Monday, January 6, 2020

Thing vs. ... Hulk!?

Happy New Year, everyone! What do you say we all kick some derrière in 2020?

And to start things off, let's look in on two of the biggest butt-kickers around:

The Incredible Hulk, in his role as Vegas enforcer Joe Fixit--and Dr. Doom, who is looking to regain his throne in Latveria from his young protégé, Kristoff Vernard, who has been programmed by Doom himself as part of a contingency plan to believe he is Doom. Unfortunately, that programming was a little too thorough, since Kristoff now rules Latveria and has no intention of relinquishing his position to someone he believes to be an impostor--circumstances which force the real Doom to seek out help in deposing him.

Naturally, the Hulk Fixit responds to the request with his customary decorum:

While Doom is in no mood for any displays of force other than his own:

And so with Fixit's grudging acquiescence, Doom explains the situation with Kristoff; but despite Doom's assurance of his eventual triumph, Fixit really doesn't have any use for what Doom is offering--particularly when he can write his own ticket in Las Vegas and answers to no one but his mob boss, Mike Berengetti, who provides him with plenty of outlets for indulging his hair-trigger temper, as well as, needless to say, plenty of perks.

Which leaves Doom turning to Plan B: psychology.

Now if Fixit gave even a minute's thought to what Doom was proposing, he'd realize that the Thing, a member of the Fantastic Four, has even less reason to cooperate with Doom; and if he'd thought about it even more, he may have come to realize that Doom is playing him like a violin. But writer Steve Englehart and artists Keith Pollard and Joe Sinnott have a power-packed story to get rolling, and so Fixit snaps at the bait like a trout and heads for New York City.

But what is Doom's real game here? To find out, you're going to need to buckle those seat belts, ladies and gentlemen, as the PPC brings you the thirty-year anniversary of this no-holds-barred, knock-down drag-out featuring the Thing vs. the Hulk, in a cover-to-cover battle issue where the odds this time aren't favoring the latter. But from the looks of this fight's brutal first hit, do you think a bruiser like Joe Fixit gives a rat's behind about the odds?

As we've already heard, Doom's plan in part is to bring the Hulk and the Thing together in battle, and he's correct when he mentions the advantage in strength the Thing has gained from his recent mutation which has also affected his appearance--while by comparison the gray Hulk, smaller in height and weight than his predecessor, has roughly three-quarters of the green Hulk's strength and whose power doesn't increase proportionately with his anger at the same level it once did. That said, Fixit still easily qualifies to be in this fight, and I'm certainly not about to count him out; but given how the Thing brushes off a 100-story plummet to the street from the roof of Four Freedoms Plaza, Fixit learns soon enough the kind of powerhouse he's up against.

With Fixit keeping mum as to his true identity in order to preserve his anonymity, we're deprived of the wisecracks and barbs that he and a man like Ben Grimm would normally trade with each other in such a brawl; even so, the thoughts we pick up from Fixit adequately keep this fight from playing out too verbally one-sided for the reader, though you would think that the Thing would be more curious about not only who his opponent is but why he attacked in the first place.

Instead, the Thing is left to compare his foe to the Hulk--which is understandable, since he's not far wrong!

It goes without saying that Pollard's artistry here is off the hook, pacing this battle beautifully while keeping each character in it to win. At this point it's still even money as to who will come out on top, even considering that, when it comes to Marvel, it's a rare day when that's allowed to happen; but other than ourselves, there is one other spectator who's showing interest in this struggle, a canny manipulator who is convinced of his own success here whatever the result.

It's anyone's guess why Doom believes that the Hulk will be obliged to help him against Kristoff, given that no bargain whatsoever was struck between them--but arrogance is a Von Doom trait, to be sure.

As for the Hulk, he has every reason to believe he's still in this fight--but in its closing moments, it becomes apparent that not only is the Thing indeed different than the opponent he's met in battle before, but he's failed to take into account that his own different makeup might have played more of a factor here than he was prepared to admit.

Game, set, and, most likely, match, all things considered. The Thing's roundhouse left was nothing to sneeze at even in his previous state--here, added to his final raining of blows which served to soften up his foe sufficiently to deliver what could easily be seen as this battle's coup de grâce.

Yet none of us could have likely predicted the startling turn of events that occurs just as the Thing is about to cement his well-earned victory--a sight that surprises even his groggy foe, and well it should!

Just what is going ON here!?
(Would you believe it has something to do with the Eternals?)

This story's eye-catching cover, by Ron Frenz and Joe Sinnott.

Fantastic Four #320

Script: Steve Englehart
Pencils: Keith Pollard
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: John Workman (as Jay Workman)


Anonymous said...

Doctor Doom currently has his own book, Doctor Doom...and #4 is on sale now!! (I've got the Marvel Comics app which keeps me in touch with what's happening in the Marvel Universe).

Big Murr said...

I never much cared for either this mutated Thing or the grey Hulk, but this slam-bang was an opportunity to use the incarnations to good advantage.

It took far too long in my naive youth to finally understand this cross-over combats would never have a clear victor. A veteran fan can only read these battle stories with the hope the twist that prevents there being a winner is cleverly done. After a rollicking rough housing sequence.

Super-Duper ToyBox said...

Great post- I'm with Big Murr on this one. Lotsa fun!

Comicsfan said...

Colin, I've been pleasantly surprised by the Doom series that I've seen published over the years. I suppose if there's any villain that can headline a series and be moderately successful at it, it would have to be our good doctor, as long as the writer doesn't take the character for granted.

Murray, stay tuned--there just might be "a clear victor" in this contest, after all (and I'm not referring to the one named Von Doom)!

Super-Duper, thanks! That's the goal here, after all. ;)