Friday, 27 August 2010

Incredible Hulk #153. The trial of the Hulk

Marvel comics, Incredible Hulk #153, the trial of the Hulk(Cover from July 1972.)

“The World My Jury!”

Written by Gary Friedrich.
Pencils by Dick Ayers and Herb Trimpe.
Inks by John Severin.
Lettering by Jean Izzo.

Here’s a tale so memorable it inspired a TV movie.

Happily, this is a whole lot better than that was. And we don’t even have to endure the sight of Daredevil in a costume that genuinely looked like it’d been made by a blind man.

Instead we get to see more heroes than we thought could be crammed into one comic, and the trial of the century, as the strip that refuses to settle on a genre becomes a courtroom drama.

Captured, at the airport, by the Fantastic Four, the Hulk’s on trial and, unless his attorney Matt Murdock can come up with the goods, he's facing the death penalty.

But it’s an odd sort of trial, as the prosecution offers neither evidence nor witnesses against the accused, while it never occurs to Murdock to ask psychiatrists to judge whether the Hulk’s even mentally fit to stand trial. Happily, in the end, none of that matters as, whipping up another of his impossible devices, Mr Fantastic engineers the monster’s escape.

You can’t get round it, Reed Richards’ behaviour in freeing the Hulk can’t be seen as anything but what it is, irresponsible. We may all be glad to see the star of the comic we’re reading dodge the death penalty but you can’t ignore the fact he’s caused innocent deaths in the past and will no doubt do so again.

It’s also a shame to see so little of Spider-Man at the airport. A couple of panels and he’s gone. Somehow it’s hard to imagine the infamously egotistical web head so easily agreeing to butt out of a fight - especially as, at that point, the Fantastic Four aren’t exactly setting the world alight. There is though an odd pleasure in seeing Daredevil get bashed against the tailpiece of a plane by the Hulk. Although you do wonder how he’s still alive after that. And of course we get to see yet another Hulk/Thing scrap.

But, despite the early action, the tale’s focus is on the trial and, with its grumpy judge, endless objections from the prosecution, and overall feel of a kangaroo court, it does what a legal drama should do which is make you sympathise with the accused and hate everyone else.

So, all in all, we get all we could ask of a Hulk tale. It’s good to see the strip still happy to veer away from our expectations of what a Hulk story’s like by having a tale dominated by people stood in a room talking - even though the whole way the court functions makes no sense in terms of how a real court'd do things.

That judge really does need to learn to relax a bit though.

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