Monday, June 26, 2006

Hulk Smash! (Marvel comics)
Iron Man #2 When: December, 1996
Why: Scott Lobdell & Jim Lee How: Whilce Portacio

The story so far...
When the evils of Professor Charles Xavier's psyche manifested themselves in physical form, the villain that resulted threatened to be the greatest threat to face the Marvel superheroes.

In what the world believed was a final act of heroism, Earth's greatest heroes confronted Onslaught and seemingly sacrificed themselves to thwart the entity's tyrranical plans.

Little did the world at large realise, the heroes had been rescued by the untamed intervention of Franklin Richards, the powerful mutant son of Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman.
Thus, while the world mourns, the heroes relive their origins trapped in a pocket universe the size of a little boy's ball.

Recommended reading:
Onslaught: Marvel Universe: The final events that led to the Heroes Reborn crossover.
Iron Man #1-#3: Iron Man is reborn in the new universe, and the Hulk's rampage begins.
Iron Man #3: The most recent volume of Iron Man, beginning with his battle with Extremis.
Incredible Hulk #449: While Banner is trapped in the Heroes Reborn universe, the Hulk persona remains to face new threats, like the Thunderbolts.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Iron Man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Iron Man 3 (Trained Athlete)
Stamina: Hulk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Iron Man 2 (Average Human)
Fighting Ability: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Iron Man 5 (Lasers)

It's only fair to recognise here that the Hulk is the strongest one there is.
However, since Iron Man's first appearance on Secret Earths, standards of strength have been reconsidered. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed two weeks ago that IM's strength had been ammended to six, from the five he was granted during the review of Iron Man #159.

Iron Man's a character of gimmicks, and in the past his strength has fluctuated accordingly to facilitate upgrades and variants such as the very specific, and quite impractically bulky, Hulkbuster armor.
That said, standards for the character are perhaps better represented by having the character live up to his tagline, thus, he knows carries a six for strength, does the Invincible Iron Man.

Is this enough to topple the fury of the Hulk?
Well, Hulk's pretty used to tossing around tanks and military robots, so you'd have to think there's certainly no intimidation factor.

Iron Man's a little more advanced than the tincans he probably helped build.
It didn't take Civil War to show us he's the kind of guy who keeps the best stuff for himself. He's been palming Rhodey his broken down hand-me-downs for years [Argh! The headache is back!!! - Mike].
We've already seen Hulk swat a similar armored pest in Mach-1, aka the Beetle, when he took on the Thunderbolts.

To the point -- Iron Man has an arsenal of weapons and enhancements in his suit of armor. There are certainly enough tricks up his sleeve these days to give the Hulk a run for his money, but on the night Hulk's capacity for strength should really give him the advantage.

Strong as he may be, Hulk can out muscle and out last IM two-to-one.
Every other fight, Iron Man probably comes out of it with his pants intact, but on the whole my money's got to be on Hulk.

What went down...
What a twist! Stark's own gamma project was responsible for Hulk's transformation in this counter-Earth! Two of Marvel's greatest characters born of science, inexplicably tied together by fate!

Angry and not wearing pants, Hulk rampages through the Stark International compound searching for Liz Ross, his only friend, and one fine piece of ace, when Iron Man turns up in a cloud of smoke. Somebody call Springer!

Iron Man makes a half arsed attempt to reason with the creature, and finds himself on the receiving end of a "NO!" so big it throws him through three concrete walls. Good thing they were mysteriously empty rooms!

IM finds his way back to the fight, and offers Hulk another warning.
Hulk is less than intimidated, mocking Stark's armored confidence as he stands tall with gauntlet extended. Apparently he isn't familiar with a little thing we like to call repulsor rays.

Hulk takes one to the chin, and drops like a sack of potatoes, giving Iron Man time to ensure the safety of Liz Ross, damsel in distress.
Some heavy exposition reveals Bruce Banner died trying to disarm the gamma bomb that was activated by HYDRA terrorists. Unfortunately the fact that the Hulk appeared at this time, and is oozing with radiation, apparently doesn't offer any clues to the concerned mourners.

Meanwhile, the Hulk recovers and globbers Iron Man with a whopping great bit of concrete slab, but fancy pants is okay.
With the aid of his rocket boots, IM maneuvers around to test the suit's functions further, employing a low level force-field to stall the Hulk before he can connect with a punch.

Using the force-field, Stark props the gamma-green giant into the air, and blows him with high intencity repulsor blasts.
Three miles later, before the Hulk has even hit the ground, IM catches his opponent and flies him directly over the nearby Niagra falls.

With the previous incarnation having failed spectacularly (with a fatality), Stark begins to panick as Hulk pounds the untested armor as they float above the gaping chasm of the falls.
He manages to land on a jutting area of rock as a news helecopter hovers overhead, distracting the Hulk's attention and attack.
Hulk tears a chunk of Earth from the ground beneath him, and hurls it at the reporting 'copter.

Iron Man is able to push himself to intercept the rubble, and drag it away with a tractor beam, but this leaves him vulnerable to the Hulk.
As the lumbering monster grinds him into the dirt, he spies a row of cables nearby, but it might be too late. Warnings indicate depleted energy will result in a system shutdown in only ten seconds.

When Iron Man rises from the ground living, Hulk is pissed, so one can only imagine how he felt when this happened:

Of course, this wanton attack leaves Iron Man up the river without a power supply. Or more accurately, Niagra Falls.

The hammer...
It was a close one, but in the end I think I have to give it to Iron Man. Th cable move may have expended the last of his armor's energy, but gosh darn it, it was a decisive blow in an otherwise pretty close fight.

That concludes Hulk month, and indeed, all Monday entries for Secret Earths, in an attempt to help me catch up on the months of entries I've missed.
It's perhaps a little unfortunate that my choices for Hulk month couldn't have been a little more varied. I'm not entirely sure what my thought process was at the time, but revolving around Heroes Reborn seemed like a good idea.

Not to say the story was completely without merit.
Having the Image guys come in and do their thing again with Marvel properties was a reasonable enough premise, but I have to admit, at the time, the most intriguing aspect was simply the fact that these characters were starting afresh in a new world.

In many ways, I think it's Heroes Reborn that has soured me on the Ultimate titles.
There are various concepts and moments similar to those in the Ultimate revamps. One such interesting parallel is the nature of Thor, and the question as to whether or not he is the genuine article. The HR Thor takes on some of Cap's story, being discovered frozen in ice, but his early throughline is much the same as that lingering doubt that surrounds the Ultimate Thor.

I don't know if one necessarily outshines the other, but the fact that Heroes Reborn was a finite story probably sways me. It did what it did, and accomplished what it could in the year of it's publication, where the Ultimate titles, which are on-going, have had time to disappoint, and defer from earlier intentions.

Marvel is currently preparing with controversial Captain America writer/artist, Rob Liefeld, and Superman/Batman writer, Jeph Loeb, to revist the story that initiated Heroes Reborn.

Liefeld and Loeb are fuel enough to start a controversy fire among the right fans, but throw into the mix a story from the heart of the nineties, and you actually have cause for a legitimate argument.
Recently comics have been inundated with 90's style crossovers. House of M, Infinite Crisis, Civil War, 1 Year Later, The Other, War Games, and other smaller stories have not only tied various titles together, but also funded a solid return in other trends from the past, like variant covers.

Sales have continued to creep upward, and the benefit of box office exposure has finally begun to pay off with various moments, like Peter Parker's unmasking in Civil War #2, garnering attention from the mainstream presses, and subsequently new readers.
Unfortunately, hot books like this have also seemingly reintroduced an element that was key to the shocking decline in sales from the mid to late nineties. These are the 'prospectors,' who invest not for creative interest, but rather potential financial interest in resale value.

Of course, sales have not returned to the staggering heights they were at in booms previous, so are crossovers and variant covers potentially setting us all up for a very big fall?
Commentators of varying qualification certainly think so.

This site takes it's name from two popular crossover events from the eighties, which have since been revisited many times over; Secret Wars and Secret Wars on Infinite Earths.
Creatively, these series probably didn't have the manpower and planning processes that current comics have. These guys all had their strengths, and brought a great deal to the world of comics, but they weren't prolific like Grant Morrison, or grand orchestrators like Geoff Johns and Mark Waid.

Even in the last ten years, looking back on Heroes Reborn, we can see a notable leap forward in creativity, and it had to be an absence of solid creative reason that betrayed these books of the past. The motivations of the visual medium, rather than a hybrid of the visual and intellectual arts, were surely major contributors to the downard slide.

So, am I worried about the state of comics and the staggering amount of connections between title and title? Not really, the guys at DC and Marvel have both proven various degrees of competence, but overall it looks promising.

Am I worried about a return to Heroes Reborn and Onslaught?
Well... It can't be worse than House of M.

The Fight: 3.5 The Issue: 3.5

NEXT: We close out the month with the rematch you were promised: In the red corner, representing himself, the current champion of the universe - Tryco Slatterus. The challenger, in the purple corner, representing the Magistrati - She-Hulk! Don't miss it!


Pedro Cruz said...

Bwah-ha-ha! The Hulk looks ridiculous with that hairdo! What were these guys thinking?

Mike Haseloff said...

Hah! I actually liked it.
Hulk's got no business visiting a barber!