Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Hulk Must Die!

How many Avengers would be needed to take out the Hulk?

Probably a LOT more than this.

The Avengers don't often resort to piling on where the Hulk is concerned, but the brute hasn't given them much choice here. Thanks to a procedure by Leonard Samson that has successfully separated Bruce Banner from his monstrous alter ego, the Hulk now no longer has Banner's subconscious influence keeping in check his rage--and with the monster escaped and at large, innocent lives are threatened wherever he appears. Samson himself has failed to stop his advance--ditto for the quartet of Hercules, the Sub-Mariner, Iron Man, and Wonder Man, in their capacity as Avengers.

In a prior post, we've already covered the circumstances of this story as well as how things turned out for both the Hulk and Banner--but what role did the Avengers play here? Well, they possibly prevented any of the townspeople of Jericho, New Mexico from coming to harm while the Hulk was carving his path of destruction; and they also were able to get help for Samson, barely alive after the Hulk had used him as a human bludgeon to smash his way through the town. But not surprisingly, their fierce engagements with the Hulk also played a large part in Jericho itself biting the dust. And during that no-holds-barred battle, the Avengers found out the hard way that the phrase "Hulk smash!" is no exaggeration when finding themselves on the receiving end of the rampage of this 1,400-pound engine of destruction.

Just before the Avengers arrive en masse, their fastest member, Captain Marvel, appears just in time to save one of the Hulkbusters on the scene, Hideko Takata, from becoming a casualty of the Hulk's pile-driving fists (though the holding action Hideko fought in order to save Samson from the Hulk's brutal punishment was both brave and well-executed):

As the Captain waits for the east coast complement of Avengers to arrive, the west coast branch shows up with Iron Man and Wonder Man leading the charge--for all the good it does them, or their comrades who begin to take part in this fight...

...while the east coast contingent arrives in a similar maneuver, this time with Hercules and the Sub-Mariner getting their shots in while their comrades land and race to the scene. The Avengers' four "big guns" get a building toppled onto them for their trouble--though when they previously battled the Hulk in the desert along with Samson, they had no better luck in their attempts to stop him.

At this point, several of the Avengers are in favor of ending the Hulk's life in order to end his threat. The Hulk, after all, isn't playing by the Avengers' rules, instead unleashing his strength in his full fury with no qualms whatsoever about killing--while the Avengers are struggling to capture the Hulk, some even unconsciously holding back given that the Hulk was a founding member of the team. Even Captain America finds himself wavering on the issue, taking into account that the Hulk presents a danger to the populations of other towns and cities if he isn't stopped here. No one is yet giving much weight to the fact that Bruce Banner is no longer joined with the Hulk, something that's bound to play a crucial part in this free-for-all.

That revelation is made all too clear when the She-Hulk arrives and breaks up the fight--then attempts to talk down the Hulk and connect to him on a more gentle level, counting on her personal connection with Banner to reach him. Her words are trusting and soothing, her manner sincere and welcoming--but the Hulk's response, vicious and savage, convinces the Avengers that there is no trace of Banner whatsoever in their foe, and that it's time to take off the gloves.

And so what was up to that point a fierce battle now becomes all-out war, as the Avengers and the Hulk lash out at each other with a ferocity that leaves the outcome up in the air. That, and a few Avengers, as well.

As the team regroups, Cap confers with Samson--badly wounded, but who points out that, in their own fight, the Hulk had reached some kind of limit in his power and perhaps seemed weaker, even though being totally enraged would normally have caused his strength to increase in proportion. Cap still clearly has doubts about what course of action to take in dealing with the Hulk--but the other Avengers press on, even as the Hulk gives every indication of going the distance.

Other than Cap's efforts to put together some form of strategy here, there seems to be no effort by the Avengers to make use of their training and teamwork that could take advantage of their numbers and keep the Hulk on the defensive--for instance, a hit-and-run tactic that could keep the Hulk sufficiently distracted in order to allow openings for key Avengers who could do sufficient damage to the Hulk by means other than sheer strength (e.g., the Black Knight, Captain Marvel, et al.) to slip under his guard and make strikes that could incapacitate him to some degree. If they go on the way they are, it seems inevitable that the Hulk will eventually outlast his foes and prevail.

But then, after yet another fierce exchange of blows, the Avengers see the battle take an unexpected turn, one that reinvigorates them and gives them hope of bringing this conflict to an end. Incredibly, the Hulk--falters.

Reporter Dianne Bellamy observes correctly that the Avengers have come down to the Hulk's level, with no forethought or method to their assault--a non-stop wave of attacks that resembles nothing now but naked aggression.

As we can see, Betty Ross and Rick Jones have arrived on the scene, with Betty now having information that the dying Bruce Banner's life could be saved if he were rejoined with the Hulk, something Banner is strictly against. Banner, of course, wants to put an end to his living nightmare, while Betty's feelings for the man who is now her husband obviously have her acting to save him by whatever means possible. The question is: Will the Avengers, in their current state, listen to her plea?

Without the Hulk being able to speak for himself throughout this two-part tale, it falls both to the Avengers and to writer Al Milgrom to provide more here than just an all-out battle scenario and bring more depth to the story. For their part, the Avengers must not only reconcile themselves to the fact that the Hulk is now, without a doubt, an enemy, but that the use of deadly force is necessary to end his threat--a realization that is spurred in part by the battle taking place in a populated area. Milgrom, meanwhile, works behind the scenes and interweaves the situation in Jericho with the hospitalized Banner, who is insisting that the Hulk be killed and who rejects any efforts to save either himself or his raging other half. As we've seen, the two factors coalesce at the story's conclusion--one which, incidentally, seems to give more comfort to Cap than to the distraught Betty Ross.

Which begs an intriguing two-part question: If Betty had never arrived on the scene in time--or if she had agreed to respect Banner's wishes and instead remained at his side--would the Avengers have destroyed the Hulk? And would Cap have stepped up and offered an argument in her place?

Incredible Hulk #s 321-322

Script and Layouts: Al Milgrom
Inks: Dell Barras
Letterers: Rick Parker & Joe Rosen


George Chambers said...

In answer to your final questions, I have no doubt that the Avengers could have killed the Hulk, as the Black Knight could have just decapitated him with his magic sword once he'd ceased struggling. Would they have? In my opinion, no. Cap would have talked them down.

Comicsfan said...

I don't know, George--after the She-Hulk had been clobbered in that scene above, Cap seemed to be yelling for the Hulk's blood as much as everyone else!

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