Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Incredible Hulk #128. The Avengers

Incredible Hulk #128, the Avengers(Cover from June 1970.)

"And In This Corner... The Avengers!"

Written by Roy Thomas.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe.
Inked by Herb Trimpe.
Lettering by Sam Rosen.


Following his recent encounter with Tyrannus, the Hulk's still roaming the nation's underground caverns. You might think out of sight out of mind, but there's only one problem.

He's heading straight for the San Andreas Fault.

If he decides to use that as his punch bag it's bye bye California.

Happily, General Thunderbolt Ross has a plan. He calls in the Avengers to lure the Hulk above ground so he can try out his latest super-weapon on him.

I suppose it was always the danger, given his style, that Herb Trimpe would have trouble drawing the Avengers. Costumed adventurers were never his strength. But the truth is, for some reason, in this issue, he seems to be having trouble drawing everything - even the Hulk. His artwork looks terrible; not just his pencilling and inking but his layouts too. It's like he's trying a whole new way of drawing the strip, and failing. Gone is the heightened visual drama we're used to, replaced by a form of story-telling that seems both flat and juvenile.

He's not the only one. Whatever malaise is afflicting Trimpe seems to have overcome Roy Thomas too. A man more used than anyone to writing the Avengers seems to have lost all feel for them. Apart from the Hulk and Goliath no one in this story seems to be speaking the way they should be.

To make matters worse, the Avengers are plain useless. They're just there to divert the Hulk so he'll step into the path of some beam or other that Thunderbolt Ross and his men have whipped up. When the Hulk finally obliges, the beam doesn't work, so the Avengers simply give up and leave, congratulating themselves on the fact they've proven they can work as a team, seemingly not caring for one moment that the Hulk's still on the loose. The various Avengers' dialogue as they depart is like some sort of parody of how super-heroes speak.

I really don't know what was going on with this issue. The impression you get is it was knocked out in a hurry under pressure of a tight deadline. Then again, maybe everyone's brains just sprang a leak during the making of it but it really is one of the few tales from the era that you'd avoid letting anyone see if you were trying to turn them on to the Hulk.

It's a shame because it's the Hulk, and it's the Avengers and it should be great. But sadly that's the one thing it isn't.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi there. I found your blog this afternoon and assumed that it must be some long-abandoned relic floating around in the ancient reaches of cyberspace - then checked the date and saw that the most recent entry was the day before yesterday! Anyway, I think you're too harsh on Trimpe's art and Roy Thomas's scripting in this issue. Sure, handsome/pretty costumed heroes were not Herb's forte and there's some mighty peculiar anatomy (panel 3 on p.11 for example) but there are also some sequences where Trimpe was plainly putting heart & soul into it (the subterranean parts, notably all of p.2 and much of p.8). The script is run-of-the-mill, as you suggest, but the San Andreas Fault angle is quite clever, and I don't agree that the Avengers are "useless" - they keep the Hulk's attention in a way that a bunch of puny soldiers clearly wouldn't have been able to. Nor is it correct to say that the beam "doesn't work" - its effects are merely delayed, allowing Roy Thomas to deliver the satisfying twist on the final page. As for the handling of the Avengers overall, bear in mind that they were guest stars in a comic whose main (regular) characters were The Hulk, Betty Ross, Talbot and General Ross - and that the page count was a mere 19 (nominally 20, but two of those pages were halves). It's difficult to write a decent comics script when there are too many characters crowded into the available space. (FANTASTIC FOUR #100, in which the FF are pitted against robot versions of all their foes, is a typically feeble example). While I concede that #128 isn't anywhere near as good as the issues on either side, it's still energetic fun in that distinctive late Silver/early Bronze Age style. Best wishes, Michel Faber (indulging in displacement activities instead of getting down to work).

The Cryptic Critic said...

Hi, Michael, nice to hear from you. I suppose in the end it's all a question of taste. I think my problem is that, when it comes to this era, I tend to compare this tale with the Hulk/Avengers crossover of Avengers issue #88, which I think is a great comic and a bit of a classic, and this seems so pale and throw-away in comparison, really not making any genuine attempt to fully exploit the potential of a Hulk/Avengers clash.

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