(Cover from May 1971.)
“The Summons Of Psyklop”
Plot by Harlan Ellison.
Script by Roy Thomas.
Drawn by Sal Buscema.
Inked by Jim Mooney
Lettering by Shelly Leferman.
It’s ironic that one of my favourite Hulk tales of the era isn’t a Hulk tale at all and barely even features him. It’s an Avengers tale but it ties directly into the Hulk mag’s continuity and that gives me all the excuse I need to include it here.
My love for it’s also ironic because I hated the Hulk’s last meeting with the Earth’s mightiest heroes which could only be called a wasted opportunity.
This, however, is a whole other kettle of Cthulhu. It might be because it’s plotted by Harlan Ellison. It might be because it draws heavily on the work of HP Lovecraft or it may just be that, as it’s the Avengers’ own mag, they get a bit more room to spread their wings and therefore impress us. Contrast Thor - effortlessly taking out a giant caterpillar of death with one blow of mighty Mjolnir - with the Avengers’ hapless blunderings in The Incredible Hulk issue #128.
So here’s the deal. The Hulk’s been captured by Reed Richards and Charles Xavier who knock him out with a massive dose of electricity. Unfortunately, just as they’re about to enact Part Two of their plan, the Hulk vanishes, only to reappear in an underground chamber belonging to a compound-eyed being called Psyklop, servant of the Dark Gods. Meanwhile, above ground, after a tip-off from a dazed voodoo priest, the Avengers are closing in on Psyklop’s lair. I think we could all guess that a fight ensues. What we might not have guessed is that by the end of the tale the Hulk’s been shrunk to the size of an atom, and the Avengers are back in New York with no memory of any of it.
Being a bit of a sucker for HP Lovecraft, I was always going to love this outing, as the Avengers find themselves slap bang in the middle of one of his tales, complete with secret occult rituals, Dark Gods and creatures that time forgot.
I also have to praise the artwork. There are certain parallels between Sal Buscema and Herb Trimpe, the most obvious being that both have had a tendency to be criminally underrated over the years but also that it’s hard to think of many pencillers whose finished work was more dependent on who was inking them. Just as a change of inker could dramatically alter the whole look of Trimpe, so could Sal Buscema seem like a different artist in different hands. At times he could look like Don Heck, at times like big brother John. In Sam Grainger’s hands, he could even in places resemble Steve Ditko. In this issue he’s inked by gentleman Jim Mooney who does a fantastic job of it, his variety of line thickness giving a weight and solidity to Buscema’s pencils that could sometimes be lacking under other inkers.
Really, my only quibble with the tale is Psyklop’s motivation for shrinking the Hulk. Clearly he has no good reason to do so and only does it because Ellison wanted to shrink the Hulk. Oh well, what’s it matter? In the end it leads us into the next issue of The Incredible Hulk and yet another classic tale.
I tell you those classics are coming thick and fast now.