Saturday, November 23, 2013

My Client, The Hulk

The two-issue story of Incredible Hulk where the man-monster is put on trial was a development that didn't invite any reasonable scrutiny. After all, it was common knowledge that Bruce Banner and the Hulk were one and the same, and that Banner was effectively suppressed while the Hulk was on the rampage or otherwise wreaking havoc--so if you press charges against the Hulk, what of Banner's guilt or innocence? If you prosecute the Hulk for his acts, how do you effectively absolve Banner? And if the Hulk is found guilty, how do you spare Banner his sentencing?

In legal terms, I suppose you could conclude that the Hulk wasn't mentally competent to stand trial, and such proceedings would thus be rendered unrealistic. The Hulk, after all, would have no knowledge or interest in participating in any human judicial process, much less tolerating whatever judgment the humans would have for him; nor would he be likely to understand the reasons why he was in a court of law. So this process going forward reads rather rushed, stemming from an inexplicable and sudden initiative from Washington (specifically the White House) to have the Hulk captured and prosecuted for conspiracy to destroy public property and endanger human lives.

Which raises a question: After all this time of sanctioning the military to deal with the Hulk, why the sudden interest in bringing the Hulk to court? Why the about-face from seeking to cure Banner--the very purpose of Project: Greenskin, a facility for which so many tax dollars were spent?

We never do get any answers, as this story just bulldozes ahead. First there's the effort by General "Thunderbolt" Ross to capture and secure the Hulk, and have him transported to New York. Which begs more questions. Ross had been kept in the dark as to the intention to put the Hulk on trial--why? And why have Captain America present to view the Hulk's capture? Even Cap seems confused by it. At any rate, the capture of the Hulk has resulted in the switch back to Banner, and Banner is even allowed to lawyer up and prepare for his defense.

And guess which sight-impaired lawyer/hero gets the dubious honor of defending the Hulk?

Unfortunately, Banner is kept so sedated that he's of little help to his counsel. Though there's not much help you can give a man who already thinks he's lost:

Murdock makes the miscalculation of insisting that his client be taken off his sedation in order to confer with him, which inevitably results in the reappearance of the Hulk; but he's recaptured with the aid of a weapon designed by Reed Richards, who was on hand with the rest of the FF at the JFK airport. Only this time, the Hulk doesn't transform again to Banner--and so the story ends up with exactly the result it seemed to want, the prosecution of the Hulk.

From the beginning of the proceedings, there appears to be a bias against the Hulk--particularly from the judge, who, like the story itself, seems determined to move things along and deflect any efforts by Murdock to assert the rights of his client. Even during voir dire, it's clear that Murdock has an uphill battle ahead of him:

And so the trial itself begins, with defense counsel unable to confer with his client throughout (and who would likely get nowhere, even if he could):

Since he's stuck with the Hulk as his client, Murdock decides to take the approach of showing another side to the brute's bestial nature by calling on other super-powered witnesses to vouch for him. But the prosecution can easily deflect any help the Avengers may offer:

Obviously the prosecutor didn't hear the part about "just recently" (a reference to Avengers #100)--but, again, the story also pays it no heed and forges ahead, with Murdock and Iron Man taking another shot at it:

Finally, Murdock has only one witness to call, a witness with testimony the prosecution can have no reasonable objection to:

Following would normally be closing arguments. But Reed Richards appears with a device which may render the reaching of a verdict moot:

Once Reed has the judge's approval--which in itself is a minor miracle, given how things have been going for Murdock--he fires the device before the Hulk can react. Yet, instead of having the desired effect, it seems this trial is going to have one less defendant in a moment:

To my knowledge, the events of this story have never been followed up on, which leaves the impression that little thought was given to it beyond its premise. A federal trial, where its brutish defendant breaks free, and the matter is dropped? The White House gives a shrug and that's that? Even its title, "The World, My Jury!", is far off the mark and somewhat over-dramatic, given that the only sense of reaction we have outside the courtroom is in the form of newspaper coverage and a few protesters--and, curiously, we never even get a glimpse of the actual jurors.  For his part, I'm sure the Hulk doesn't give this "trial" a second thought--which, considering the merits of this thrown-together story, might be good advice for the rest of us.

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