Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Monster's Analyst

Of all the Hulk's dramatic splash pages, not many of us would have pictured something as incredible as this:

The Hulk--undergoing psychoanalysis??

Aren't we missing something here?
(Like, for instance, restraints?)

To understand how this all came about, we have to go back to when Bruce Banner was found in a distraught state at Desert State University, and Leonard Samson convinced him to undergo some rather radical therapy:

Samson stretches the truth a bit here--in fact, he downright invents it. In the issue that Editor Bob Hall cites, Samson didn't have Banner on a psychiatrist's couch, for therapy or anything similar--he was using Banner's gamma energy to help Betty Ross while adapting the same technology to cure Banner of his curse of becoming the Hulk (at least for that issue). It's a minor oversight by Hall--but unfortunately, this story depends on its accuracy, since otherwise Samson is really starting at square one here.

As we'll see, this session is all highly experimental, with Samson using more technology--in this case, a special machine to allow him to share the Hulk's impressions of his dreams. Tell me you don't already see a red flag on this little procedure:

Almost immediately, the Hulk gets the ball rolling as he spots Banner's childhood house. And like it or not (and he won't), Samson is about to receive his first insight into the relationship between Banner and the Hulk:

Whatever observations Samson is making at this point, I doubt he was expecting something as empirical--or as destructive--as what happens next:

The scene then shifts to a young Banner in chemistry class, and another jarring experience for the Hulk's therapist:

While, back in the waking world, we find it's Samson who's been acting out the Hulk's dreams within the confines of the study chamber at Gamma Base:

It seems clear that Samson has proceeded into this experiment with a bull-in-a-china-shop approach, expecting to assume a detached role of sanity in a scenario where a creature of rage would be reacting to his dreams. (No calming drug is likely to have an impact on one's dreams.) As similar experiences unfold, Samson finds what little control he had of the situation slipping further away from him, while the Hulk struggles to find some shred of accountability for his existence:

Through it all, Samson finds pieces of the puzzle, but all while proceeding on the assumption that it's Bruce Banner whose state of mind must be diagnosed. And while that's true to an extent, the relationship between Banner and the Hulk proves far more complicated. For instance, after a vicious encounter with "the Avengers," Samson comes across an aspect to the Hulk which seems to have little if anything to do with Banner. Though the latter is there as an intruder, and a reminder:

The conflict is enough to provoke Samson into smashing the integrator machine and thus ending the dream session. And based on the amalgam of images he's witnessed, he's able to reach a disturbing conclusion:

Down the road, we'll see more of where all this is leading, in terms of what forces drive the incredible Hulk. Remember when it used to be something as simple as gamma rays and rage? Now that the Hulk finds himself hounded by a psychiatrist, he's going to be wanting some answers. And with analysts charging around $150/hour, Samson is bound to have one jaw-dropping bill for the military by the time it's all over.


IADW said...

'We want to help you' is generally followed by a listing of flaws, but I think here Doc is actually distracted by Sudoku. I can never add so don't even try ;)

If an artist drew Banner turning into Hulk in two frames without the transformation showing at my Marvel, I think I'd fire him or punish him to a married life. That's the best part!

Coming in June from Marvel 'Hulk and the danger of unsupervised kids and heaters' - A Disney Family Care Message!

Comicsfan said...

Dan, I'm afraid the quick transformation wasn't artist Sal Buscema's fault, but mine. In a blog post there are instances when it seems sensible for space reasons as well as relevancy to exclude panels or segments which may seem unnecessary in regard to the flow of the post. The missing two panels really added nothing new in terms of this procedure or the overall story; in fact, I could have left out the transformation altogether without disrupting the post. But due to the nature of the drug Banner received, I at least wanted to demonstrate how docile the Hulk would be as a result, and a rather tame transformation for the Hulk is something you don't see every day. :)

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