Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Worst Of Both Worlds

Even Tony Stark can become gridlocked on the Long Island Expressway. Traffic jams happen all the time, usually caused by breakdowns or some kind of accident. Unfortunately, in Tony's case, this particular accident happens to be--man-made.

If those brave law enforcement officers were smart, they'd let the Hulk enjoy his meal and move on. But since situations with the Hulk have a way of escalating, it's perhaps prudent to take precautions. And that goes for a certain businessman who finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Oh, you didn't think Stark was going to be let off the hook that easily, did you?

Milk may do a body good, but it's lousy for chopper pilots who need to see their target--leaving no one to deal with this dangerous situation now but Iron Man. But when this skirmish is over, Stark may have a chance to help rid Bruce Banner of his curse forever--that is, assuming the Hulk leaves his armored alter-ego in one piece!

During this story, David Michelinie continues his successful scripting on the book, with inker Bob Layton also staying on while penciller Jerry Bingham steps in for John Romita Jr., who's taking a break from the mag and would return in about ten months. Layton's strong influence can usually be seen with whatever artist he works with, and his continued presence while Bingham fills in helps to give a smooth appearance of continuity to Iron Man, a book which has received a great deal of praise for the change in direction and tone which Michelinie and Romita brought to the table. Layton would go on to handle full art chores on the book once Bingham finishes his brief run; and his covers for both issues of this Iron Man/Hulk story should give you a fair idea of the quality he offers, not only as an artist but as a co-plotter.

As for Iron Man, he, too, finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, as the Hulk--thanks to the intervention of the military--is now in no mood to listen to words laced with tact and diplomacy.

Artillery is then used against the Hulk by police officers, which only ends up endagering innocent motorists trapped at the scene. Fortunately for everyone, a small boy, who thinks the Hulk is the coolest, manages to approach him and calm him by playing games with (what else?) action figures--which makes Iron Man's job that much easier.

And so a youngster sets in motion a possible turning point for Bruce Banner, as Stark makes a decision to work with the man, rather than against the monster.

It's not all smooth sailing, with Banner having an awkward encounter with Stark's stalwart executive secretary, Mrs. Arbogast--but eventually the two men get down to business, with Banner already having done some preliminary work that handily makes way for Stark to lend his expertise.

We can only hope that Stark takes a closer look at Banner's train of thought, since things have usually ended disastrously when Banner thinks from the hip in terms of a solution to his problem. But engineers can sometimes be caught up in seeing a design to completion and working out bugs along the way, rather than looking down the road first. And so before you know it, Stark is ready to bring on board laser surgeon Dr. Erica Sondheim to implant the finished device into Banner's chest--and the time comes for testing its effectiveness.

The room launches enough disturbing imagery to trigger Banner's transformation, had Stark's device not been present to regulate Banner's heartbeat--and so it would seem congratulations are in order. Yet Dr. Sondheim understands the difference between one lab test and making a hasty leap to declare a project's success. So do officers of the military, who swoop in like vultures and prove that lousy timing can apply to anyone.

Still, we only have to worry about Dr. Banner's injuries from the explosion and nothing--that is to say, no one--else, right? Wrong--because the difference between a lab test and testing in the field becomes apparent when an angry, rage-filled voice pierces the dust, revealing that the Hulk strides the Earth once more!

Though we may have to redefine the term "hulk."

Yikes--it's the incredible Banner! (And you certainly won't hear Iron Man complaining.)

The slug-fest we've been waiting for! Iron Man vs. the Hulk!

Invincible Iron Man #131

Script: David Michelinie
Pencils: Jerry Bingham
Inks: Bob Layton
Letterer: Diana Albers

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