Thursday, 8 July 2010

Incredible Hulk #110. Umbu.

Incredible Hulk #110, Ka-Zar, Zabu, Umbu and the Savage Land(Cover from December 1968.)

"Umbu, The Unliving!"

Written by Stan Lee.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe.
Inked by John Severin.
Lettered by Sam Rosen.

Gilbert O'Sullivan once said, "What's in a kiss?" and William Shakespeare once said, "What's in a name?" While I can't comment on the wisdom or otherwise of Gilbert, I can tell you the bard should've known better because one mention of the name Umbu and you know straight away you're not up against a nine stone weakling. That's right, it's Hold Onto Your Hats time as we enter the senses-shattering conclusion to the Hulk's first ever foray into the Hidden Jungle.

And what a foray it is as he has to fight first Ka-Zar and his sabre-tooth tiger before taking on the might of Umbu, the Unliving. Umbu's a classic creation, a giant stone robot with a deadly tuning fork, created by aliens to guard the machine, from last issue, that's threatening to destroy the Earth. Happily, before it's too late - and mostly thanks to Umbu - the Hulk turns back into Bruce Banner who manages to destroy the machine before the lumbering robot can blast his way into the cave to protect it.

Maybe, given how slow-moving he is, it might've made more sense for them to place Umbu next to the cave that houses the machine he's supposed to be guarding, rather than miles away from it. Still, that's aliens for you. When it comes down to it, they're only human.

The aliens are a mildly annoying point. In themselves they're fine, what little we see of them but we're not told when they set up their machinations. Was it last week? Was it last year? Was it centuries or even millennia ago? It's a minor point but one that's always annoyed me. Otherwise, it's another top-notch story, in which Stan Lee's background in creating giant monsters whose names end with a "U" meets the strip's future direction. The Hulk'll be facing an awful lot of gigantic foes in the years to come but, frankly, none will ever manage to top Umbu and his tuning fork of death.

My one gripe would be that Ka-Zar simply seems too strong in this tale. Don't get me wrong, he's shown as clearly being out of his depth trying to take on the Hulk but, when the Hulk tries to crush him in a bear hug, instead of Ka-Zar coming out of it as the world's first super-hero purée - as he should - he survives completely unscathed and even manages to stun the Hulk with a karate-style chop to the neck. Frankly, there's no way Ka-Zar, who's really no more than a very fit human being, is ever going to be able to hit the Hulk hard enough for our anti-hero to even feel it.

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