Monday, October 16, 2006

Boldly going where the Hulk would go...a bunch more times.

Last time, Hulk had been conscripted by aliens into space whaling, and ran into the Abomination. So this issue starts with the ball already rolling: Hulk #137, "The Stars, Mine Enemy!" written by Roy Thomas, pencils by Herb Trimpe, inks by Mike Esposito. The 'Incredible' that's usually in the title is dropped for the Abomination's word balloon, because as far as he's concerned, it's merely a Hulk.

The Abomination points out "What man or monster--having once seen the Abomination--could ever forget him??" Fugly has a point there. Hulk acknowledges that he knows that face, and hates it. As they smack each other around, the assorted aliens offer commentary and make bets, until Xeron blasts Hulk down. After re-establishing the chain of command with the Abomination, Xeron has a smaller alien, Cerexo, use his power to teach the still-smoldering (literally, perhaps also figuratively) Hulk the alien language spoken there. Hulk asks Cerexo to explain what's going on.

Cerexo says their unseen captain Cybor stalks the monster Klaatu through space. Recently, the Andromeda (the big pointy ship, no relation to the Kevin Sorbo show.) happened across the Abomination fighting a larger monster on an asteroid. 'Bommy was brought aboard, and in short order beat the first mate into blue paste and took his spot. Hulk blurts out that he won't be chained and could leave whenever he wanted to, and Cerexo asks where would he go? Having no answer for that, Hulk settles into a shipboard routine with the other alien oarsmen.

Hulk is good and up the proverbial creek: he knows he's not smart enough to piece together what's going on, how the forcefields keep atmosphere in and radiation out, or "the deeper mysteries of this space-born craft--the cosmic oars which use the light-rays as a sea-going boat might catch the wind!" Um, I'm not smart enough either, apparently. Why rowers and oars and harpoons? Moby Dick, man, try to keep up. Does anyone read Moby Dick anymore, or just piece together the highlights from comics and Star Trek II? Regardless, as Hulk looks meaningfully at earth, the Abomination steps all over his 'king of the world' moment by clocking him from behind and throwing his ass over the side.

Xeron takes a small boat out and rescues the Hulk, which involves harpooning him again. Back on the Andromeda, Xeron knows only Abomination is strong enough to throw the Hulk off, and calls him on it. Hulk doesn't need any harpoon-happy aliens to fight his battles for him, but before they can get started, the three are called to see Tharok. I mean, Cybor. He looks almost exactly like Tharok of the Fatal Five (from Legion of Super-Heroes), half-robot, half-bald-guy. Cybor opens with a tirade about mocking him, "the half-man, half-thing which is more at home with unspeaking machines than in the company of mortal creatures!" Xeron's apparently heard this before, and points out that he called them in. Probably has to put up with that every time he brings Cybor his coffee:

Cybor: "Are you mocking me, with this 'half-and-half'? Do you think I need reminding that I am less than half a man!?"

Xeron: "I'm sorry, sir, I wasn't paying attention. That's my coffee."

Cybor: "'Not paying attention!' So, you are half-assing things around here?"

Xeron: "..."

Xeron: "I'll...I'll be up on deck, if you need me, sir."

As a young harpooner, Cybor (hopefully not named Cybor, as that would be unfortunate) tried to defeat Klaatu, and ended up wrecked, floating in space, "I, protected only by my personal air-shield, driftedly (sic) slowly, fatally starward--! I was, of course, rescued--but not before that side of me which faced the star was burned beyond any recognition of humanity--!" I doubt it was a clean bisection: there's probably a chewy inside of Cybor under the crunchy robot shell.

Hulk promptly fails sensitivity awareness: "So, that's why you're half-man, and half-machine! Well, Hulk doesn't care about that--any of it!" But Xeron points out that Cybor's robot half controls the Andromeda, and without him, they would orbit there forever. Later, as Hulk sleeps on it, the narration points out that's the why behind the alien crew: they don't remind Cybor of his lost humanity, and Hulk again turns into Banner. Who, understandably, freaks out a bit. Remember, back then the Hulk and Banner were more distinctly separated: neither had a good idea what the other was doing when in control. Last Banner remembers, he was on a plane to New York, Hulked out, and now he's in space surrounded by the Jim Henson Studio farm team.

Cerexo is able to tell Banner was the Hulk, but then Cybor calls for Condition Omega: Klaatu has left earth, as it apparently couldn't live in an oxygen-rich atmosphere, and "must come--up from air!" The crew mans the stalkboats, Xeron leading one, while Cybor has Abomination and Banner on his. Because I'd totally want a skinny physicist on my space-whaling expedition, is why. Again understandably, Bruce feels the Hulk left him holding the bag on this one.

As you can probably guess, this little field trip goes south pretty quickly: Xeron and Cybor both harpoon Klaatu, but Cybor's boat gets too close, and is smashed. Cybor ends up stuck to Klaatu's back...somehow. The Abomination doesn't care, as he drifts close enough to grab Bruce. How he propels himself in space is none of my concern. Really. Oh, I can guess, but I don't want to.

As usual, Bommy talks when he should crush, and Bruce Hulks out again. Somehow, in zero gravity, Hulk and Abomination fight it out without pushing each other apart: I can grant that they probably had atmospheric shields from the Andromeda, but from the first punch, they should have been pushed too far away to reach again. Equal and opposite reaction and all that.

Xeron and his boat aren't in any better shape. His crew begs Xeron to save them, and Xeron has to release his harpoon-line, as "Klaatu is mortally wounded--and that he begins his death-drift into the blazing sun before us--bearing with him the body of his first victim--his final destroyer!" Man, lotta bold in there. Anyway, we call it the sun, Xeron. Klaatu and Cybor are taking the big swan dive into it.

Based on the size of the sun in this panel, and basing Klaatu's height at smaller than the Empire State Building, they started falling towards the sun in 1970, and might hit its surface sometime next month. Keep staring at the sun and let me know...oops. On the next page, Klaatu hits, or burns up, so I guess it must have been moving at a pretty good clip.

Nonetheless, Xeron and his rowers, are, as the French say, fucked. Without Cybor's computer half running things, their boat is locked in orbit around the sun, and will be there long after they either run out of air, starve, or go nuts and kill each other. "Aye, we shall be Cybor's sole mourners--our vessel, his only monument!" Which I'm sure is a great comfort to the rowers, Xeron. Presumably, their sad little space rowboat still circles the sun to this day, just another weird tombstone in the Marvel Universe.

"Um, Xeron? Oh great Slayer of the Stars? Me and the other rowers were talking, and uh, we were wondering if maybe we couldn't, oh, try manual control or something. The boat has oars, and we figured...what's that sir?...Still sold on the monument idea, are you sir?...And you're the one with the harpoon?...Yes sir, sorry to have bothered you. And might I suggest we eat Carl first."

Ah, but what about the Hulk? He and Abomination, still somehow pounding each other while drifting closer to Earth, get tired out. Hulk wins with a last shot that looks to knock Bommy in the general direction of South America, and they are pulled in by Earth's gravity. As the abandoned Andromeda sails off to nowhere, a little girl on earth sees two shooting stars, that look more like "two men who fell off a star--and fell so far--they can't ever get back again--!" Ah, kids say the damnedest things, especially back then, when kids talked with bold, dashes, and exclamation points. If my kids saw that, they wouldn't have a soliloquy about it, unless "Geez!" counts. Which it might. Why 'Daddy' has this little poet out in the middle of the frickin' night is best left unexamined.

Another fun issue. A lot of old Hulk issues had random-ass advanced alien civilizations arrive on earth, get mixed up with the Hulk, and end up dead. The aliens were probably necessary, as it could hardly be expected to have the Hulk smash the bejeezus out of only earth-bound objects each and every month. Also, I particularly like Hulk's stilted, mangled-syntax smack talk.

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