Sunday, 19 September 2010

Incredible Hulk #169. The Bi-Beast, Modok & the Harpy

Incredible Hulk #169, the Bi-Beast, Modok and the Harpy(Cover from November 1973.)

"The Calamity In The Clouds!"

Written by Steve Englehart.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe.
Inked by Jack Abel.
Lettering by John Costanza.
Colours by P Goldberg.


Some people dream of a cottage in the hills. Some, of a life on the ocean waves.

And some people dream of building castles in the air.

Maybe the last of those should think again as, caught up in a tornado, the Harpy and the Hulk find themselves in a floating city built by an extinct race of bird people.

But if its builders are extinct, its guardian certainly isn't. He's the Bi-Beast, a giant, two-headed android that holds within his split cranium the bird people's cultural and military knowledge. What he doesn't have is their scientific knowledge with which to repair their failing machinery.

Happily, Bruce Banner does have such knowledge.

Unhappily, he's not going to get the chance to use it, as Modok shows up and decides to claim the complex in the name of AIM. Cue the destruct button being pushed and the whole place falling apart - but not before Bruce Banner and the now cured Betty make their dash for it.

I've said before that I always feel The Incredible Hulk's at its best when it's at its oddest and it goes into odd overdrive here as the Bi-Beast constantly argues with itself, one moment reasonable, the next aggressive, the next reasonable again, as its twin personalities struggle between them to decide quite how to deal with any situation it encounters.

With its three (or is that four?) villains and a flying city, not to mention the forces of AIM showing up, Thunderbolt Ross putting in an appearance and a dogfight between the Harpy and a bunch of military jets, I think we can safely describe this story as having everything but the kitchen sink thrown in. Some might argue it uses up its ideas too greedily. Maybe, with so much to get through, it could have been stretched to a two-parter.

Having said that, it really doesn't suffer from being a one-shot and at least it means we quickly get the Harpy out of the way, which is clearly the real aim of the story. Already, by halfway through this issue, you get the feeling Steve Englehart's run out of things to do with her, as the character who dominated the first half of the story quickly becomes marginalised and virtually disappears from it, reappearing at its climax, just in time to revert to Betty.

He seemed so keen on her last issue too.

It seems giant androids aren't the only ones who can change their minds.

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