Friday, September 14, 2018

Battle Of The Bruisers: The Hulk vs. The Juggernaut!


In their first meeting in 1974, the incredible Hulk and Cain Marko (a/k/a the Juggernaut) didn't exactly hit it off as allies following their joint escape from captivity at Hulkbuster Base; in fact, they spent a good deal of time going off on each other, when the Hulk refused to stand by as the Juggernaut threatened an innocent family. Unknown to the Hulk, it was the X-Men who later stepped in and collared Marko; but 19 years to the month later (our time), in his next meeting with the Hulk, Marko is effectively wearing the collar of another while involved in operations in the Amazon. The only trouble is, the Hulk is not only unaware of the identity of Marko's employer--he's also in the dark as to the identity of the bruiser who jumps him from out of the jungle!



As we can see, Marko has thrown the Hulk a curve by attacking him in street clothes rather than as "the Juggernaut," in order to have an edge and keep the Hulk in the dark is to the extent of his power. At this point in time, the Hulk is also, in a way, a different foe to Marko, having recently undergone treatment by Leonard Samson and Maynard Tiboldt (better known as the Ringmaster) which resulted in the merging of his three "personalities"--the gray, savvy Hulk... the green, less intelligent Hulk... and last but not least, Bruce Banner--into an amalgam that was the product of coming to terms with his inner conflicts stemming from his childhood. The result was a more confident, less inhibited Banner who finds himself revelling in his new status.

But the new Hulk can still be surprised by a canny foe--and, in this case, taken down.







His neck then grabbed and locked in Marko's arm like a vise, the Hulk is rendered unconscious, still ignorant of Marko's identity as well as that of the mastermind of this operation:  the Red Skull, who goes on to take control of the Hulk's mind with the aid of Mentallo in order to have him join with the Juggernaut in destroying the Avengers. That scheme eventually collapses, in part due to Mentallo getting more than he bargained for in dealing with Banner's inner turmoil that still defines him; but fourteen years later, the Juggernaut gets another crack at the Hulk during the events of the World War Hulk crossover, as an embittered Hulk, returning from his forced exile from Earth, seeks out those members of the Illuminati who presumed to hold his fate in their hands and renders his own brand of justice. Inevitably, the Hulk comes for Charles Xavier--and Xavier's stepbrother, now working with Excalibur, yields to his conscience.




It's no small decision on Marko's part, who, having hated Xavier for much of his life, would normally see this as a form of retribution. But Cyttorak, the mystic being responsible for transforming Marko into a human juggernaut, is no fool--and though Marko remains unaware, his new bargain with Cytorrak is not yet complete.




Defeated and left in the ruins, Marko can only wonder why the power that he vowed to use was kept from him. It's then that Cytorrak makes clear his intentions--sealing once more his pact with his human avatar that will see the Juggernaut reborn.




It's now a true clash of titans we see in this match, which by rights we should have seen in their first meeting if only the Hulk had been more engaged. Here, with the Hulk focused on vengeance, that's certainly not going to be a problem.




Regrettably, since this series is called "World War Hulk," with crossovers galore, its stories are filled with the Hulk crushing all forms of resistance he comes up against; and while the Hulk makes a point of saying that he's a more powerful Hulk than those who battle him are used to fighting, it's likely the ongoing mega-marketing of this series that is mostly responsible for his invincibility, a level of might that won't be breached until it comes time for the main story's conclusion. With this three-part X-Men crossover taking place outside of the main WWH title, it's a given that even Cytorrak can't sit down and enjoy an extended fight between two powerhouses like the Juggernaut and the Hulk with any expectation that it will go the distance.

And speaking of distance, that's exactly what will bring this fight to an abrupt end.




Fortunately for Xavier, one of his students convinces the Hulk that Xavier, thanks to mutants being hated and targeted by the world, is already suffering to the extent that the Hulk wishes, and he departs. As for Marko, it seems it's back to status quo for him where the X-Men--and perhaps his stepbrother--are concerned.


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