Thursday, 19 August 2010

Incredible Hulk #147. The Leader and Richard Nixon

Incredible Hulk #147, the Leader, Richard Nixon, and the 'death' of Doc Samson(Cover from January 1972.)

“The End Of Doc Samson!”

Written by Gerry Conway.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe.
Inked by John Severin.
Lettering by Sam Rosen.

Some people have plans more convoluted than a bag full of eels. The Leader has enough for a whole aquarium.

I’ve complained before about the fact he seems to do things purely for the sake of doing them, and this issue he climbs the Mount Rushmore of such futility. Frankly, assuming he actually has one, I don’t have a clue what his plan even is.

It seems he wants to replace then-president Richard Nixon with an android who, presumably, will do his bidding and give him control of the United States. To do this, he lures the president to General Ross’s new base. Then he brings the Hulk to the base. And then he has an army of androids descend on the place to turn themselves into a giant android which blunders around telling everyone how great the Leader is.


Why does he need the Hulk there? Why does he need an army of androids there? Why does he need a giant android? Why does he announce to all present that he’s behind it all? All he’s doing is drawing everyone’s attention to the fact he’s there and up to no good. Wouldn’t a plot to replace the president depend on not getting noticed?

One of the problems with the story is that, at just twelve pages, it’s simply too short to do all the things it needs to in order to tie-off the events of last issue, meaning too much has to be crammed into too few pages, thus sacrificing all sense.

You would’ve thought it’d be perfectly easy to get a full length issue out of the Hulk vs the Leader, the Leader trying to take over the United States, and the “death” of Doc Samson. In fact, you could probably get two issues out of it if you really wanted to. So why the decision to cram it into just a dozen pages? It’s no surprise that ultimately the thing feels as though everyone concerned is making it up as they go along. It’s exciting and vigorous and the android multitude combining to become one huge android is a classic image but ultimately the tale feels like a rushed attempt to get things over and done with as quickly as possible. And a great set-up like we had last issue deserves better.

“Heaven Is A Very Small Place!”

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

The truth is this issue’s back-up tale’s more interesting and better thought out than its main one, as, roaming the desert, the Hulk encounters a mirage in the form of a small town. Being none too bright, the Hulk thinks he’s in a real town and, delighted that no one’s trying to kill him, decides this is where he’s going to live from now on.

Sadly, this being the Hulk, his happiness is short-lived as the mirage soon fades, leaving him alone and abandoned.

It has to be said it’s a very odd town where everyone seems to be smiling and waving all the time but, that aside, it’s one of those tales that, once read, lodges in the mind, and a welcome reminder that not all Hulk stories have to follow the well-tried formula or be about smashing things up. I’d also personally say that, aesthetically, it marks the high watermark of the collaboration between Herb Trimpe and John Severin.

So, a Hulk story in which nothing much happens triumphs over one in which pretty much everything happens. Who would've thought we'd ever be able to say that about a Hulk comic?


Humanbelly said...

To answer your question-- issue #146 and the first half of #147 were created as one story to fit into the (failed) attempt to change the format of the entire Marvel line to larger 25-cent books. This revolutionary change lasted exactly one month, before dropping back to the traditional-sized books--- but with a 5-cent increase in the cover price (a stunning bait-and-switch method of installing a 33% price hike!). But this already-finished story remained on hand, hence the odd nature of 147.

The Cryptic Critic said...

Ah, that does make sense. Thanks, Humanbelly.

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