Friday, May 6, 2016

Two Cures In One

When the ruthless villain known as the Sandman insisted on using the helpless Betty Ross as a donor for a blood transfusion which would hopefully restore his skin to normal, after a previous encounter with the Mandarin and the incredible Hulk resulted in his form being converted into solid glass, her father--Gen. "Thunderbolt" Ross--arrived on the scene and found to his horror that his daughter, now transfused with the Sandman's irradiated blood, had been transformed into a statue of unliving glass. The Hulk, meanwhile, dealt fatally with the Sandman, who had regained both his mobility and his power from the procedure--but it appeared the damage to Betty was irreparable.

And now, three men must live with the loss--Bruce Banner, who as yet knows nothing of Betty's condition; Gen. Ross, the grieving parent; and Maj. Glenn Talbot, who was in love with Betty but had been unable to come between her and Banner, the man she loved. Betty's glass form continues to be kept under observation, if for no other reason than to make sure it stays intact; but thus far, a way hasn't appeared to alter her condition.

With all three of these men in a state of vulnerability where Betty is concerned, it's the perfect time for the gamma-spawned mutate known as the Leader to step in and take advantage of it, offering both Talbot and Ross a way to at least take the Hulk off the grid--though Talbot, whose grief for Betty goes beyond friendship, signs on for something more.

From the profile of Glenn Talbot that we're later able to compile--a man whose frustration with and anger toward the Hulk turned him into someone who would eventually cross the line and become willing to overstep his bounds as well as his authority in order to deal with the brute--the kind of deal he's made here with the Leader would come as no surprise in hindsight; but up until now, Talbot has maintained a level of professionalism as an officer, even as Banner remained a constant presence in Betty's life despite his curse of being the Hulk. Now, however, we begin to see him step over that line, as he lies to his superior officer concerning the fate of the Hulk should they cooperate with the Leader.

It's curious how both of these men blame the Hulk for what's happened to Betty, when it was in fact the Sandman who was directly responsible. Even when they've professed concern for Banner's well-being and taken what steps they can to ensure his safety in their operations, it's as if they both have a blind spot when it comes to the Hulk, which in formal terms might translate to a conflict of interest. An accusation which they would be appalled to hear, and yet would likely only deny in so many words.

At any rate, the go-ahead is given to allow the Leader to assume control of "Project Brain-Wave," a massive military device which can amplify human brain-waves into three-dimensional objects--which, up until now, lacked an operator with sufficient intellect to power it. (Ross's command seems to be the black hole of abandoned projects. Five years of research--more than one million man-hours of work--and who knows how much money allocated, only to get to the point where you're ready to turn it on, pause in mid-gesture, and say "Whoops. Looks like we overlooked one tiny detail.") The Leader hooks up to the device with a plan that has the Hulk beset by so many attacking foes that the strain of constant battle will put a fatal strain on his heart, causing his death. It's a ludicrous assumption, since a man-monster with a hair-trigger temper, driven and given strength by anger, isn't exactly a model of a stress-free lifestyle to begin with--but when Talbot sees the Leader's plan producing results, he reneges on their deal and wants to pull the plug on the operation.

As we can see, it's far too late for second thoughts, as far as the Leader is concerned. There's also the matter of the Leader's own agenda, which involves more in his plan of revenge than what he's shared with Talbot--a plan which literally is moving the Hulk closer to truly being responsible for the death of Betty Ross.

Thanks to Jim's intervention (no, I don't know how he knows the location of the top-secret installation that houses Project Brain-Wave--or how he knows about Project Brain-Wave in the first place, or that its use is responsible for the Hulk's actions), the tables are turned on the Leader, and he becomes the only victim of his mad plan. Though the staff at the Happyvale private hospital were beginning to fear otherwise!

From here, the book follows the Hulk on his adventure to a sub-atomic world where he meets for the first time the woman named Jarella, whom Bruce Banner develops feelings for--feelings which, by extension, come to be shared by the Hulk. Meanwhile, Ross gets word of a technique which may restore Betty to her normal form, conceived by a character making his first appearance in the book--Leonard Samson, psychiatrist, whose proposed procedure would hopefully not only restore Betty, but also cure Banner of being the Hulk.

(Until Marvel audits the General's books, we'll have to assume that Ross is footing the bill for costs involving specialized equipment and care, chartered flights, and transportation for his daughter, to say nothing of Samson's retainer--because, brother, it sure looks like he's using taxpayer dollars here.)

It's not a simple matter to corral the Hulk, of course--but once Ross's team (with the assistance of Samson) manage to trigger the brute's change back to Banner, the physicist is only too willing to participate in Samson's procedure, especially if it offers the chance to help Betty.

Betty appears to be no worse for wear following the procedure, though she might not look at a window or a mirror in quite the same way again. As for Samson, you may have caught on that there's likely more to his story than his involvement in curing both Betty and Bruce Banner--and in a separate post, you'll discover how even a man who presumably knows the workings of the subconscious mind can nevertheless be tempted by the power of the incredible Hulk.

(This post covers events from issues #139 and #141.)


Anonymous said...

I think Trimpe is really starting to hit his stride here.
His stuff just got better and better during his legendary tenure on the HULK. There was some wild, original stuff in there, and it gives me a hankerin' to check out some old back issues.

Comicsfan said...

M.P., I've always felt that Trimpe was a fine artist and an excellent storyteller, and he packs quite a bit into a panel. My main problem with his work has been the general stiffness of his characters--i.e., their movements are more like poses than natural form, almost resembling action figures that you place into certain positions that indicate, well, action. That's not to say he isn't creative with the way he has characters react or progress through a scene; he just seems limited in portraying the characters themselves. His work on Iron Man, for instance--a character who I felt would be a perfect fit for him, as much as he appears to enjoy delineating hardware and technology, but a character who moved as stiffly as any of his others. He also seems terribly uncomfortable drawing a dynamic character like Thor.

Anonymous said...

I dunno...anybody who could come up with the Bi-beast is either a genius or a madman!!

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