Friday, September 2, 2016

The Appropriation of The Abomination!

As often as the Abomination appears in Incredible Hulk, you'd think he would have merited guest-star billing (right alongside the Absorbing Man). Someday your humble concierge here at the PPC might eventually work up the fortitude to plunge into all the back issues which feature that floppy-eared bruiser and pull together his various exploits from the main Hulk title in detail.  In the meantime, we can at least follow up on his last appearances, which had him in the vicinity of what was then the Hulkbuster base and once more taking on the Hulk--by himself and, later, teaming up with the Rhino. Neither encounter ended well for him.

The Abomination's mounting losses are a disturbing pattern to see in a villain who was created to be stronger than the Hulk, but was dialed back a bit to make sure he went down for the count when the time came. This time around, the Abomination is more ambitious, when his fortunes change in a two-part story that has him being conscripted to fiercely battle the Hulk, only to maneuver himself into gaining the brute's help in his thirst for both riches and revenge.

The key to the Abomination's involvement in taking down the Hulk is the urgent need for Bruce Banner by the personnel at Gamma Base, in order to assist in a medical procedure that would lead to the recovery of Glenn Talbot, who's currently catatonic. And in order to get the Abomination to cooperate, Leonard Samson and Gen. "Thunderbolt" Ross have decided to use a little leverage that makes you wonder if Samson is the guy Talbot would want on his medical team.

No, I don't know how Samson, a psychiatrist, became a brain surgeon overnight. For what it's worth, what Samson hasn't disclosed to the Abomination is that instead of a bomb, he's only implanted a spy camera in order to monitor the Abomination's progress. Though how a camera inside someone's skull is going to be able to see anything beyond bone or tissue is anyone's guess.

As for the Hulk, he's recently met up with a young orphanage runaway, Ricky, and the two have befriended each other and headed for Florida to an amusement park that Ricky has always wanted to visit. One thing leads to another, and the Hulk is soon recognized, with word getting back to Gamma Base on his whereabouts. And the Abomination is at last unleashed to begin his brutal task.

Artist Sal Buscema has only recently joined the Hulk title, with long-time artist Herb Trimpe having moved on to Invincible Iron Man. Buscema would stay on the book for over nine years--and, along with pencilling the Hulk in The Defenders, his work on the character would become one of the hallmarks in a career that has seen his style assigned to almost every character in almost every title at one point or another. The contrast between Trimpe's work on the book and Buscema's is apparent, with Buscema's characters usually hunched to some degree even when stationary, and his action scenes displaying a great deal of movement. In these fight scenes between two very powerful opponents, you'll have the impression of things happening very quickly, with no punches pulled and no quarter given, which seems to be Buscema's thought as to how Incredible Hulk should come across to the reader. Buscema's Hulk, when angered, is a creature of rage, brutality, and relentless persistence--as the Abomination is finding out the hard way.

The Abomination also has another concern: the bomb, which might be prematurely detonated while in battle with the Hulk. It would be a valid concern, if there were a bomb; in fact, at this stage of the fight, even the reader doesn't realize otherwise, which probably had one wondering why Ross and Samson would rig an operative with an implanted bomb before engaging in a slug-fest with the Hulk. At any rate, it occurs to the Abomination that he'd better change his tactics; but it does him no good against the Hulk, who is too enraged even to consider the truce that the Abomination finally proposes as a last resort.

At this point, the story makes it clear to the reader that the Abomination is in no danger of being killed, at least by a bomb. The Abomination still believes otherwise; but with the Hulk still thrashing him from one end of this park to another, he decides to throw caution to the winds and go after the Hulk no-holds-barred. But, unexpectedly, he makes a discovery that changes everything--one that prompts him to renew a truce with the Hulk, a plan that Ricky will unknowingly make possible.

With the Hulk now beside him, this story now moves into its second part, where we might normally presume that the Abomination would want to head back to Gamma Base to deliver some serious payback to Ross and Samson, while the Hulk would likely join him in the destruction. Yet they instead remain in Florida--with the Abomination perhaps recalling that he was sent after the Hulk for the express purpose of returning with him to the base, and thus prompting him to consider a different course of action with his new ally. To that end, he brings the Hulk to Cape Canaveral, where they launch an all-out assault to seize the facility for reasons yet to be disclosed.

The base's security forces aren't equipped to deal with the likes of the Abomination, let alone the Hulk--and so it appears resistance against the two is indeed futile. But there's one gent who makes the attempt anyway, with a piece of specialized equipment meant for moon operations but will instead be broken in while waging battle with two man-monsters--or, on second thought, maybe just broken.

Once the Abomination and the Hulk make their way into the facility and make it clear who's now in charge, the Abomination broadcasts his ransom terms for the return of the Space Center--terms that, it goes without saying, are non-negotiable.

We don't know what the Hulk makes of all this--attacking the Center for no real reason, and now playing a waiting game that he doesn't understand. Money is meaningless to him--and the Abomination appears to be content with the Hulk just staying out of the way (while, of course, staying at his side). It's really too bad that the Hulk is the type of character who can be so easily misled, since he's much more interesting as the more canny character he reverted to during Todd McFarlane's run on the book and, following that, his stint as "Joe Fixit." Writer Len Wein carefully laid the groundwork at key points in the story for the Hulk to join forces with the Abomination and not have that development strain credulity--but there are times when the Hulk is too simple-minded.  Only just recently he was attacked by and involved in a pitch battle with the Abomination--and now he's at his side because he felt betrayed by a young boy he believed to be his friend. How has the Abomination's "friendship" proven to be different, or more trustworthy? How reasonable is it to form an alliance with a brute who came after you and tried to beat your brains out? And exactly what are they doing together? Attacking human installations, when the Hulk simply wants to be left alone?

Back at Gamma Base, Ross and Samson naturally feel responsible for the plight of those at the Center--and they've thought of one card to play that might turn the Hulk against his new partner.

The ploy has obviously proven successful, and the Abomination is back to square one against the Hulk--only this time, there's nothing for him to do but stand and fight, since there seems no possibility that the Hulk will fall for the same trick twice. (At least in this story. Lord knows it's worked with others often enough.) Eventually, though, the Abomination knows he must retreat, and here there is only one method of retreat available to him in which the Hulk cannot catch him.

We certainly have to suspend our disbelief at the Abomination's chosen method of departure--a spacecraft that requires pilot operation. You or I wouldn't know the first thing about how to operate a rocket cockpit control panel, but it's a breeze to the Abomination: "This rocket is so simple to operate even a baby could fly it! I can ditch it somewhere in South America--where they'll never find me!" We should all wish for such simplicity when it comes to operating advanced technology on sight; I had trouble enough working a control that operated a toy helicopter.

However, what the Abomination does have to worry about is unwanted passengers on this flight--specifically, a man-monster who hasn't quite finished with his foe, and who tenaciously hangs on to gain his revenge despite the ascent's massive shearing forces in play. And the Abomination finds that, even in his victory, the actions of the Hulk have ensured his defeat.

If you're curious as to his fate, the Abomination is found drifting in the void by the Galaxy Master, who puts him to work softening up other species for conquest. As for the Hulk, he's finally retrieved by Samson in time to help Talbot--a selfless act by Banner which Talbot would unfortunately come to disregard in his own relentless pursuit of the Hulk.

Incredible Hulk #s 195-196

Script: Len Wein
Pencils: Sal Buscema
Inks: Joe Staton
Letterers: Joe Rosen & John Costanza


Warren JB said...

"Someday your humble concierge here at the PPoC might eventually work up the fortitude to plunge into all the back issues which feature that floppy-eared bruiser and pull together his various exploits from the main Hulk title in detail."

I wouldn't complain. One of my favourite Hulk villains.

Also, yeesh, dumb Hulk really was... dumb, wasn't he? Mind you, at least he had that excuse for his tantrums. Smart Hulk rampages seem a lot less 'misunderstood'.

Also also: "I owe this country quite a debt -- and I would love to pay it back..." Is it me or does that not sound as ominous as it could?

Anonymous said...

I vaguely recall reading an interview with Sal Buscema in which he states how much he enjoyed drawing the Hulk. It sure shows. I imagine he liked it because it gave him an opportunity to really cut loose, with the pounding and the smashing and also the sheer, graceful, kinetic energy that was the speciality of the Buscema brothers.
Nobody could draw a seriously pissed-off Hulk like Sal. You just knew somebody was in for a world of hurt.
Often it was the Abomination who got the honor of being the Hulk's punching bag, and to be honest, I felt bad for the guy, no matter how rotten his personality was. He had gumption, though.
Great post!

Warren JB said...

M.P.: I'd read another recent Abomination article over at the 'Slay, Monstrobot of the Deep' blog. It *really* makes you feel sorry for the guy!

Comicsfan said...

Warren, I do think the Abomination might have gotten his point across more strongly had he made a direct threat rather than beating around the bush--for instance, say, threatening to injure his hostages. Perhaps he was under the impression that the extent of his power was well-known enough that an implied threat was sufficient to get what he wanted. It certainly was enough to get the attention of those at Gamma Base.

Very glad you enjoyed the post, M.P. It's really too bad that the Abomination isn't written more often to make headway against the Hulk in the strength department. His stint with the Galaxy Master returned him to the original level of strength that he was first elevated to, which should have had him handing the Hulk a sound defeat--yet he was still handily beaten. Unless he's ramped up to at least twice that level, it's going to be difficult to become interested in another Abomination/Hulk clash.

BTW, apologies for the delay in responding--Hurricane Hermine clobbered Tallahassee, and I'm just now getting back online and catching up. :)

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