaching for any alias Banner might have used. Luck is on his side, and he's patched through. Of course Banner is home, and they make arrangements to meet. But as they agree on a site, there's a commotion, and Jim's end of the line goes dead. Banner rushes out of the boarding house -- and you just know that pulse is starting to race...
Doug: Scene shift again, to the sea, where a SHIELD tanker has hauled a gamma-irradiated cylinder from the ocean floor. The scientist on board, a hipster named Sidney E. Levine, radios Col. Nick Fury who tells him to contact Gamma Base. More on that later, I'll assume.
Doug: Back to Jim Wilson, we're dropped in actually a few seconds before his conversation with Banner ended. We find out that the noise was one of the Constrictor's coils smashing the phone booth. Jim is stunned, and a second lash nearly cuts him. But as the phone booth has basically dissolved, Wilson makes tracks. But he's not match for our villain, who catches up to Jim outside of an abandoned building. As Jim emerges he's snared and dragged to a waiting car. At about that same time, Banner is on the scene. Stepping out of a cab, Banner sees the busted up phone booth and then the getaway car. Banner calls out, but the car bears down on him. And you know what's coming next -- Hulk time!
Doug: The Constrictor gets out of the car (using his snake-like speed) just as it hits the Hulk. This Constrictor fellow must be a bit dim, as he says he's "heard of" the Hulk -- must live on Planet X or something. Anyway, as Hulk is about to end this four pages early he hears noise coming from inside the smashed vehicle. Stooping low to peer inside, he sees Jim. Hulk tears the roof off the car and frees Jim -- Jim in turn fills the Hulk in on this little contract thing. The book ends with a few pages of smash 'em up action as the Hulk makes relatively short work of the Constrictor. There's a little luck involved, as the assassin meets his end by whipping his coils into an electrical box on a lamp post -- bad feedback, for sure. But all's well that ends well, and a monster and his "little buddy" are reunited, to walk off together into the sunset.
Doug: Again, as a very casual reader of the Hulk, I got what I would have expected from this story. The villain could have been whupped by Daredevil, so I wasn't kept in any real suspense as to the outcome. Sal's pencils were wonderfully reliable as usual and Ernie Chan was a welcome sight -- not overpowering Sal, but enhancing him along the way. Len Wein seemed to have everyone's voice down pretty well. So aside from the almost-constant scene changing, this was a fun little use of 20 minutes. And as I said above, the anchors to the late 1970's can't be beat!