Monday, July 2, 2012

Giant-Size July: Hulk Annual 7

Incredible Hulk Annual #7 (1978)
"The Evil That is Cast..."
John Byrne/Roger Stern-Byrne/Bob Layton

Doug: Welcome to another year of Giant-Size July! Karen and I spent the better part of the spring comparing inventories, trying to come up a line-up that would be fun for us to revisit in hopes of recapturing some of that summertime excitement that was the Annual and the Giant-Size books. We trust you'll find our choices worth your time, and we already anticipate your comments. Today we begin in a big way with a Hulk Annual that includes ol' Jade Jaws, the Angel and the Iceman, and a baddie from X-Men days of old -- along with a pretty stellar cast of creators. So strap in and come along for a rollicking 35-page ride!

Karen: I really enjoyed this issue when it came out, so I'm hoping it holds up. I also got a kick out of the blurb on the cover: "Marvel's green-skinned TV sensation!"

Doug: Marvel was certainly cross-marketing Hulk and Spidey back during their TV runs, weren't they? We begin at a Rocky Mountain retreat owned by one Warren Worthington III. He and Candy Southern, longtime gal-o'-his, are... getting reaquainted... when the phone rings. A big old landline phone rings. It's Bobby Drake, better know to us as the Iceman, calling from Los Angeles where he has also hooked up with a lady friend. He wants to know if the house if available, and Warren invites him up. But, who's the nasty lurking in the shadows, spying?

Karen: Gotta love the hairstyles and big gold medallion hanging from Warren's neck!

Doug: Oh you know he was blow-drying that mop and then using some Consort for Men to hold it in place... Right before the phone had rung Warren was watching Walter Cronkite on the evening news telling that Dr. Bruce Banner had recently turned himself in at Gamma Base. We cut there to find Doc Samson speaking with the CBS reporter on site. Samson is shocked when the guy asks to interview the Hulk -- and upon that statement, cue an enraged entrance by our star. The Hulk has gotten claustrophobic waiting for Samson and his team to do something and is doing his version of "getting some fresh air". Samson tried to reason with the giant, but it's young Jim Wilson who finally succeeds in calming Banner's alter ego.

Karen: The reporter goes from talking about how he's been in 'Nam' one second to saying "I never realized he was so big!" the next. And Hulk really looks huge here. He dwarfs Doc Samson, and Jim looks positively tiny next to him. Samson really takes some abuse from him but keeps cool. The whole idea of Hulk having a psychologist just makes me giggle.

Doug: Back in the mountains, Bobby lands a craft that used to belong to the Champions, but is soon quite dismayed to find that his girl is way more enthralled with Warren and his wings! Colleen tries to make a joke of it, but it's pretty obvious that Bobby is going to have a Peter Parker-like day with Terri, his immature girl. But suddenly some refugee from Jeremiah Johnson scales the wall by the pool -- our creepy spy-guy of a couple of scenes ago? Yep -- and he's come down the mountain in a most-threatening manner! He's armed with a harpoon-looking weapon that shoots rays. As Bobby ices up, he and Warren make pretty quick work of the baddie. But in the course of the fight, the guy calls Bobby by his last name, and refers to both good guys as "mutants". Well this can't be good. Warren succeeds in knocking the guy off balance and into the pool, which Bobby quickly ices over. But as the two former X-Men turn to go get their girls, and the police, the ice cracks and out comes a quickly-enlarging familiar figure -- a Sentinel!

Karen: Poor Bobby, always unlucky in love. First Lorna Dane, then Darkstar, and now this girl, who's definitely a big step down from the others. But her infatuation with Warren is as good a way as any to get him into his costume, even if it is the red and yellow version. I would have loved to have seen the blue and white again, but maybe that's just me. But Angel and Iceman make a nice team, regardless. Although back in the old X-Men days, it seemed like it was Beast and Iceman who were really good buddies.

Doug: I'd imagine Beast's Avengering made him off-limits here, but a surprise appearance would have been a nice... surprise! And by the way, it's not just any Sentinel... it's the Master Mold! Bobby attacks by attempting to draw all of the heat away from the robot -- but that leaves him vulnerable to a counter-attack, and he succumbs somewhat easily. So it's up to the Angel, who decides that the smartest thing to do would be to draw the Sentinel away from the ladies. Taking to the skies, he tries to bob and weave through the mountain range -- but in many cases the Master Mold just flies right through the rock formations! Suddenly it dawns on Warren that he's only about 100 miles from Gamma Base -- and there's someone there who can definitely help him out!

Karen: How gigantic was the Master Mold? He looks like he must be 100 feet tall! It's impressive but I'm not sure how he managed his growing feat. Byrne and Layton did a great job in portraying Angel's flight and making it look exciting for once!

Doug: Warren shows up on radar, unauthorized of course. The monitor guys scramble a couple of fighter jets for intercept -- boy, do they get a surprise! As the Angel manages to land, Doc Samson comes out of the barracks quite agitated -- all of the noise is going to wake the Hulk, and then there'll be Hell to pay! However, as Samson tries to help Warren to his feet, the Master Mold arrives. Suddenly Hell has a different meaning. And the Hulk does wake up, so it's a 3-ring circus on Gamma Base now! Samson tries to fend off the Sentinel, but is quickly and easily rebuffed. The Angel is captured and secured alongside the Iceman in the Master Mold's chest cavity. And the Hulk? Well, he manages to get a couple of licks in, but is punted across the base and ends up under a broken water pipe -- and that doesn't make Greenskin happy. As the Master Mold blasts off with his cargo, both Samson and the Hulk leap after him -- but only the Hulk grabs hold.

Karen: I love Hulk's ire here. His pride has been insulted and he's not going to stand for that -in fact, he's going to leap for it! It's interesting that Samson also has some leaping ability. Not as great as Hulk's, but it's still there. Which leads me to wonder again why the Thing can't jump like that.

Doug: It leaves me to wonder why I was never a regular Hulk reader. I always like the here-and-there issues that I come across, and always thought he was a great guest-star. Liked the Defenders. So I really don't know why his solo book never caught on with me.

Doug: The Master Mold begins to fly heavenward, with the Green Goliath still in tow. Angered that the robot is attempting to shake him off, Hulk begins to tear into the casing on the robot's boot. Master Mold marvels at the brute's stamina, but worries not, as the lack of atmosphere soon diminishes the Hulk's ambition. The Master Mold is coming home -- to a marvelously technology-imbued asteroid orbiting the Earth. Once inside, Angel, Iceman, and the Hulk are put in stasis tubes -- the first two specifically designed for their quarry, the latter originally intended for the Blob. The Master Mold leaves... laughing. Not exactly the program our X-guys recall. The Hulk grows tired quickly of being imprisoned and bursts his container effortlessly. Warren's freed in the process and soon sets Bobby loose. The two mutants are agape at the Hulk's might as he begins to make short work of their chamber.

Karen: That shot of the asteroid is spectacular. Byrne excelled at presenting these grand vistas. You really feel transported. I got a chuckle from the panel where Hulk is in the tube and the "Blob" plaque is prominently displayed. It's almost as if he takes umbrage at this. Angel and Iceman's awe at the Hulk's raw power is understandable.

Doug: Have you read the issue they reference where the Hulk fights the Juggernaut? To me, that would be an interesting battle.

Karen: I don't recall ever reading that. Now I want to look it up!

Doug: Our heroes soon learn that they are indeed in orbit. While this gives Bobby and Warren pause, the Hulk has a great line -- "Hunh! Hulk has fallen further than that! Hulk can get down easy!" Warren decides to fly a reconnaissance mission and tells Bobby to keep the Hulk out of trouble... riiiggghhtttt. Bobby trails the man-monster as he rages through doors and walls. Bobby tries to convince him that stealth might be a better strategy. Nah... Warren locates the power core of the asteroid, but it's Bobby and the Hulk who locate the Master Mold -- in a super-large control room, looking at a giant monitor screen that Bobby identifies as the Sentinel's version of Cerebro!

Karen: The Hulk in this story is more self-centered than I've ever seen him. Or is it just that he's single-minded? All he cares about is smashing Master Mold, and nothing is going to get in his way. Would even Dr. Strange have been able to calm him?

Doug: But, "Cerebro" doesn't last long, as the Hulk attacks from the robot's posterior, smashing it into the giant screen. This is a very powerfully violent Hulk and he's bent on destroying his adversary. But the Master Mold is not averse to dealing it to humans, and so lets the Hulk have a pretty good taste of his power; trouble is, and you know the drill -- the madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets! But his repeated nuisance has tried the last iota of patience of the Master Mold, and so a 1,000-volt blast later, the Hulk is subdued. It's at that point that Bobby asks what the heck is going on -- why the emotion, why the surprise? This cannot be an ordinary Sentinel. And we are told that it is not -- no, this Sentinel is the embodiment of what was once Steven Lang!

Karen: This is a nice tie in to an X-Men tale that these two X-Men weren't even a part of. But anything having to do with the Sentinels has importance for all mutants.

Doug: Lang detailed how, in the battle against the All-New, All-Different X-Men that culminated in the events of X-Men #100, the mutants left him for dead. But, with his dying strength he was able to transfer his mind into the Master Mold. What happens next is a bit odd -- Warren arrives on the scene, and having heard this origin story flatly denies it -- he tells that when SHIELD arrived on the base and put out the fire, they took Lang's body. Lang is now in a mental ward, a mindless vegetable under SHIELD care. The Master Mold seems confused by this. At the same time, the Hulk recovers from the severe shock he'd received and begins to tear apart the Sentinel with reckless abandon. Warren even comments that he thinks he's going to be sick. So Bobby convinces the Hulk that they have to leave -- but as they find the escape pod, Master Mold appears on a monitor screen. The Sentinel tells that if he is going to die a robot and not a man, then all three of our heroes will die as well. OK... Bobby and Warren dive into the pod anyway, but the Hulk wants to go find the robot and finish him. Bobby shoots some snowballs at the Hulk, which angers him enough to kick the escape pod, launching it toward Earth. As there is now a hole in the side of the satellite, the Hulk fills his lungs, grabs onto the wall to avoid being sucked out into space, and turns back into the apparatus to go find the Master Mold.

Karen: Hulk's destruction of the Master Mold was pretty gross -and reminded me more than a little of Byrne's eventual dismantling of the Vision in West Coast Avengers. What does he have against androids and robots? Iceman's play with Hulk was awfully risky, but worked. Hulk is just hilariously out of control in this story.

Doug: Hulk was to me like the wild animals that people have trained and appear "tame". His "playing around" is certainly rough, and his potential to blow at any moment is off the charts.

Doug: The pod carrying Angel and Iceman rockets back toward Earth, but soon begins to heat up from the friction of reentry to the atmosphere. Bobby manages to keep things cool, and upon splashdown (off the coast of Miami), the boys emerge relatively unscathed. But as they get their bearings on an ice raft, they turn to see the sky lit up as the Master Mold's satellite explodes above the Earth. Fearing for the Hulk's life, our mutants are pleased to find that ol' Greenskin is alive and well -- all of his smashing had caused a floor to rupture, he fell out of the asteroid base, and was able to latch onto the escape pod and hold it on its way down. Once on the ice raft, Warren and Bobby tell him that they are glad he's all right, and ask him about getting back to his friends. The Hulk thinks of Jim and impulsively leaps away -- no good-byes necessary! And Warren then turns to Bobby and says that they should find a way to get back to the mountains to see if Bobby's girl like ice -- if Candy hasn't killed her already!

Karen: The genuine concern the two former X-Men and Champions show for the Hulk when they think he has been killed is touching, considering he nearly got them both killed. He doesn't do them any favors on the raft, either!

Doug: This story might be the epitome of a Bronze Age annual -- a mish-mash of heroes thrown together against a baddie from the past, a top-notch creative team to serve as our guides, and it's a done-in-one. What more could we have asked for?

Karen: I really enjoyed it, and I thought the art was fantastic. I know Byrne has disparaged Layton's inking of him, but I thought it worked very well. I'd still consider Terry Austin my favorite inker on Byrne, but Layton brings a lot to his work too.


Edo Bosnar said...

This one definitely fits all of my criteria for what a perfect annual should be (as I outlined in that open forum post over a year ago): great done-in-one story, beautiful art, reflecting the best of the core series without directly into any ongoing stories.
What I really like about this one is that on the face of it, the idea of Hulk teaming up with two leftovers from the X-men & Champions seems really contrived, but as you read the story it all seems quite logical. Even the end, with the Hulk gruffly leaving the two on that ice-raft (so Hulk can to return to Gamma Base and avoid any continuity problems with his regular series) makes perfect sense.
I think I mentioned before that I pretty much never buy floppies any more, but this and a few other annuals were definitely an exception to that rule - in fact, I just may pull it out and re-read it one of these fine sunny summer afternoons...

david_b said...

Not a big Hulk reader, but this one seems delightful, from the cool, entertaining story to the Byrne art.

From this review, it really seems like Greenskin's got nice characterzation, a lot like the Defenders issues, where I feel he really had identity, and the story seemed to progress better than his own monthly title typically did. Also, Master Mold seems to be a more larger-than-life presence (no pun..) than most villains, perfectly suited for Hulkie, or even the Defenders as a group for that measure.

Not used to seeing Byrne art on Hulkie, but it's a nice, clean switch from ol' Sal.

Anonymous said...

Bought this one at the time and loved it. (For my fellow Brits, I bought it at ‘Dark They Were And Golden Eyed’....sic transit gloria....). I thought Layton’s inking here was great. Byrne needed him a lot less than JRJR, but it all looks luscious and flowing to me. I love the shardiness of the shattered ice, the perspective of the layouts, the Kirbyness of MM’s energy bolts, the Buckleriness of the Lang mind-transfer panel and the Adamsiness of Iceman’s snowballs.

Not sure why they were so surprised by the Hulk’s strength when their penultimate outing as Xmen was gambolling with him in Las Vegas (...sorry about that one).

I like the continuity of the fact that Bobby’s love life is a terminal disaster. Didn’t he also lose his cool over Jean (or was he the only one that didn’t?). And, of course, Rogue, in the movie continuity.

Is Candy short for Colleen???


William said...

Another great review from team BAB. I've always loved this one. But then I pretty much love all of Byrne's Bronze Age work.

Karen mentions how big the Hulk looks in this story. That reminds me of something that I noticed as a kid. Byrne is one of the first artists I remember who drew each character with uniquely individual physiques. A lot of artists back in the day pretty much depicted most characters with a standard body type. For example let's take Spider-Man, Captain America and Daredevil. Most artists back then (like Romita, Kirby, and the Buscemas) would draw them all with pretty much the same height and build. But when Byrne came along, he would draw Spidey smaller and thinner, Cap taller and more muscular, and DD somewhere in between, like they should be. So, it's no surprise to me that he took the time to think about it, and make the Hulk a true hulk.

But it's not just the art that makes this story cool, it's the surprising and unlikely team-up of Jade Jaws, Angel and Iceman. Unexpected get-togethers like this is one of the things that made the old-school Marvel U so great. I mean who could expect a story with this unusual (and previously totally unrelated) trio suddenly teaming up to battle a giant Sentinel of all things. Great and fun stuff.

Garett said...

Looks like a great comic--have to check this one out! Thanks!

J.A. Morris said...

I used to agree with Byrne about this one, but the artwork has grown on me.

It used to tick me off that it looked like Layton as much as Byrne, but now I just think it looks great.

Thanks for the write-up, I'll have to re-read this now.

For those who don't own this & would prefer to read it in tpb form , it can found cheaply in an oddly-title book called 'X-men:Danger Room Battle Archives'.

Anonymous said...

Hi William – that’s an interesting observation about Byrne, because I always noticed the same thing about Gil Kane. His DD was quite slim, Cap was a lot broader and the Hulk was absolutely MASSIVE. Bigger by far than Byrne’s.
I think you’re right about Byrne’s men, but do we think the same thing about his women? Kind of seemed to me that Jean, Ororo, Wanda & others had a remarkably similar body type. The only one he drew a bit differently was Jan.


david_b said...

This reminds me of early Silver Age Infantino. He purposely drew his Flash less muscular in his torso, comparatively to say Batman or Supes, emphasizing his legs more.

dbutler16 said...

I, too am not a big Hulk reader, but this looks great. I may have to look for the back issue. Had it come out a few years later, when I was regularly going to the LCS, had more money to spend on comics, and would pick up anything with an X-Man or ex X-Man on it, I'd have most certainly bought it. After all, that's what first got me into the Defenders.

Chris said...

I bought this comic as a back-issue years ago and since then it has waited patiently for me to read it.

After this review and these comments...that time is coming.

Thanks for the great review,

Anthony said...

I may be biased as a Hulk fan but I definitely think this issue is worth checking out. It was reprinted in Giant-Size Incredible Hulk # 1 in 2008 if that is easier and cheaper to get. While I really like the art overall I always felt the Hulk looked a little off with Layton's inks. A nitpick to be sure but I can't help wondering what the issue would look like with another inker.

Here's a link for Incredible Hulk 172 on YouTube :

and a link for other Hulk / Juggernaut fights on Leader's Lair

Master Mold shows up again in X-Factor # 13 and 14 by Walter and Louise Simonson and is also worth a look.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I remember reading this particular Hulk annual when I was about 10 years old. To me it was a great grouping together of three unlikely heroes against a familiar but yet different foe (Master Mold now possessing Lang's consciousness).

The Hulk's bestial destructive nature was definitely on show here, and yeah I was a bit surprised at Angel's and Iceman's awe at his strength. Didn't they have some encounters before? You'd think they would have seen the footage of all the destruction the Hulk left in his wake, or Hulk's epic battles with the FF and the Avengers.

I also loved how they tied in the storylines so that Hulk, Angel and Iceman could team up against Master Mold. The sentinels in the classic X-men series were all emotionless robots so seeing a laughing master sentinel who displayed emotion was a revelation.

This annual was definitely a highlight; it had a little bit of everything : a good solid plot, good characterization, nice art, references to events in other books and even a little humour.

Hmmm ... just wondering - could the Hulk possibly be classified as a mutant? I know in the Marvel Universe most mutants are born with their powers which either manifest themselves at birth or later on. Hulk's cells became mutated as a result of gamma radiation from the explosion of the gamma bomb, so his condition could be classified as a forced mutation. Just throwing that out there ... :)


- Mike 'the geneticist' from Trinidad and Tobago.

Garett said...

Love the 2 splash pages, with Master Mold attacking Angel, and Hulk hanging onto his leg. So dynamic and sleek!

What has been lost in Byrne's art? I don't think we'd see pages like this from him anymore.

Edo Bosnar said...

Garett, re: "What has been lost in Byrne's art?" Hmmm, I don't know, nothing, really. Of course, I'm hardly the best person to respond to that, since I like like Byrne's art in all of its incarnations. But if you really want to see some quite recent, very "dynamic and sleek" material drawn by Byrne, just check out the commissions or gallery links at his Byrne Robotics site. He really goes all out when someone shells out the $$$ for a commissioned piece.
By the way, I think this issue can be found pretty cheaply in really good condition - I bought my current copy from for about $1.50 a few years ago. That said, I also agree with J.A.'s recommendation of that Danger Room book: not only does it reprint this story, but also X-men Annual #3 (arguably the best X-men annual ever) and a few more X-annuals with nice artwork by Alan Davis and Arthur Adams. Well worth it since I think it can be pretty easily found for less than $10.

humanbelly said...

I'll be compelled to go and check, but I'm pretty sure this was probably the best of all of the (many!) Hulk Annuals-- possibly w/ the exception of the very first one w/ the Inhumans. Gosh, what a perfect, fun read this was!

@ Mike from T&T: Boy, on a letters page or Bullpen Bulletins page 'waaaaay back in the 60's or early 70's your exact question was answered. Folks who achieve powers via post-natal genetic alteration (i.e.--- not born with them, like mutants) are considered "mutates". Guys like the Hulk and Spidey, say. Or one of the golden age speedsters who was bitten by a rabid mongoose, or something.

That little tidbit's always stuck with me-- nice bit o' clarity.


Anonymous said...

Hi HB – I think your memory of Hulk Annual #1 (we’re talking about King Size Special #1 here, right?) is clouded by that tremendous Starlin cover. Inside, it’s written by Gary Friedrich and drawn none too well by Marie Severin. I always remember it more fondly than it deserves too.

Anonymous said...

Ooops. Said Starlin. Meant Steranko. R

humanbelly said...

Ha! You may indeed be correct, Richard. While I've always had a fondness for Marie Severin's pencils, I'd forgotten about ol' clunky Gary Friedrich. I wonder-- that must have been during the brief period when Stan turned the Hulk scripting chores over to him. . . only to yank them back a few months later as the quality of the writing plunged palpably into a ravine--

And mind you, there's also the "compared to what-?" factor. Ol' Greenskin's annuals had a tendency to fall way, way short of the "milestone" marker, as it were.
(Heh-- "Paragon", anyone?)
(But now I do have to go and check, just to make sure I'm not being unfairly derisive. . . )


Anonymous said...

Mind you, I think Stan’s writing was getting none too clever at that point as he was too overstretched. In TTA #93 when Hulk meets the Surfer, the Surfer apparently suddenly has powers of telepathy and could, if he wanted, turn the Hulk back to Banner with a wave of his hand. Which he then mysteriously chose not to do in umpteen issues of the Defenders.

Considering that the Surfer was supposed to be Stan’s favourite character, I have always thought this was a Tale of Astonishingly Bad Continuity. And surely the editor would have....oh. Guess what?


Garett said...

Edo: "But if you really want to see some quite recent, very "dynamic and sleek" material drawn by Byrne, just check out the commissions or gallery links at his Byrne Robotics site."

I did check and it looks good. What comics of his do you think are good, from the last 10 years? I've tried tackling his '90s material, and don't like it. The Atom from the last few years I thought was pretty good.

Edo Bosnar said...

Garett, sorry, I kind of forgot about this thread after I posted that last comment, and just came back today when I saw that there's a bunch more comments. Hope you're still checking back here.
Anyway, to answer your question, I've hardly done an exhaustive reading of Byrne's material from the last ten years, but I really liked the Star Trek minis he did for IDW a while back. Those are the only Trek comics I've ever read, and they're quite enjoyable, both in terms of story and the art - they kind of retro, and I think he did a really nice job of capturing the look and feel of the original series.
Also, his art was really nice in a few projects he did for DC - a run of Superman stories in Action Comics written by Gail Simone (collected in Strange Attractors tpb) and a story arc in JLA Classified written by Roger Stern (collected in the tpb "That was Now, This is Then").

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