Thursday, March 4, 2021

Just Call "Him"... Paragon!


After the failure of the group that would later be named the Enclave to create a perfect, powerful human specimen to aid in their goal of world conquest, it stood to reason that these men would make another such attempt--assuming they survived the retribution delivered by the one named Him, who viewed them as evil and acted accordingly. Survive it, they did--and make it, they did, once they brought in a specialist to help make sure that this new creation didn't turn on them like the last. But what they didn't count on was that one very angry johnny-come-lately would turn out to be their specialist's backup!

It's the 1977 Incredible Hulk Annual, where a new form of life has again emerged within the sinister complex known as the Beehive. And, once again, we're left to ask: Is it friend, or foe?

(It's probably not feeling too friendly after being attacked by everybody.)

Of what use, we might ask, would Dr. Strange, the Master of the Mystic Arts, be to genetic scientists involved in an experiment of such consequence? Yet it's Dr. Stephen Strange, former surgeon, whose skills have been sought out, in order to monitor a crucial stage in the procedure.

Unknown to his hosts, Strange has sent a mental summons to the Hulk, an ocean away, which the green behemoth heeds--pursuing the mystic directional guidance that will lead him to the rebuilt facility which serves as the laboratory-base of operations of Morlak, Zota, and Shinsky. (Though the details of the Hulk's transit will have to wait, for now.)

Meanwhile, Strange prepares to undertake the duties he's agreed to perform for these men--and soon, the moment arrives, a moment which previously never came to fruition in a controlled environment but instead exploded out of control when Him, within his cocoon, sensed the evil intentions of those who created him and acted to stop them. Here, however, all goes as planned--and there is only Paragon, a model of creation which fulfills his creators' expectations.

Yet despite their elation, Morlak and the others are driven by the need for certainty of Paragon's loyalties in light of the disaster which befell their previous experiment. As a result, this time their creation's wrath is directed against someone else--a man who, despite his own power, nevertheless hopes for the arrival of some timely assistance.

It's obviously a good thing that writer (David Kraft) and artist (Herb Trimpe) disagree that a fatal command directive from Morlak must result in a fatality. Twice, Paragon has struck to kill, in accordance with his orders--yet Trimpe has seen to it that both Strange and the Hulk have virtually brushed themselves off and fought on. In lieu of an explanation from Kraft, so we're left to assume that in Strange's case, his magic has protected him--in the Hulk's, his strength. But as it turns out, neither will struggle against Paragon for long, since he has taken steps to ensure that the evil intent of these scientists is thwarted with his own rebirth.

It's clear that the future Enclave has sown the whirlwind in attempting to secure the means to fulfilling their mad ambitions. As for Paragon, he retreats, like Him before him, to the safety and isolation of his cocoon, there to ponder his future. Morlak and his associates, however, would appear to have little hope to explore future opportunities.

Yet we know in hindsight that these scientists survive to scheme another day--while Paragon's meditation leads him to seek out Him (the man we would come to know as Warlock) among the stars with the intention to mate with him in order to create the perfect race--a plan and a quest that would prove to be futile.

What kept you, Hulk??



Colin Jones said...

I first learned the word "paragon" due to this Hulk story. Who says comics aren't educational?

Big Murr said...

I thought this post explained the being I saw on covers of the Infinity Crusade back in the 90's. (I never read that mini-series "epic")

And after a somewhat dizzying ride on the comic spinner rack, I now understand that the golden female known as "the Goddess" is not this same golden female known as "Paragon/Her/J'Ridia Starduster/Ayesha/Subject 718".

And people give Hank Pym a hard time for multiple identities!!

Big Murr said...

On a separate track of idle speculation, comics are always rife with "Who is stronger?", "Who is faster?", etc. I always wonder who had the sharper medical reputation: Dr. Donald Blake or Dr. Stephen Strange? Being a biased Thor fan, I would vote for Dr. Blake. More objectively, Blake should get the nod because he was a practicing physician right up until his disappearance in 1983. With lengthy gaps when Thor visited the Black Galaxy and such quests, to be sure.

I wonder how different this story might have been if the Enclave trio had tapped Dr. Blake instead of Dr. Strange to do their surgical finessing? An outraged Thunder God dealing with Paragon or the Enclave instead of an outraged Master of the Mystic Arts and a bellowing Hulk?

Comicsfan said...

I would say it's a case of apples and oranges vis-à-vis Blake and Strange, Murray. Both acclaimed surgeons, yes--but while Blake would command more respect, admiration, and high regard among his peers, Strange's preoccupation with his "here's my bill for services rendered" approach during his days in the operating theater would tend to not only limit his work to only those who could afford him but also cast doubt on his level of commitment to his patients, which normally extends beyond the operation. Blake has amply demonstrated that there's more to being a dedicated physician than showing up for a surgical appointment; yet Strange himself in those days would have been the first to maintain that his asking price being met reflected the high demand on his surgical skills.

Colin, you won't get any argument from me, pal!

Anonymous said...

Does creating subservient super-beings ever work out for anybody? You'd think after two fiascos in a row the Enclave would hang it up for good, as far as that idea goes.
It's like your basic Frankenstein story, I guess, with some window dressing. I think we've all seen that in other comics as well. They all run amok.
The Doomsday Man, for one example. There's gotta be a load of others.


Comicsfan said...

If that's a subtle prod to do a comprehensive post on the subject, M.P., you can forget it, buddy! :D

Big Murr said...

The only (only!) exception to M.P.'s question I can think of is (maybe-sort of) a Kree Sentry. They are definitely "super-beings" and are always a unique threat when stomping around Earth. But they may not qualify because they do not have that "prototype" Frankenstein monster pedigree. To the Kree, making Sentries would be like an assembly line pumping out tanks.

But...maybe the FIRST Sentry was a mutinous handful...?

Comicsfan said...

Funny you should put it that way, Murray--I imagine that's how some of the "hawks" in the Kree came to regard Mar-vell!

Anonymous said...

Actually that wasn't a prod at all, C.F. It didn't occur to me that you might wanna do a post about the subject, but now that you mention it...
Maybe put a pin in that one...! ;)