Friday, January 11, 2013

The Monster, The Madman, and The TKO

Remember the good old days when Dr. Doom faced his enemies mano-a-mano? No Doombots standing in for him--no augmented power siphoned from someone else--just Doom's pure science and ruthlessness against the grim determination and fortitude exhibited by whatever hero faced off with him. And that's what fans got in this first match-up between Doom and none other than the incredible Hulk:

Only in the Hulk's case, instead of determination and fortitude we got rage and, well, rage. Given the position the good Doctor was in, I don't think he was going to quibble about the difference.

It was actually the Hulk's alter ego, Bruce Banner, whom Doom encountered in Part One of this story, while Banner was on the run and out of options. Doom offered Banner sanctuary--and, at the right moment, sedated him and put him under the influence of his subliminal inducer in the hopes of controlling Banner and, though him, the Hulk. Latveria, the postage-stamp country that Doom ruled, was at the time beset by other nations that wanted to eliminate its threat or just simply annex it--and so Doom, thinking big as always, was going to turn the tables on them by using the Hulk's might to assist him in invading all of Europe. In addition, through Banner he could harness the power of the gamma bomb as a weapon of mass destruction.

But Doom had a weak point in the form of the woman he loved, Valeria, who felt similarly toward him but was suspicious of Doom's ambitions. Realizing the danger to innocent people, she freed Banner from the inducer's influence and thus foiled a test Doom had arranged of the Hulk acting as a delivery mechanism for a gamma bomb strike on foreign troops. Once the bomb had detonated in a remote area, the Hulk returned to face Doom:

Though more brief than Doom's classic battle with the Thing, and less replete with Doom's advanced personal weaponry, you can't help but be reminded of that earlier battle in his engagement of the Hulk--his expectations of science overcoming brawn, and his complete confidence in eventual victory over what he considers a simple-minded opponent. Yet where the Thing prevailed by simply refusing to go down, the Hulk's might makes Doom's defenses seem nonexistent:

But Doom is also handicapped by his concern for Valeria, who is left to fend for herself in the midst of falling rubble and debris which the battle unleashes. In seeing to her safety, Doom leaves himself open to the Hulk's advance on him. And when the Hulk encloses Doom in a deadly vise, he brings this fight to a swift conclusion:

Aside from his battle with the Over-Mind, I can't recall when Doom was ever decisively put down in a knock-down drag-out. Frankly, I thought if anyone could or would pull it off, it would be the Hulk. The Hulk I remember only grows bored with fighting when the fight is over, not while his enemy is still threatening him. He wouldn't care a whit about Doom's pride--the Hulk would smash. But what the Hulk does here is the same thing that Thor did when his own battle with Doom had run its course. And Doom reacts here in the same way he did then, with a "this fight's not over until I say it's over" approach:

From a reader's perspective, it seems clear that we're meant to focus more on the drama playing out with Doom and Valeria, particularly since we find Valeria right in the midst of this battle when any other person would be scurrying for cover. And indeed, for anyone who's followed the on-again off-again story of Doom and Valeria, it really is a fascinating dynamic between the two in this story, just as it was in the others--and it's difficult to see how a story involving Doom and the Hulk could be stretched into a two-part story otherwise, even with Banner playing a prominent role. Valeria, if memory serves, does not have a pleasant end to her story when she and Doom eventually settle things between them. But one running theme which seems to recur in their meetings is that Doom is who he is--and we see that again here when he waves off her care and concern in favor of re-engaging the Hulk, even though his prime concern during the fight seemed to be seeing to her safety.

As for the Hulk, perhaps he walked away from the battle for as simple a reason as not wanting to kill--and stopping short of killing is behavior he often exhibited under writer Roy Thomas's tenure on the book.  At the end of this story, Thomas had the additional excuse of the Hulk taking pity on the relationship between Doom and Valeria.  And that's all well and good--but given this issue's cover, the ferocity of the Hulk, and the guile and weapons of Dr. Doom, weren't we all hoping for more than a TKO here?

Incredible Hulk #144

Script: Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich
Pencils: Dick Ayers
Inks: John Severin
Letterer: Artie Simek

1 comment:

Murray said...

(hurried bit of historical research)

Whew. As a fan of Thor, I'm relieved to see that the thunder god barely broke a sweat smacking down Doom a good ten issues before Hulk.

It's a little squiffy how similar both "fights" are in brevity and finish. It made much more sense for Thor to accomplish his mission and not really give two burps about finishing Doom. Thor has a temper, but he also has that noblesse oblige that comes with godhood.

Hulk, as you suggest, should have squeezed out a long trail of Von Doom toothpaste from that armour.