Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Keystone Kops, Killer Clowns, and--Rocket Raccoon!

Now that the first trailer for Guardians Of The Galaxy is making the rounds, let's take a little trip back to May, 1982. It's the 20th anniversary of The Incredible Hulk--and writer Bill Mantlo and artist Sal Buscema are celebrating it by reintroducing us to Mantlo's new creation:

Yes, it's the second appearance of Rocket Raccoon, continued his adventures from a backup feature in a separate magazine. And on an alien planet called Halfworld, in the Keystone Quadrant, Rocket and his first mate, Wal Russ, have stumbled upon (well, there's no other way to say it) the incredible.

The characters of Rocket's story are zany and almost always in crisis mode, and Mantlo has us hitting the ground running. And once the Hulk revives and becomes accustomed to his new companions, we get whirlwind introductions to everyone we need to know about. First, hastening Rocket and his crew's departure aboard their ship, the "Rakk 'n' Ruin," are the members of the local constabulary (though please don't assume that term is any indication of their level of competence).

As for the Keystone Quadrant itself, Rocket describes both Halfworld as well as the massive wall which surrounds the entire quadrant.

And the villain of our story? An evil corporate power monger who's after the quadrant's greatest treasure, the Gideon Bible:

It's then that the story immediately kicks in, with Judson Jakes attacking Rocket's stronghold (Cuckoo's Nest) and making off with both the Gideon Bible and Rocket's girlfriend, Lylla. And Rocket spells out the stakes for the Hulk, hoping that he'll decide to throw in with him.

What will the Hulk decide??

And why are you asking such a silly question?

The "Rakk 'n' Ruin" heads for Judson Jakes' own stronghold in the quadrant, Spacewheel, where Jakes has summoned his resident genius, Uncle Pyko, to discover the secrets of Gideon's Bible:

Jakes has predicted Rocket's reaction correctly, as the mammal approaches Spacewheel. But the "Rakk 'n' Ruin" discovers a reception committee that's both deadly and, believe it or not, amusing.


And once the Hulk is geared for outer space battle, he and Rocket launch into the void to make sure these clowns don't have the last laugh:

Once the clowns are dealt with, the Hulk gains them entry into Spacewheel as only he can. And the Hulk will definitely come in handy again, when the pair encounter another deadly nemesis.

Rocket will unfortunately have to face Jakes and the rest of this battle alone, though, because the Hulk has found a ticket back to Earth--with the eager assistance of Uncle Pyko, who is only too happy to have the Hulk looking at the Keystone Quadrant from a departure angle.

As for Rocket, he makes short work of Judson Jakes--and when Uncle Pyko appears, the Gideon Bible is returned, as demanded. Rocket suspects that Pyko is being a little too cooperative--and with good reason, since, unknown to Rocket and his group, Pyko has indeed deciphered the secrets of the Bible. A fact that he plans to keep to himself.

Rocket doesn't cross paths with the Hulk again--though if Hollywood producers have the good sense to combine the Avengers and the Guardians in one amazing blockbuster film, chances are that the Hulk will meet his furry, masked ally once more.  But aside from that, you know that we'd all pay good money to see the Killer Clowns explode onto the big screen.

Incredible Hulk #271

Script: Bill Mantlo
Pencils and Inks: Sal Buscema
Letterer: Jim Novak


Anonymous said...

I was a teenager and I had a subscription to The Incredible Hulk when this came out. I remember being fairly amused, even though I wasn't a big Beatles fan and only later got some of the inside jokes.
I would've never guessed Rocket Raccoon would someday take off, as he's poised to do after this next movie comes out.
We're gonna be up to our ears in Rocket Raccoon toys, people! He's gonna be everywhere! If you got a space ship, get in it, and leave the solar system! It's gonna look like The Trouble with Tribbles on this this planet next Christmas!

Edo Bosnar said...

Although they're not my Guardians (No Vance? No Nikki? No Charlie?! C'mon...), I'll admit that the trailer has me a bit intrigued. That's mainly because I love Drax and love Rocket even more. Maybe I'll give it a chance.

However, as far as Rocket is concerned, I think it would have been so much better to have done a fully animated feature that was faithful to Mantlo's original vision. Complete with Killer Clowns.

Comicsfan said...

Edo, not to mention Rocket's rocket footwear, which seems to be absent in the film. Where's the "rocket" now in Rocket Raccoon?

Anonymous said...

This story shows how talented Bill Mantlo was. But sadly, this was also the final issue of the old Hulk. After this story, Banner's brain took over Hulk's body. Later we saw the origin of the post-Secret Wars Hulk, leading up to the mindless Hulk that gradually gained his intelligence back, even if his personality seemed somewhat changed from the old green giant. Then he returned to earth, and John Byrne decided it was a good idea to physically split Banner and Hulk into two separate bodies, making Hulk even more mindless. Later they fused again, and when Rick Jones absorbed some of his radiation, he became the grey Hulk. All later returns of the green Hulk after that have even less in common with the Hulk from the Sal Buscema run (especially the live action movies seems to have been mostly inspired by the Lou Ferrigno version). For me the Len Wein, ROger Stern and Bill Mantlo run is what defines Hulk. The Peter David run, especially with Dale Keown as an artist and to some degree Todd McFarlane, also has its strengths, even if it is a different Hulk.
Some recent incarnations have so little in common with the original character other than the look, origin and name, that they could just as well just have used a new character. And I must admit that I have a strong dislike for the Ultimate Marvel Hulk.
I preferred the misunderstood giant who lived his life as a drifter, experiencing adventures, making friends and touching other peoples' lives as both Hulk and Banner, and who would do anything to help those he cared about.

dbutler16 said...

How could so much awesomeness be contained in one issue. It's too bad Rocket wouldn't make another appearance for 3 years.

Although I grew up with the original Guardians, Rocket's Guardians are pretty cool, too.