Thursday, 7 October 2010

Incredible Hulk #182. Hammer and Anvil and Crackajack Jackson.

Hammer and Anvil and Crackajack Jackson, Wolverine, Herb Trimpe(Cover from December 1974.)

"Between Hammer and Anvil!"

Written by Len Wein.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe.
Lettering by John Costanza.
Colours by Glynis Wein.

Hammer and Anvil may sound like a bad comedy double-act but they're no laughing matter - as the Hulk discovers when he meets Crackajack Jackson.

Jackson's a travelling musician/tramp who's on his way to visit his son in jail. The trouble is his son's one half of Hammer and Anvil, two escaped convicts who bump into an injured alien and, in shooting it, accidentally save its life whereupon it gives them super-strength by energising the chain that links them. Showing no ambition at all, the pair head straight back to the prison they've just broken out of, in order to fling their weight around a bit.

In the meantime, Crackajack's encountered and befriended the Hulk, and the pair set off for the prison together. Once there, Jackson's accidentally killed when he touches Hammer and Anvil's chain, and the enraged Hulk defeats the duo by snapping that chain, the loss of which sends them spiralling into total and hopeless madness, leaving the Hulk with nothing to do but bury his late friend.

It's arguably the most successful of the Hulk's human interest stories so far. It can be argued that Crackajack Jackson's something of a stereotype, especially in his earliest exchanges but he's also got no agenda. For once the Hulk's befriended someone who isn't a teenager and, for once, the military don't show up to mess it all up. Instead it's the cruel hand of chance that robs the Hulk of arguably the best friend he's ever had. The fact that the Hulk's spent a fair amount of time with Jackson, and is even taught to read and write by him, makes the story more poignant than usual, especially as the Hulk then uses that knowledge to crudely carve Crackajack's name on his tombstone, ensuring that a man who would otherwise have been totally forgotten has a memorial.

The story's also helped by its villains. In the overall scheme of things, Hammer and Anvil may not amount to anything, but the fact they don't like each other and that they cause Crackajack's death by accident rather than design gives them a greater interest than they might otherwise have held. Also, the fact it becomes clear Crackajack's been a negligent parent and is to some degree responsible for how his son's turned out adds depth to his character. He might be the best friend the Hulk's ever had but is clearly deeply flawed. Stories like the Wolverine tale that directly proceeded it may be higher profile and fetch an awful lot more money on Internet auction sites but I'd argue that this is the superior tale and that it's the strongest and most memorable Hulk issue in a long while.


Anonymous said...

Hi, folks, it's funny, but when doing these stories, it never occured to me that this one or that one might have special significance one way or another. I've had a lot of people tell me that Hulk 182 was their favorite issue, and the review above, which is insightful, intelligent and entertaining, has convinced me that it is so. A job well done, Cryptic Critic.

The Cryptic Critic said...

Welcome to the site, and thanks for the praise. Am I to take it you're Herb Trimpe himself? If so, all I can say is thanks for giving us so many great comics and for dropping by. I loved your Son of Satan, by the way.

Ernesto Ribeiro said...

Len Wein!?!

I CRIED when I watched the final panel, showing CrackaJack tombstone, carved by Hulk, and the final line:

"A man with no name is none."

THE BEST Hulk tale.

Congratulation, Len. Very Thank You.

Gregory L. Dennis said...

Hammer & Anvil never really managed to pick up any steam as villains and the racism thing was later pared way down. Eventually, the two were killed by the vigilante Scourge, who was popping up all over the Marvel Universe at the time, killing second-rate super-villains by shooting them with explosive bullets, typically while wearing some innocuous disguise.

In a Hulk story, which I suppose is fitting, given their history with him, Hammer & Anvil attack a mindless Hulk, only to have Scourge pop out from the shadows dressed as an Indian and shoot Hammer in the face with an explosive bullet. Since the chain bonded Hammer and Anvil together, once Hammer died, so did Anvil.

Anvil showed some pretty good emotion over Hammer's death, seeing as how he was a racist, but I guess when you realise that you're going to die soon after your partner, I suppose petty things like racism kind of go out the window.

It was never addressed why Anvil couldn't take off the energy chain or why he didn't even try, but again, you just saw your partner get shot in the face with a very powerful explosive bullet, so I suppose rational thinking also goes out the window.

The Cyptic Critic said...

Hello, Gregory. Thanks for dropping by the blog.

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