Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Incredible Hulk #122. The Fantastic Four

Incredible Hulk #122, the Fantastic Four(Cover from December 1969.)

"The Hulk's Last Fight!"

Written by Roy Thomas.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe.
Inked by Herb Trimpe.
Lettered by Artie Simek.

There are two things in life whose magic never fails you. One of them is randomly shouting the word, "Exterminate!" and the other's watching the Fantastic Four fight the Hulk. Leaving aside the fact it always gives us a green man vs an orange man, there's just something about it that's always going to grab you. Maybe it's the contrast between the Hulk, all alone and driven by brainlessness, and the more tactical team-play of the FF, or perhaps it's just because the Hulk and the Fantastic Four were Marvel Comics' first heroes of their post-monster age.

Realising it's only a matter of time before his alter-ego kills someone, Bruce Banner heads for the FF's Baxter Building, having read in a newspaper that Reed Richards claims to have found a cure for his condition. Needless to say, on the way, Banner has one of his turns, and the obligatory carnage breaks out before Mr Fantastic manages to stop the brute, with a sonic gun.

The start of this tale's genuinely disconcerting as the Hulk, for no good reason, annihilates a train. It turns out to be a freight train, with no passengers, and the handful of crew are somehow unharmed - although, given the way the Hulk flings the thing around, it's hard to see how - but the point is the Hulk has no way of knowing there are no passengers and, for all he knows, he's killing people on an industrial scale. It's one of those rare occasions when you can suddenly see why Thunderbolt Ross is so determined to stop the Hulk no matter what.

That aside, the main concern about this issue was always going to be how Herb Trimpe coped with drawing the FF. Whatever his strengths, Trimpe was never a natural super-hero artist and, at times could produce the least heroic-looking heroes you ever saw but he does fine here, mostly because he has the wisdom to repeatedly copy Jack Kirby poses. It's easy to knock artists for copying each other but, in this case, I'd see it as Trimpe merely acknowledging that he can learn from the master.

It's a bit worrying that, once he realises he can't out-muscle the Hulk, the Thing's master plan for dealing with him is to send him flying from a window and down onto the streets below. I don't like to teach my granny to suck eggs but I would've thought it'd be the first instinct of any good super-hero to protect the public from a menace like the Hulk, not send him flying right into the thick of them in an enraged state. Happily, this being the sparsely populated town of New York, there's no one around.

But you do wonder where the Fantastic Four get their security guards from. The staff they hire here really are a complete shower. They have only one job, to let Bruce Banner into the building without hassles. Needless to say, when Banner shows up he's promptly confronted by a guard who's positively itching to start using his gun at the first possible opportunity. It's explained he's filling in for a colleague at short notice and therefore isn't fully aware of the situation but, really, bearing in mind he was likely to come up against the Hulk, you would've thought someone would at least have told him what he was there for.


Hoosier X said...

(I wrote a post a few hours ago, but I was having trouble with my connection and the Internet eated it! I'll try to revive those sentiments, albeit in a somewhat less verbose manner.)

I'm really glad you're writing about this era of old Jade-Jaws. The Incredible Hulk series from about Tales to Astonish #80 all the way to about Hulk #200 is one of my favorites. It's issue after issue of action, adventure, interesting characters, big monsters, gratuitous fighting, melodrama and - not the least important factor - a heaping spoonful of glorious Silver Age goofiness in nearly every issue.

Great repeat villains - The Leader, The Rhino, The Abomination. Fun little stories with characters that never appeared again - I really love that Captain Omen story in #164-#165. And nearly every super-hero in the Marvel Universe showed up at some point.

And of course, the marvelous Herb Trimpe, aided and abetted by Marie Severin, her brother John, Sal Buscema and too many others to list here.

I had about a third of these issues at one point but, sadly, I had to sell the nicer part of my collection to help fund my master's degree. (Although I later came across a few Hulks - #139, #159 and a few others - that had been misfiled, thus escaping the Great Raid.)

So I will be frequenting your blog and taking a walk down Memory Lane - and trying not to cry.

The Cryptic Critic said...

Hello, Hoosier, and welcome to my blog. Like you I have a deep love for the Hulk of this era, and I'm glad I'm not the only one with a love for the Captain Omen storyline. Who could fail to appreciate the charms of Aquon, "The Murderous Man-Fish"?

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