Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A warning: I was going to say this issue gets dark, quickly; but it pretty much starts from there and goes deeper. From 1985, Incredible Hulk #312, "Monster" Written by Bill Mantlo, art by Mike Mignola and Gerry Talaoc, with a cover from Mignola and Bill Sienkiewicz.

I mentioned wanting this issue almost a year ago when we checked out #310, and I thought this would be in the same vein, a bit of a laugher: the mindless, savage Hulk, still trapped in the extradimensional Crossroads; his only companions the manifestations of his mind. Namely Glow, Goblin, and Guardian. They might be symptoms of bigger psychological problems, but seemed mostly played for comedy; or so Mantlo would have someone to dialog besides the Hulk's inarticulate growling. Here, we see their secret origins, along with the birth of Bruce Banner. His father, Brian, seems an almost-stereotypical drunk at first, in the waiting room as his wife delivers; but he wonders if his research in atomic radiation might not have altered his genes somehow. The term mutant isn't thrown around for a bit, but Brian goes with another m-word: "Monster."

Bruce's mother Rebecca is attentive and doting, and Bruce associates her with a star-shaped mobile over his crib: the inspiration for Glow. Brian resents Bruce taking Rebecca's attention away from him, and tries to monopolize her, leaving Bruce with an uncaring nanny, who Bruce sees as a Goblin. His beloved doll, however, protects him, his Guardian. At four years old, Bruce snuck down Christmas morning and opened one of his presents: an erector set, which the young genius took to immediately. Seeing his son's handiwork, instead of pride, Brian is convinced Bruce is a "freak" and the radiation altered his son's mind. Rebecca defends Bruce and is struck, as is Bruce.

The scene jumps ahead to Bruce's high school days, where he's a hard-working student...that would make Peter Parker seem like Mr. Popular. He's also being raised by his aunt, since Brian had killed Rebecca. Brian had been declared "temporarily insane," and released; giving him the opportunity to assault Bruce at Rebecca's grave. He proclaims that he will expose Bruce as a mutant, but Bruce doesn't care, his father's already done enough.

Next, at GammaDesert Base, Bruce is welcomed by Betty Ross, and sees the same Glow in her that he did in his mom. They talk about his old doll, Guardian, before its arm is torn by General Thunderbolt Ross, in one of his most horrible appearances ever: Ross both praises Brian Banner as a "real man," even defending him after Bruce flat-out tells Ross he was a murderer. Ross also starts referring to Banner as a "milksop" not thirty seconds after meeting him, but his opinion had probably been formed long before.

In the present at the Crossroads, Guardian, Goblin, and Glow discuss how they've done everything they could to help the Hulk and Bruce; and now Bruce is going to have "t'come out from hidin' inside the Hulk an' reclaim his life again!" Which is why the Beyonder finds Bruce a complete wreck at the end of the issue, and resolves to help him...Along with the mandatory Secret Wars II crossover, Mantlo, Mignola, and Talaoc (who sound like Silver Age monsters in a classic Marvel story!) would only have one more issue on Incredible Hulk. During a crossover with Alpha Flight, they would trade titles permanently with John Byrne! Byrne would only stay for six issues, though; Mignola would stay with Alpha Flight for four issues (maybe five, he penciled part of #47) and Mantlo until #67.

1 comment:

Dale Bagwell said...

Wow, no kidding about the level of darkness here. I used to think Peter David introduced the psyhoclogical trauma aspects of his childhood and personality, but it really was all Bill mantlo's doing. I'm just glad, as I'm sure most of his fans of that run are, that he took what Mantlo introduced and ran with it pretty successfully for years.

I've definitely got to find this one though, although I'm sure that Crossroads TPB collection should have this one in there too.

I don't know if you know or remember, but Hulk#393, the 30th anniversary issue, has bits and pieces of this inssue in there in one of the back up pieces, where Doc Samson lays out his discertation on the Hulk/Bruce's mindset since childhood up to that point where he and the Hulk became the "smart Hulk." Good, good stuff that again used what Mantlo introduced.