Thursday, August 14, 2014

Night Of The Hulk!

A short story from the pages of the 1991 Hulk Annual actually takes its inspiration from the events of a more familiar story from mid-1962, and the first appearance of the not-yet-green goliath:

The "sequel" to this scene, "Vicious Cycle," has some pretty impressive credentials for a six-page story--written by Peter David, and pencilled by John Romita, Sr. Romita would have been 61 at the time he worked on this tale, having retired from regular comics work a decade prior (though he would continue to pencil and/or ink occasional projects and stories into the 2000s). In this short story, Romita and David bring us back to the night when "the Hulk" first got his name, from a young corporal who would one day share the tale of that night with his son.

It's a clever approach by David, and surely there's a wealth of nostalgic material to be mined from these earlier tales from the perspective of the "man on the street" and other witnesses like our corporal here. (Series such as Marvels and Code Of Honor are excellent examples.) Fortunately for us, the officer's impressionable son has his heart set on another retelling of how the Hulk first came to walk the Earth.

As is probably evident, there's a great deal of Peter David in this exchange between Banner and the sentries--specifically, David's trademark sarcasm, which there seems to be time for in practically any crisis. Banner, of all people, would be unlikely to pause and score quips with these men, particularly with a life on the line. And since Banner was seconds too late to save Rick Jones, it's tempting to wonder if Banner's wry observations took valuable seconds that he didn't have to spare:

But it's the officer's recollections of the Hulk's first appearance that will be the most dramatic part of this tale, and it's apparent that it's a night he's never forgotten.

To bring meaning to this story's title, though, we must return to the present, and this story's disturbing epilogue which seems to take its cue from an earlier story by Bill Mantlo:

It's an ending that David didn't have to inject, since the officer's perspective of the birth of the Hulk was able to stand well enough on its own without the abuse aspect; and the term "vicious cycle" implies more of a tangible connection between the players in this story, when no connection to speak of really exists. For instance, "Jeffy" is a more engaged child with his father--while the dad, while weary and not feeling particularly parental, harbors none of the resentment toward him (nor the reasons for it) that was present with Brian Banner, and the transition from impatience to threatening seems somewhat forced due to the accompanying material.  I did enjoy the story from a nostalgic angle--it just took me further than I really wanted to go.

"Vicious Cycle" (Incredible Hulk Annual #17)

Script: Peter David
Pencils: John Romita Sr.
Inks: Fred Fredericks
Letterer: Brad K. Joyce

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