Monday, October 6, 2014

Colonel Talbot's Last Stand!


We've reached the final part of our look at the career of Maj. Glenn Talbot, the young security officer who joined General "Thunderbolt" Ross's command and thus became involved in Ross's efforts to deal with the incredible Hulk. Since that pivot in his career, it's been a long and tragic road for him. Almost immediately, he became enamored with the general's daughter, Betty; and since Betty was involved with Bruce Banner, the man who would be discovered to be the Hulk, to say that Talbot had a conflict of interest would be an understatement. For how do you go about winning the woman you love while doggedly hunting the man she loves?

But since part of Ross's mission was to help to cure Banner whenever he was in a position to do so, Talbot had some breathing room as far as staying close to Betty. And Banner's life as the Hulk also helped in keeping him sufficiently away from Betty, if not out of her life--for even as the Hulk, Betty stood by Banner in a kind of holding pattern, never giving up hope that the two of them could one day be together again. And Talbot could only bide his time.

When the Hulk was presumed dead at one time, things began to happen at a rapid pace for Talbot. Seeing his way clear to Betty, he proposed marriage, and she accepted. The reports of the Hulk's death, of course, turned out to be premature; still, Talbot's marriage seemed to be on a steady foundation, even when Betty discovered that Banner was still alive. Then came the capture of General Ross by the Russians, which led to a rescue attempt by Col. Armbruster and Talbot. Ross was freed in the raid on the Russian facility, but Talbot was shot and presumed dead. He would later stun everyone by appearing again, alive and well; but he'd been brainwashed and implanted with a bomb to assassinate the U.S. President. The attempt failed--but with the bomb's explosion, there was no doubt this time of Talbot's death.

Soon, though, it was discovered that the man who'd died wasn't Talbot, but someone surgically altered to resemble him--and that Talbot was being held at a Russian installation. Another raid was launched--and when Talbot was found, it was revealed that Talbot's conscious mind had been transferred to the agent who had exploded in the assassination attempt, while the mind of the agent had been transferred to Talbot's body. In the escape with Talbot, the Russian's mind was destroyed to avoid state secrets from being compromised.

Still with me? To make a long story short, Talbot's subconscious was salvaged, and Talbot was able to assume his own identity once again. But this man had obviously gone through hell, and he found himself in no shape to immediately pick up the pieces of his life. And so he took a leave of absence, from both his career and from Betty; while Betty, taking her own break, discovered an independence she found that she liked. Soon after, she asked for and was granted a divorce from Talbot, who was gracious on the surface but began to blame both the Hulk and Bruce Banner for his troubles. That led to now-Colonel Talbot taking command of Ross's base while Ross was on medical leave, and launching an all-out attack on the Hulk--an attack which failed and left Gamma Base in near-ruin. Consequently, the government viewed the base as a failure and withdrew its funding, effectively shutting it down--well, what was left of it.

Talbot, to put it mildly, is not a happy man once the dust settles. But, bereft of weapons, soldiers, or a base of operations, what are his options at this point?

Just one:


WAR.



We pick things up as Congresswoman Messinger arrives at Gamma Base to oversee its decommissioning. With the general mood of the base personnel, Messinger receives a rather cold welcome. But the base's former commander is there to offer words far more blunt:



As is evident, the Congresswoman doesn't mince words, and is equally blunt with her response. Colonel Talbot, however, is conspicuously absent; but when the complex is shaken by a sudden rumbling, Talbot makes it clear that he, at least, is not quite out of the Hulkbusting business--not by a long shot. Though his actions demonstrate a thin line between duty and treason.





The "War Wagon" is a little disappointing in design by artist Sal Buscema, in light of how spoiled we've become by former artist Herb Trimpe's impeccable military ordnance renderings. By the way, has anyone told Leonard Samson that he wouldn't have authority to bark out orders to base personnel, even if the base was up and running?

And so Talbot begins his last hunt for the Hulk--and while he's tracking, assisted by the War Wagon's A.I. known as "Brain," we get to see something of the Wagon's capabilities in combat:





Finally, while the Hulk is in Japan, Talbot is able to pick up his trail again. Unfortunately, in his obsession, the site he picks for battle puts the entire region in danger:





In this battle, Talbot bears little resemblance to the man we've come to know in this series of posts. There is no sense of duty here, no concern of stopping the Hulk for the good of the U.S. or the world; instead, we see only a man pushed to his breaking point. And where Talbot the tactician might have a chance of succeeding, we see here a man impatient with tactics and who wants to use all the firepower available to him to destroy his target.




"Brain" might make a fine addition to our recent list of loyal A.I.s. But Talbot isn't interested in loyalty right now, just results--and he proceeds to throw everything he has at the Hulk, with no regard to the level of destruction that escalates along with the fight.





Yet Talbot, like most of the Hulk's foes, has reckoned without the Hulk's ability to see a rise in his strength and resistance as his rage increases--and Talbot's relentless assault is now triggering that process. Despite the War Wagon's power, it will prove to be a tactical error on Talbot's part; but, again, this battle has as little to do with by-the-numbers military tactics as it does with altruism. As a result, this will prove to be not be the Hulk's last stand, but Talbot's.







No doubt Talbot's death serves to close the book on the long history of Gamma Base, f/k/a Hulkbuster Base, f/k/a Project Greenskin or "Mobile Combat Force One" (though Leonard Samson wasn't quite done with it). It also brings both Betty Ross and Glenn Talbot full circle, the two being so closely tied to the base and its purpose. Looking back to the base's inception, it conveys a sense of tragedy to Talbot's final actions--a man who now seemed as trapped in the life of the Hulk as Bruce Banner.



But Talbot's final fate also brings closure to Betty Ross, who receives news of his death and has a moment of clarity in regard to her long relationship with Banner:



Talbot received a considerable amount of attention for what amounted to a recurring character in the pages of Incredible Hulk--most of that time, as stated previously, spent as the man who waited to step into Betty's life if her relationship with Banner finally crumbled. Even when he was struggling to recover from his treatment by the Russians, it frankly never occurred to me that he would go rogue and take matters into his own hands as far as dealing with the Hulk. For the sake of his story, and the consistency of his character thus far, I'd felt it would have suited him better to go out with more dignity, rather than as a raving lunatic who pretty much trashed his successful military career. Yet, once the damage to his mind was done, there seemed to be no hope for the direction his character would take from that point on--and the wreckage of the War Wagon would have to serve as Glenn Talbot's epitaph.

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