When we last left Glenn Talbot, he'd settled into his new position as Security Chief under General "Thunderbolt" Ross's command. Major Talbot definitely hit the ground running, first by beginning an investigation into Bruce Banner's connection to the Hulk and, later, managing to be on the scene to capture the Hulk after he'd collapsed following a battle. Talbot seems to be a rising star, alright--not only impressing his commanding officer, but also making inroads with Ross's daughter, Betty.
Of course, it's difficult to keep your sweetheart interested when you live a double life as the incredible Hulk, so Talbot has practically a clear field with Betty, appealing to her better judgment and working to get past her steadfast love toward Banner. And as we see in subsequent issues, Talbot wastes little time, pouncing at every opportunity to take advantage of Banner's misfortunes:
Banner has had a time of it lately--not only believed to be a Communist spy, but also taking a bullet to the head in a recent altercation with armed soldiers and presumed to be dead (though we can peek out that window and realize that he survived, thanks to, of all people, the Leader). And because Banner has been pronounced dead, it becomes harder for Rick Jones to justify keeping Banner's secret of being the Hulk--especially when the truth might help to clear Banner's name.
In the meantime, the Hulk, in attempting to save Rick from incarceration, is blasted by a time displacement gun of Banner's invention and sent to the future, there to encounter and battle the Executioner. But Ross and Talbot only know the Hulk has disappeared, and are scrambling to locate him--while Betty, clearly still having feelings for Banner, has about had it with all the accusations being levelled against him, and had it as well with Talbot's persistence at trying to move in:
And so the moment comes when Rick can bear the burden of secrecy no more. And guess which officer is there to offer his ear to bend?
Battling sea monsters is certainly nothing new for the Sub-Mariner:
But I think it's safe to say we've reached the bottom of the barrel with this one.
"The Invincible Seaweed Man." Try designing the masthead for that title. Thankfully, the Seaweed Man (I can't even type that without wincing) never got his own comic, nor did he ever catch on as a villain (though parts of him likely kept catching on pieces of coral and shale down in those depths). He was simply one of the deadly sentries that Namor had to overcome on his way to obtaining Neptune's enchanted trident. It's too bad Namor didn't have a trident on him here--he could have curled the Seaweed Man in it like spaghetti.
But, come on, this is the Sub-Mariner! He's gone head-to-head with Iron Man and slugged it out with the Hulk! A creature made of seaweed isn't going to give him much trouble. On the other hand, neither the Hulk nor Iron Man had a Grip of Doom®:
Actually, it's a little astonishing that a creature made of seaweed has a grip of anything--but this mag is called Tales To Astonish, so it's covered its bases. Regardless, it looks like curtains for Namor. What a way to go out--smothered by seaweed. Krang and Byrrah are liable to have a heck of a laugh later at the pub over that one. But let's not count Namor out yet. Because the one sure way of prevailing against the Seaweed Man is by the use of:
I don't know how you apply leverage against seaweed, but there you have it. Namor doesn't consider himself out of the woods yet, though; in fact, he seems to regard the Seaweed Man as unstoppable, a creature he can only keep at bay for so long. So using the sea against the Seaweed Man seems like a good idea:
So that was Namor's epic battle with the Seaweed Man--and to hear Namor talk, you'd think he still has nightmares about this creature to this day. Come to think of it, "Stalked By The Seaweed Man!" is a sequel just waiting for a writer to tackle. I hope he's up on his martial arts.
When the Lion God made his first appearance to capture the Black Panther in order to learn the tribal secrets of the Panther God, it was all the Avengers could do to end his threat, at least for the time being--so it's fair to say he was a force to be reckoned with. Yet when he appears to menace the Avengers anew, two issues later, it looks like he's going to be upstaged:
Yes, the Swordsman returns to the Avengers--and with him, the enigmatic Mantis. But will they be friends or foes to the Avengers? It certainly looks like the latter, doesn't it? And when the time comes for this pair to make their intentions known, the Avengers will have cause to think so, too.
During the Marvel Civil War comics event, I was one of those who picked up a number of the secondary issues associated with it. Links-in-a-chain stories that seemed meant to entice the reader in a sales cycle toward the main series, and, by extension, more of those issues that were scripted separately yet closely tied to it. Those linked stories never really resolved the disagreements or divisions that were ripping through the main title--mostly, they were supplemental reading, and some of them were actually nicely written and fairly satisfying. Some, however, like "The Return"--the issue that heralded the original Captain Marvel coming back in his own title--couldn't help but remind you of a carrot on a stick, enticing you with the promise of something good but instead leading you on and leaving you with very little of substance.
I took this cover at its word: "A Marvel Comics Event," it proclaimed. I guess that depends you how you define the term. Instead of saying, "Wow, what an event!", you're likely to finish the story saying, instead, "That was an event?" Perhaps the stark white cover should have been a tip-off, with its virtual promise of an extraordinary tale within and which wasn't about to give you even a peek of what the story was about. You'll notice the iconic "star" graphic which of course resembles the one on Mar-vell's uniform--but in the spirit of full disclosure, I've enhanced its outlne and coloring, since on the original cover you can only barely make it out (assuming you squinted, and caught the cover in just the right angle of light).
All of that said, the story does its job of opening the door for Mar-vell's return. You could even regard it as Captain Marvel #0, before going on to pick up a copy of his first issue. It probably goes without saying that the truth behind his miraculous return from the dead (as well as his identity) would be reserved for the later main title; but in this particular issue, we find Mar-vell going over in his mind the circumstances of his death and rebirth, as well as the complications that would arise as a result. But, boiled down, the story could be summarized by a quote from Jean-Luc Picard: "A lot of questions. Damn few answers."
Most intriguing of all, perhaps, is how and where the story begins--in the special incarceration facility in the Negative Zone known as "42," built to detain those super-beings who refused to comply with the Super-Hero Registration Act. And guess who the warden of the prison turns out to be?
Riding on the coattails of the World War Hulk event was the 2008 series featuring the "Red Hulk"--a savvy, aggressive new manifestation of the Hulk who began a rampage of destruction and attacked and defeated a number of powerful Marvel characters (as well as destroying the SHIELD helicarrier) before finally being brought down. I remember thumbing through the first couple of issues at the store and putting them back on the rack, finding little at first glance to hold my interest. The art placed a great deal of emphasis on the new Hulk's over-proportioned physique (complete with bulging veins), while the stories seemed focused on destruction for the sake of destruction and didn't appear to contain much depth otherwise.
The hook of the series ended up being, "Who IS the Red Hulk?" (or "Rulk," a groan-worthy amalgam of the words that the stories made every attempt to have catch on, but thankfully never really did), a mystery which probably did more to sell the issues than the actual stories. It wasn't until two years later that the Red Hulk's identity was revealed to be "Thunderbolt" Ross; and just to prove how bad bad can get, there was also a "Red She-Hulk" on the scene--none other than the General's daughter, Betty. Eventually, the green Hulk returns, as well. And you thought the heated arguments at your Thanksgiving table were off the scale--I imagine the Banner/Ross sit-down must be close to nuclear.
Still, the cover to issue #5 managed to grab my attention:
Thor had also returned with new stories, his well-written issues a stark contrast to the Red Hulk books--and I had to admit to being curious about another Hulk/Thor match-up, particularly with a reputedly more powerful version of the Hulk on the scene and a new no-nonsense Thor ready to cut loose. So against all better judgment, I decided to bite the bullet and pick up this battle issue.
I should caution you beforehand by reminding you that this is 2008, where issues with prolonged battles generally have their artwork carry the day and only bring in dialog on an as-needed basis--so the battle isn't going to be enhanced to any degree by the insertion of characterization along with the swinging arms and the bold you-will-fall! declarations. That's not to say you won't find the fight entertaining--but you may reach the end of it wishing that writer Jeph Loeb had put in considerably more effort on the script.
We start soon after the Red Hulk had just decisively put the smack-down on his green counterpart in a destructive battle in San Francisco. Loeb is writing this series with something of a revolving door style, with a new challenge to the Red Hulk ready to step in before the dust has settled on the last one:
Before we dive into the exciting conclusion to the mystery of the Man-Wolf, who made his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #124, we really can't go any further without tackling the cover to #125:
And tackle it we must. For one thing, given the similarities between #124 and #125, it seems the Man-Wolf can't make up his mind. Just who is he after--Kristine Saunders (John Jameson's fiancée), or J. Jonah Jameson (John Jameson's father)? Spider-Man seems helpless to prevent either one from coming to harm, doesn't he? But aside from that, the thing that really stands out is this absolutely shameless caption that seeks to squeeze a little extra mileage out of Gwen Stacy's death which occurred just a few issues ago:
So before the boys from Bellevue arrive and cart off Spidey in a strait jacket, we should clear up a few things for him here, right off the bat:
This woman bears no resemblance to Gwen. There's not even a hairband, a dead giveaway.
The Man-Wolf could never be mistaken for a taunting, mocking Green Goblin--not even if you strapped him on the Goblin flyer with a sack of pumpkin bombs.
This fight is not taking place atop the George Washington Bridge--it's taking place on a typical, unremarkable street in New York City. But the big tip-off:
Kristine is not plummeting to her death--she's being dragged out of her roadster by her fiancé. (This upcoming marriage seems off to a kinky start, but who am I to judge.)
So Kristine may be in danger of dying, but not at all like Gwen. Yet the thought occurs: how many more Spider-Man covers are liable to pull this sort of stunt? I mean, this was Gwen Stacy, not Jean Grey.
In any case, Spider-Man should be thinking about saving his own life, shouldn't he? Because when we last saw him, the Man-Wolf was in mid-pounce toward him, all because our hero's spider-sense doesn't have a rear-view mirror:
Spidey rolling to his feet is a good start--but at this point, all it's going to accomplish is meeting his werewolf attacker halfway, as long as he's looking in the opposite direction. Is it finally curtains for Spidey?
Given his long history as the stalwart right arm of General "Thunderbolt" Ross, it's fair to wonder if there was any more thought put into the character of Maj. Glenn Talbot other than as an aide to Ross, a subordinate to implement his orders and for Ross to play off of when he's strategizing about dealing with the Hulk. There was generally no question about Talbot's loyalty and dedication to the old man, and he's never been short on his own initiative when the situation called for it. We didn't really see Talbot fleshed out beyond that until after his marriage to Betty Ross, his capture by the Russians (and the consequences thereof), and his subsequent bitterness toward Bruce Banner and the Hulk.
But in hindsight, Talbot was a fairly interesting character from day one, when he was first attached to Ross's command. Just look at this go-getter start right to work at cleaning house:
With Talbot's arrival as Security Chief, the character of the Hulk (not yet back in his own title, but being given a second chance on the racks by starring in half of the Tales To Astonish mag) shifts in tone from simply a mysterious, powerful brute roaming the terrain to being investigated in connection with Bruce Banner, thereby raising the profiles of his limited cast of supporting characters and giving the Hulk (and Banner) more to worry about than the threat of the month.
Talbot in these scenes reminds me a little of Group Capt. Mandrake from Dr. Strangelove, though in resemblance more than in character. While Mandrake was far more reserved and diplomatic with his superior officer, Talbot was more up-front with his opinions. And I doubt Mandrake would have cozied right up to Betty Ross like our man Talbot, the smoothie:
Man, he just slides right in, doesn't he? You know, Talbot, Betty's time could very well be valuable to her, fella. Just saying. Some of Mandrake's diplomacy could stand to rub off on you.
Banner manages to slip into the desert, despite the net Talbot is casting for him--so Talbot decides to take a 'copter to do a recon of the area. And take a wild guess as to who he's invited along:
The Major has some moves, that's for sure. Already on a first-name basis with the General's daughter. He also has the good fortune of coming across the Hulk, who's unconscious after a battle and just waiting for a new Security Chief to add a feather in his cap by scoring one heck of a coup and, as a result, impressing the heck out of his commanding officer:
And so the walls begin to close around Banner--thanks in part to Talbot, who seems to have the General's ear as well as a fast track to his daughter's affections. But there's no question that Talbot, by all indications a fine officer, deserves high marks in his new position here--his first day on base, and he's already been instrumental in capturing the Hulk. And when we catch up with him next time, we'll see that even Bruce Banner's secret would fall into his lap.