Friday, August 29, 2014

An Officer And A Gentleman

When we last left Glenn Talbot, he'd settled into his new position as Security Chief under General "Thunderbolt" Ross's command. Major Talbot definitely hit the ground running, first by beginning an investigation into Bruce Banner's connection to the Hulk and, later, managing to be on the scene to capture the Hulk after he'd collapsed following a battle. Talbot seems to be a rising star, alright--not only impressing his commanding officer, but also making inroads with Ross's daughter, Betty.

Of course, it's difficult to keep your sweetheart interested when you live a double life as the incredible Hulk, so Talbot has practically a clear field with Betty, appealing to her better judgment and working to get past her steadfast love toward Banner. And as we see in subsequent issues, Talbot wastes little time, pouncing at every opportunity to take advantage of Banner's misfortunes:

Banner has had a time of it lately--not only believed to be a Communist spy, but also taking a bullet to the head in a recent altercation with armed soldiers and presumed to be dead (though we can peek out that window and realize that he survived, thanks to, of all people, the Leader). And because Banner has been pronounced dead, it becomes harder for Rick Jones to justify keeping Banner's secret of being the Hulk--especially when the truth might help to clear Banner's name.

In the meantime, the Hulk, in attempting to save Rick from incarceration, is blasted by a time displacement gun of Banner's invention and sent to the future, there to encounter and battle the Executioner. But Ross and Talbot only know the Hulk has disappeared, and are scrambling to locate him--while Betty, clearly still having feelings for Banner, has about had it with all the accusations being leveled against him, and had it as well with Talbot's persistence at trying to move in.

And so the moment comes when Rick can bear the burden of secrecy no more. And guess which officer is there to offer his ear to bend?

To backtrack a little, let's join Rick as he's under fire from Ross, who, with Banner gone, has no choice but to grill Rick in order to get the answers to his questions about Banner and the Hulk. Rick now knows that Banner survived the bullet wound--but the incident with Banner's "T-Gun" once again has him believing that the Hulk was killed, and so he's back to facing a decision whether or not to tell what he knows about Banner and the Hulk. Obviously Rick's Avengers I.D. card carries little clout with Ross:

Left on his own, Rick returns to a familiar site--the cave where Banner retreated to as a sanctuary and makeshift lab, but, more importantly, endured many of his transformations to the Hulk in front of the confidant who had been with him from the beginning. For long-time Hulk readers, the panels that detail Rick's recollections serve as vivid and nostalgic reminders of the beginnings of one of Marvel's most promising characters, one who didn't initially catch on but whose tragic circumstances remained compelling.

The scenes also give Rick a degree of depth that he never experienced in his more high-profile time as a "hanger-on" with the Avengers, hoping for eventual membership (a concept which seems preposterous in hindsight). Still feeling a sense of responsibility--or is it loyalty by this point?--toward the man who has since become his friend, it's no wonder that Rick is torn between keeping Banner's secret or, in death, helping to clear his name once and for all. Leave it to Major Talbot to again be in the right place at the right time.

That whirlwind, unknown to Rick and Talbot, signifies the return of the Hulk to his own time--but more to the point, if you read between the lines, is that Talbot's efforts to become closer to Betty are now complicated by the possible return of his rival for her affections. So when the Hulk is sighted, and Talbot spearheads an all-out effort to capture him, it's difficult to tell whether it's more out of duty or his love for Betty. Perhaps it's more likely the former--but whether it is or not, that kind of dichotomy helps to make Talbot a more interesting character.

Now that Rick has divulged Banner's secret to the military, he unburdens himself completely by also informing Betty. With her romantic interest in Banner, seeing how Betty takes this news has been a scene long in coming, and her level of shock is understandable. But when Talbot bursts in with his own news, everyone is thrown into turmoil as we're brought full circle, and the excitement of this story is ramped up considerably.

Some time passes before these three revisit the issue of Banner and the Hulk. Having escaped an encounter with the Mole Man and Tyrannus, they find themselves transported back to the surface, where we discover the situation pretty much unchanged. They form quite the vicious circle on the subject.

Rick reads Talbot like a book, though it's not really animosity that we're seeing in him. All things considered, Talbot has treated Rick decently, even though his love for Betty makes him somewhat biased and drives him to pursue his duty regarding Banner (and the Hulk) with undue diligence and determination. So far, Talbot has done a good job of balancing his feelings with his job--but when Betty is taken by an operative of the Secret Empire known as Boomerang, Talbot's feelings for her are laid on the line for all to see.

Though Talbot would go on to carve out a respectable career under General Ross's command, it remains to be seen whether he'll be able to obtain his heart's desire while falling under the long shadow cast by both Banner and the Hulk. When we meet up with the Major again, we'll not only see an extra "n" added to his first name, but we'll fast-forward a bit to find him discovering that a life with Betty Ross isn't necessarily a life without Bruce Banner.

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