Sunday, February 9, 2014

This One You Dare Not Miss!

A fight between the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner tends to play out like any fight scene from "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer"--lots of punches and sound effects indicating a savage fight, but none of it amounting to the slightest injury. You almost feel like paraphrasing that old tree-falls-in-a-forest saying: If one hell of a fight happens, but no one needs so much as a Band-Aid when it's over, did it really happen? Spider-Man seems to be the only Marvel character who takes a beating and has the bruises to show for it. Reed Richards or Johnny Storm looked like they'd been through a brawl occasionally, at least when Jack Kirby was drawing them.

I suppose it's understandable that the Hulk always walks (or leaps) away from a fight unscathed. But Namor? In all those battles on land, never so much as a sore fist? He once walked away from a knock-down drag-out with Iron Man as if the entire fight had only inconveniently delayed him. As weak as he grows the longer he's out of contact with water, I didn't think that translated to invulnerability.

Namor returns to the pages of The Defenders after an absence of almost forty issues (over three years, our time) in what would lead to a conflict on Russian soil with "the Presence"; but before that kicks off, writer David Kraft takes the opportunity to orchestrate another battle between Namor and the Hulk. The fight between these two has all the back-and-forth between them that you'd expect, in terms of both dialog and blows, so it's standard Hulk/Namor fare throughout. But it does have the distinction of being pencilled by Keith Giffen, which you may find interesting. And Giffen certainly gives Namor quite the entrance:

Consider: Namor is on his way to the Fantastic Four to make an urgent plea for help in dealing with a crisis in Atlantis. Yet the situation apparently isn't so urgent that Namor can't take the time to walk his way to the Baxter Building, consequently being deterred by law enforcement and certainly by crowds. But "orchestrating" a fight means putting improbable elements into play, and you'll have to admit it doesn't get more improbable than this:

Go on. Take three guesses how the Hulk will react to being shoved...

...and then guess how long it will take before Namor escalates matters.

In fact, just go ahead and imagine the rest. You'll likely be right.

Well, we've gotten the preliminaries out of the way, and now both opponents are in this to make sure only one of them walks away from it. "Gosh," you're probably thinking--"if ONLY." But at least Kraft and Giffen throw in something new for us, even if it turns out to be something old:

Inbetween what's happening with the other Defenders in this issue (hint: not much, unless you count Valkyrie dealing with a discourteous smoker), we only have three more panels to this fight before it has to be wrapped up, so let's make it fun with a question:

Who do you think will get the last punch?
A) Namor
B) the Hulk
C) Both!
D) Neither--a standoff!

Okay, I'll make your answer easy: once Namor's crisis is over and his guest appearance is done, who's going to be the one to stick around in the Defenders and help to sell the book on the rack?


So, Nighthawk and Hellcat arrive and break up the fight--and Namor decides to instead seek the Defenders' help with his problem, since Nighthawk suggests that the Hulk can play a crucial role. It's a good thing the Hulk agrees to help--otherwise, this fight would have been for nothing.

Oh--it was?


Anonymous said...

In the modern comics the Hulk is a much more dangerous character, something that didn't really come across in those '60s/'70s comics.Valkyrie joined the Defenders early on but her face didn't appear in the little corner box for a long time,on the other hand Nighthawk was added straight away which seems a bit sexist.

Anonymous said...

I'm a regular nut for the Kraft/Giffen run on this title. The whole Red Rajah, Scorpio stuff was just fantastic. It kinda took a nose dive after this issue, but fun while it lasted.
Kraft's humor seems reflected in Giffen's sometimes goofy art, but they handled serious moments brilliantly as well, such as Scorpio's end.

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