Thursday, August 08, 2013

Marvels: Incredible Hulk #3

There are three stories in this issue, so I'll tackle them individually.

"Banished to Outer Space" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(September 1962)

Rick Jones turns out to be quite the patriot in this issue. At last someone's noticed the connection between Rick and the Hulk, and General "Thunderbolt" Ross wants Rick to lead the Hulk into a rocket so the Army can launch him into outer space. (They call it, quite naturally, "Project H.") Ross tells Rick that it's a matter of national security--that only the Hulk can withstand the massive g-forces of this experimental rocket--but of course he's really just shooting the Hulk into space and washing his hands of the whole thing. So, through Rick Jones, General Ross saves the Earth from the menace of the Hulk!


Because, come on.

As soon as the rays of the sun hit the Hulk in that rocket, he turns back into Bruce Banner just in time to get hit with a dose of radiation. The rocket is unshielded and, I assume, this is the same radiation belt that gave the Fantastic Four their powers (and will bestow powers on still others). So, for the second time, Dr. Banner is flooded with a massive dose of radiation.

Rick realizes he's been duped and, his loyalty to Bruce ever at the fore, he uses a control panel to bring the rocket back down to rescue his friend. But instead he finds the Hulk, raging and angry and in broad daylight! It seems the second radiation blast has given the Hulk the power to come forward in the daytime, though how this transformation was triggered isn't really gone into.

Instead, the rest of the story focuses on something else that's happened: when Rick shocks himself on the control panel, he is somehow linked with the Hulk, giving him the power to command the Hulk. Anything he tells the Hulk to do, the Hulk does. The Hulk is now mindless, but under the control of Rick Jones. But! If Rick falls asleep, the mental link is broken.

The Hulk also first shows his ability to leap great distances, which a soldier mistakes on the cover for flying, and which a great many fan letter will also complain looks like flying, often declaring a flying Hulk as just one step too much.

The story itself is actually pretty tense. The pages with the Hulk chasing Rick and Rick trapping him in the rocket are exciting, and when the Hulk comes back for revenge, you catch your breath for a second. Great art in this issue.

But the story is also indicative of just how hard it was for Stan and Jack to get a handle on what the Hulk was and how he worked. They've decided to stop making him only the Hulk at night, and now he's just apparently going to be the Hulk until... well, who knows?

"The Origin of the Hulk!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers

This is just a few pages to retell the origin and what the connection is between Rick and the Hulk. It's all new art, though, and Kirby makes good use of the panels. Again, you can tell Marvel Comics are becoming popular now, because we're revisiting the origins.

"The Ringmaster!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers

The Hulk has been hunted by the Army and tangled with aliens, but this story is really the first time the Hulk has faced what you'd call a super villain. (Again, that term is really only useful if you consider hypnotism a super power.) The Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime are going from town to town pulling the same scam: get everyone in the circus tent, hypnotize them, rob them, and then apparently leave them there, catatonic.

The Hulk comes into it when Rick, trying to take a night off and blow off some steam (on the advice of his kindly Aunt Polly), becomes one of the hypnotized. His mental link with the Hulk is broken, but instead of going wild, Hulk actually decides he must rescue the boy.

The Ringmaster, however, brings the rampaging Hulk down with... a fire hose? Huh. That seems anticlimactic. Then one of the Ringmaster's goons almost shoots the Hulk, until the Ringmaster stops him and makes the fateful decision to turn the Hulk into one of his exhibitions, which makes me wonder: at this point, do Stan and Jack think that the Hulk could be killed with a simple headshot? I mean, they do think he can be subdued with a fire hose, so who knows? There just isn't a lot of Hulk consistency at this point.

Of course, it doesn't last long, and when Rick comes to and finds the Hulk again, the Hulk goes bonkers and takes on the whole circus and nearly kills everyone. And then there's this classic panel of Hulk punching an elephant in the gut:

So that's pretty nifty.

And in the end, Rick and the Hulk escape with another one of those mighty leaps.

And... well, that's it.

Some fun stuff, actually. This has probably been the best issue so far, even though it plays a little wildly unfocused. Stan and Jack are so unsure of how to make this character work that at this point they aren't even committing to issue-length stories. They're just trying to tinker with him to get something going!

Not a Marvel Masterpiece, but not a bad issue. They just need to get the balance right.

Next time: Thor battles Commies!


Kelly Sedinger said...

I thought I commented on this, but I guess not. Anyway, the panel that leads off this post is awesome!

SamuraiFrog said...

Rick's terror is so palpable! When I was younger it was easy to be dismissive of Kirby's style because everything in the late 80s looked so "slick" and "cool," and then you go back and realize just how damn good his art is.