Monday, March 29, 2010

Marvel 1985 Week--Incredible Hulk #305!!

One of the lessons of 1985 is that comics today are completely different then than they are today in 2010. Really. Not the same at all.

The second lesson is, it can be really, really hard to write the Hulk and keep him interesting.

Which leads us to:

Who created this issue?

Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema were in the home stretch of a 6 year run depicting old Jade Jaws' adventures. Now, six years is a heckuva a long time, especially when your lead character has the intellect of a Bizarro (albeit slightly better grammar). While everybody loves the "Hulk smash!!" version of the character, by this point he'd been doing it (with various degrees of lower intelligence) for 20+ years, and the formula was really starting to wear thin. There are, after all, only so many stories you can tell of the Hulk wandering around in the middle of nowhere and bumping into someone who might make a credible foe, and then having a poignant ending as we feel sorry for poor old stupid Hulky.

Mantlo & Buscema played along for a couple of years, but then came up with the first radical re-invention the Hulk had had in two decades: when Bruce Banner transformed, he was now in charge! The Hulk with Banner's brain!

That lasted for another couple of years, but then, thanks to the evil manipulations of Nightmare, the Hulk changed again--this time, no intelligence whatsoever, as the Banner identity was "killed." Not a child, not Bruce Banner...just an uncomprehending animal. Well, that obviously didn't work out to well, and to keep the out-of-control Hulk from destroying New York, Doctor Strange...well, let a U.S. senator tell it:

So, Earth's heroes decided that Hulk was too dangerous to roam around on Earth, so they banished him to some alien realm to fend for himself.

Yeah, so that's nothing like the 21st century tales of the Hulk. Ahem.

Anyway, one problem with writing a character with no mind is, you can't have him think or say anything. That can make for some really exposition-heavy writing, with lots of captions--and at times the mindless Hulk was in danger of becoming Man-Thing. So the Hulk team had to find ways to try to break that up. How about, the first 4 pages of the issue being dedicated to Doctor Strange testifying to a Senate Committee about the Hulk situation?

Really...4 pages. Of secret Senate committee hearings. Really.

Of course, some senators prove themselves too stupid to have ever been actually elected in the Marvel Universe:

Yup, because in a universe of super-heroes and alien invasions, a guy who cast spells is just too crazy to believe.

Anyway, we spend several pages discussing whether superheroes have the right to take justice into their own hands:

So, the U.S. government is concerned that heroes might be out of control and must be regulated, lest a mob mentality take over the country.

Yeah, that's nothing like Marvel in the 21st century.

But hey, this is a Hulk comic, right? What's up with him?

You know what I love best about the U-Foes? Besides Ironclad's skirt?

Vector's vocabulary!

Somehow, the villains ended up at the same "interdimensional crossroads" as the Hulk. And since Hulky can't talk or think, it's time for 18 pages of continuous fighting. Mantlo tries to break up the monotony by giving Ironclad some traditional Hulk lines...

...and Buscema ups the ultra-violence:

Have I mentioned how much I loooove Sal Buscema? If so, let me say it again: I loooooove Sal Buscema.

Vapor tries to take down the Hulk...

...but he must have had burritos for lunch:

Now, during his time hanging around the Crossroads, Hulk has been befriended by the "puffball collective," a bunch of, well, puffballs, having a collective intelligence. And they break loose and enter the fray, to help the Hulk:

So when Vector tries to repel, well, everything...

...they help again:

Which gives the Hulk the chance to whoop him.

And when X-Ray dive bombs the Hulk, they give him advice...and he listens, leading to IRONIC WORLD TO END UP ON #1:

And so Puffball help Hulk dispose of Vapor on IRONIC WORLD TO END UP ON #2:

Where do you think Ironclad ends up? IRONIC WORLD TO END UP ON #3:

So Vortex is alone, and despite reputedly being smart, is unable to learn from his experience of 20 seconds ago:

And he ends up on IRONIC WORLD TO END UP ON #4!!

So concludeth Plot Convenience Theater. Oh, yeah, and the Hulk has a touching scene with his "friend."

Awwwwww. (SPOILER ALERT: The Puffball Collective is really an evil genocidal jackass and will betray the Hulk soon. Sorry about that.)

And don't worry about the U-Foes...they all survived, and became the official Initiative team of North Carolina!!

No, seriously.


If you really wanted to see Hulk still with Banner's brain:

The penultimate issue of Secret Wars, wherein Doctor Doom stole the Beyonder's power. Shooterriffic and Zectastic!!

As you recall, in the regular Marvel titles, the heroes returned from the Secret Wars almost immediately, some vastly changed (eg Spider-Man's black costume, She-Hulk in the FF)...but we didn't find out why or how some of the changes took place. For that we had to actually read Secret Wars.

Wait--a major comics event, where regular titles skipped to the end of the story, and a year-long mini-series detailed what happened during that missing time? We didn't find out the full story until "one year later?"

Wow, every comic story from the 21st century really does rip off Marvel 1985, didn't it?!?


chiasaur11 said...

Too dumb to be elected?

In the MU?

Honestly, current Marvel climate, I'd be surprised if they average voter could distinguish between a human and peat moss, let alone between smart and extradumb senators.

snell said...

Ah, but this isn't the "current" Marvel climate. Besides, in a world as fantastical as the core Marvel Universe, running by saying "we don't believe in something everybody else believes in" shouldn't sit well with the public. "Heroes are dangerous and must be controlled?" Sure. "We doubt their existence?" Nuh-uh.

Siskoid said...

DC is ripping off every Marvel story from the 80s, and Marvel is ripping off every DC story from the 80s.

You think Silver Age readers were feeling a similar dejà vu in the 80s? "Pfft, I liked Days of Future Past better when it was an 8-page Superman story!"