Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In The Future Waits--My Executioner!

When the Hulk began sharing half of those old Tales To Astonish stories, things were not only going well for the Hulk--they were going pretty well for readers, too. The Hulk was actually getting a lot more action and development than he did in the six issues of his first regular (and cancelled) series--and an array of art talent was stepping on board to detail his adventures, in an assortment of constantly changing layout/finisher combinations that had you wondering how many desks at Marvel his pages were being shuffled across.

I didn't start getting into those old stories until I read a copy of the fourth Hulk annual, which was bascially one big reprint issue featuring the Hulk stories from Tales To Astonish #s 75-77. The Hulk had finally reached a turning point with the military--thanks to Rick Jones, who, assuming that Bruce Banner was dead (and had died a traitor), was on the verge of revealing that the Hulk and Bruce Banner were the same person. (Jones finally did spill the truth to Major Talbot.) The Hulk, meanwhile, was very much alive and on his way to Washington in the mistaken belief that Rick was in trouble there.

And there's even more to take in. It seems that Banner, in his off-hours, had designed something called a "T-Gun," which the military decided to go ahead and build in order to then have General Ross's unit investigate just what the heck it was supposed to do. It's then that Ross gets word that the Hulk is approaching Washington (and making a beeline for the White House)--and so he decides to test the T-Gun by moving it there and having it ready to fire once the Hulk makes his landing.

Is your head spinning yet? Good, because it gets better! It turns out the "T" in T-Gun stands for "time"--that's right, Banner had theorized that a sudden blast which altered the light waves around a person could send them into a different time. (You'd think he would have scribbled a little thing like that somewhere in the margins of his designs, wouldn't you?) Unfortunately, the trigger-happy military wasn't willing to wait for a lengthy analysis, and so the Hulk is fired on and gets sent to the future--a decimated Earth where survivors are under siege by the "Evil One."

And just take a guess who that turns out to be!

Of course, by now, we're asking all sorts of questions about the Executioner: (1) why the heck is he attacking a planet that's already pretty much a lost cause; (2) when did Asgardians switch from using horses and instead start using tripods; and (3) has Thor just washed his hands of Earth? But in the meantime, we've got a very angry Hulk, along with a very arrogant Executioner, squaring off:

Meanwhile, Ross has a lot of explaining to do to his superiors: essentially, what the heck has happened to the green target he opened fire on? And Ross's dressing down takes place in this wonderful scene, where not only does the top brass storm in demanding answers, but which also has Ross pushing right back:

But there's another fight just getting cranked up. A battle between the Executioner and the Hulk is oddly one I never would have thought of--yet it seems like a fine match-up on paper, doesn't it? I don't see the Executioner quite on the same level as Hercules--but if he makes up for that by being more ruthless and brutal, so much the better. As it happens, a lot of this fight is going to be made up of blustering, which tends to make for a more enjoyable read.

The Hulk is certainly talking a good fight, but it looks like he's mainly on the receiving end of the Executioner's attack. It also looks like Asgard has traded their swords for technology:

But despite the Hulk's growing anger, the Executioner returns his attention to attacking the citadel of the humans he wants to lay waste to--humans who aren't without their own scientific weaponry, but really no match for the Asgardians (who appear to have been reading a lot of H.G. Wells):

Finally, though, the Hulk refuses to stand by at the slaughter, and he routs the Executioner's forces. Which doesn't please the man himself:

But it's then that the effects of Banner's T-Gun wear off, and the Hulk is returned to his own time. Of course, thanks to Rick, the cat's out of the bag as far as the Hulk's true identity is concerned--again, a good thing for the character. The Hulk is really on the move now, eventually toward another crack at his own series.

Tales To Astonish #77

Script: Stan Lee
Layouts: Jack Kirby
Pencils and Inks: John Romita
  (with panels from #76 by Scott Edward and Mickey Demeo)
Letterer: Sam Rosen (with Artie Simek from #76)

From a special pin-up, here's some of that awesome art talent from those early days:


Anonymous said...

Great post, C.F.
I really enjoyed it! Always in the mood for a classic Hulk pin-up!

Anonymous said...

The Hulk's voice doesn't sound right here,he's too intelligent - where's his "Hulk smash !" voice, that's the real Hulk !