Friday, 3 September 2010

Incredible Hulk #158. Counter-Earth

Incredible Hulk #158, The Rhino on Counter-Earth(Cover from December 1972.)

"Frenzy On A Far-Away World!"

Plot by Roy Thomas.
Script by Steve Gerber.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe.
Inked by Sal Trapani.
Lettering by John Costanza.

Has there ever been a second part to a tale that had less in common with its first than this? Last issue, the Leader had possession of the Rhino's body and was off to kill Betty Ross at her wedding. This issue, the Leader's no longer in charge of the Rhino - and forget the nuptials because we're all off on a trip to Counter-Earth.

I suspect this sudden lurch in a whole new direction may have something to do with the fact this has different writers from last issue. Either way, it's only moments after arriving on Counter-Earth that the Hulk and Rhino are caught up in the battle between the High Evolutionary's good and the evil Beast-Men, each of them siding with a different faction.

The change in direction's for the better because this feels a lot more like a Hulk tale should. It could be argued it's a tale that ultimately resolves nothing. We never get to see anything but a snippet of the war between the Beast-Men, and, at the tale's end, the Hulk and the Rhino are on their way back to Earth, with the Beast-Men's dispute as undecided as it was at the start.

It really doesn't matter. The true focus of the tale is the Hulk's brief encounter with the Counter-Earth version of Bruce Banner - Banner as he would've been had he not become the Hulk, happily married, with a son. The meeting changes the Hulk's mind about Banner, the brute deciding he can't hate a man who's a good father.

This isn't coincidence of course. Even as we're seeing the man Banner would've been if not for that Gamma blast, back on the real Earth, the woman he would've married is tying the knot with Glenn Talbot. The contrast in fates is a much more interesting way to handle the situation than to do what was threatened last issue and just have the Hulk and the Rhino/Leader violently gatecrash a wedding.

How the Hulk and Rhino get away from Counter-Earth is another matter too. Who exactly's piloting the ship they're on? It's not the Rhino. He's out cold. It's not the Hulk, unless he's suddenly a qualified space pilot. And it's presumably not the Leader as, for reasons that aren't altogether clear, he wants to keep the Hulk and the Rhino on Counter-Earth.

There's also the question of how the Hulk's going to take it when he gets back to Earth and finds out about the wedding.

I may be a pessimist but, knowing his calm and reasonable nature, I get the feeling it might not be well.

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