Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Hulk Is Dead... Long Live The Hulk!

Following a battle with the uncanny U-Foes, which was broadcast and played out before the eyes of the world, the incredible Hulk--now controlled by the mind of Bruce Banner--successfully petitioned for amnesty, on the grounds that he was no longer a menace to society. And in a scene that no one present would soon forget, Banner was thereafter granted and accepted a presidential pardon which wiped the slate clean for him.

(Though taking your bows in the same shredded pants that people associated with the rampaging, monstrous Hulk isn't the greatest visual.)

If you were one of the many innocents who suffered financial loss or had their lives otherwise destroyed by the man-monster, tough cookies--though to be fair, your grievance is with the Hulk, and not the man who was for all intents and purposes a helpless bystander (albeit willingly living the life of a fugitive, rather than turning himself in). To Banner's credit, he only wishes now to return to a life of research and isn't seeking to be more visible on the hero circuit.

That's not to say he's averse to a truckload of ticker tape and applause along the way.

Writer Bill Mantlo pulls out all the stops for this commemorative issue which follows on the heels of the Hulk's White House ceremony and features every hero that guest-artist Mark Gruenwald can pack into it--an assembly that rivals the cattle-call we saw during the Defenders membership drive.

Regardless of the wording of the sign which sets the stage, the purpose of the special ceremony at which the Hulk is the Guest of Honor isn't to honor the Hulk so much as it is to honor his newfound freedom--or, rather, that of Bruce Banner, though all who have assembled here no doubt want to see the Hulk have his day in the limelight, which has been a long time coming for those who have been closest to his struggle.

(What's with popping your claws, Wolverine? Are you photo-bombing the Guest of Honor?)

It goes without saying that Ross personally appealed to the President not to consider a pardon for the Hulk--so the fact that he bites his tongue here is noteworthy, though he couches his words as a warning clearly enough. We know in hindsight that this entire day's events will amount to nothing, as Ross probably knows better than most.

For now, there are a number of testimonials and presentations scheduled, with no shortage of costumed (and selected non-costumed) well-wishers.

If you're aghast at a man like Stephen Strange throwing caution to the wind and certifying that the Hulk is gone for good, you probably have plenty of company. He'll also go on to totally misread the Scarlet Witch's pregnancy--though luckily for him, he likely won't have to worry about being sued by either party for medical malpractice. That may not hold true for others, thanks to announcing himself as Banner's personal physician to both the crowds and the press--and in the process, opening the floodgates to a tsunami of publicity for himself, something he's always made it a point to avoid.

And then there's the statue of the Hulk, unveiled by the Thing at the ceremony but which would soon be consigned to a future standing in storage at some nondescript warehouse.

And talk about being given the royal treatment:

As for others making their way to the dais to offer their congratulations, Mantlo and Gruenwald picked a few to spotlight that were head-scratchers to me in terms of their association with the Hulk (e.g., Shamrock, Defensor, and Blitzkrieg)--while the Silver Surfer, whose escape from Earth is yet to come, chooses not to overstay his welcome.

(Gee, Surfer, you might have thought to ask the Inhumans if you could hitch a ride with Lockjaw.)

As for the appearance of the Watcher, it makes sense that he would bestow to the Hulk the most meaningful gesture to mark this occasion. And unlike Strange, the Watcher knows how to curtail unwanted publicity.

I thought having Willie Lumpkin helping to deliver a few sackfuls of congratulatory mail was pushing it, but it's difficult if not impossible to regard Willie's appearances as anything but treasured. Finally, though, the time comes to bring the day's events to a close; yet Mantlo provides an ending to this story which makes it clear that the Hulk has fallen short of gaining everything he wanted.

Oh, Reed. Open mouth, insert foot.

Incredible Hulk #279

Script: Bill Mantlo
Pencils: Mark Gruenwald
Inks: Greg LaRocque
Letterer: Janice Chiang


Tiboldt said...

I don't want to sound critical of Alicia Masters but that is one boring statue.

If you're going to create a sculpture of the Hulk, I'd suggest the Steranko pose.

Big Murr said...

It's hard keeping a straight face reading this. The vantage point of hindsight is impossible to ignore.

In a measly 21 issues after all this over-the-top ballyhoo, the Hulk is at the other end of the spectrum, even more monstrous than ever before. As you note a few times, so many of these superheroes have been personally involved with "cures" for Bruce Banner and seen them go sour. To state flatly "this time for sure!" makes them sound like 100% maroons.

I'm going to go read that issue #300 now. It was a dandy.

Comicsfan said...

That it was, Murray.

If I'm thinking of the same Steranko pose, Tiboldt, it was a pretty angry one! Maybe that wasn't the impression that Alicia wanted to give of the kinder, just-pardoned Hulk. (Or maybe it was Mr. Gruenwald's first statue and he just needed a little more practice.)

Killdumpster said...

It didn't matter. Statue, parade, pardon, etc. I knew we were being set up. Call me a cynic, but I was right.

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