Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hulk...in...spaaaace!



Especially in light of Marvel's devotion to "real-world issues" of late, the Planet:Hulk storyline may seem as quite a departure for some fans. However, long-term fans may remember around issue 300, when the then-completely savage Hulk was forcibly escorted off the premises of earth by Dr. Strange. And that wasn't even the first time we had seen the Hulk in space.

I had both of these comics as a treasury-sized edition, and loved them. Though recently lost, I fortunately had back-ups, in this case, fair copies of the original issues. The first one is Incredible Hulk#136, "Klaatu! The Behemoth from Beyond Space!" Written by Roy Thomas, pencils by Herb Trimpe, inks by Sal Buscema. Army of Darkness fans may perk up their ears at that name, but even as a kid I knew 'Klaatu' was swiped from the Day the Earth Stood Still.

The story opens with Bruce Banner on a 707 back to the United States, with longtime Hulk-hunters General Ross and Major Talbot, who can't be bothered to give poor Bruce a shirt. Why bother? He's gonna wreck it in three pages anyway. This is why you can't have nice things, Bruce.

Anyway, Ross gives us the recap: after being the Hulk for weeks, he reverts to Banner in Central Europe, and manages to get picked up by NATO, and Ross himself goes to pick him up. Why, I'm not sure: this is smack dab in the middle of the Cold War, so I would've thought Ross would be A-OK with the Hulk smashing his merry way along the Iron Curtain, perhaps even thinking it the green galoot's patriotic duty. Ross and Talbot are keeping Bruce mildly sedated, to prevent him Hulking out, but after they transfer to a helicopter, Bruce Hulks out over NYC. The Hulk leaps out of the helicopter, but then saves/stops it from crashing on top of him. All of this is done really quickly, as the point is just to get Hulk to the next part of the story; but since they weren't given a lot of page time, Ross and Talbot don't come across as the total Hulk-hating dicks they would become.

As the Hulk starts climbing the Empire State Building, and chipping big handholds out of the side of it; something is draining electric power from Con-Ed; and in orbit, a cool-looking pointy alien spaceship nearly runs down a crappy looking Russian space module. No disrespect intended to the Russian Space Program, all current space vehicles look clunky and primitive to a guy raised on Star Trek. There's some neat looking Russian lettering on this page too.



From the pointy ship, a smaller ship emerges, like a longboat, with oars and all. Look, this is another one of those things in comics that you'll either find supremely cool or irredeemably weak; and since I was exposed to this one young, I'm going to say cool. The narration introduces us to Xeron, the Star-Slayer. Technically, I think he'd be a "Slayer from the Stars," since we don't see him kill any celestial bodies, but let it go. As he approaches NYC, Klaatu emerges from the Empire State Building, a giant orange and brown monster that was responsible for the power drain. General Ross is calling in the Air Force, and probably regretting all the anti-Hulk weapontry wasn't invested in Godzilla-style blue laser tanks or something.

For his part, Hulk is confused: "So much--happening at once! Soldiers--boat from the sky--and giant monster!...And when Hulk is confused--he fights!" As Hulk jumps onto Klaatu's back, he makes Xeron miss with his laser harpoon. No, I have no idea how that would work. Ask Grant Morrison or something.



Hulk punches Klaatu for half a page, but to no avail. After flicking Hulk off his shoulder like a large green booger, Klaatu disappears again to "Feed upon their electrical energy--all unknown to the dimwitted natives!" Pissed, Xeron decides to take it out on the Hulk, for messing his shot. He tries the 'epidermal grapple,' which sounds awesome; but Hulk punches the ship about the length of a football field. Xeron points out the ship is protected by a forcefield.

Xeron blasts Hulk with first one, then another 'harpoon-blast.' The energy-lines sap the Hulk's strength, and "How can Hulk smash--something that's only light?" Very much like a harpooned whale, Hulk drags the boat along behind him, while doing an impressive amount of property damage to a seemingly deserted New York. Hulk finally goes down, and is shang-haied to the larger pointy ship. When he wakes up, surrounded by strange, chained aliens; Hulk is greeted by the first mate of the ship:

the Abomination! ("Yes--Hulk knows you--from somewhere--") Now, this would be akin to me going to bed, waking up in Indonesia, and running into someone I went to high school with. I mean, with the punching and namecalling and all.

One of the things I enjoyed about this story, is that aside from the names and the total Moby Dick swipe, is that it's all done completely straight-faced. No asides, no telling winks, no meta-commentary. Of course, it helps that this is from 1971, just slightly older than my ancient ass, and I read this swipe before many, many others. We'll hit the conclusion a little later, but I realized just recently that these issues weren't even the first time Hulk was in space. So, keep checking out Planet Hulk, and remember it's part of a proud, implausible tradition.

3 comments:

Unknown said...

I like how Bronze Age foes always insulted the Hulk's intelligence as part of the cliffhanger, then got their asses handed to them in the next issue.

Anonymous said...

"And when Hulk is confused--he fights!"
Much like real people! And you said there was no meta...

Anonymous said...

If you look at the last panel and see the dude on the bottom left he looks startled by the Abomination. I think he's saying, "Ahh, Abommy! Put a t-shirt on. Nobody wants to see that!"