THE THUNDERBOLTS versus HULK
Where: Incredible Hulk #449 When: January, 1997
Why: Peter David How: Mike Deodato Jr.
The story so far...
When the world's most powerful telepathic mutant, Professor Charles Xavier, can no longer contain his bottled up emotions, it spells trouble for the entire Marvel universe.
The battle with Xavier's dark shadow, Onslaught, forces Marvel's greatest heroes to band together like never before, to focus their efforts on a single threat.
The final confrontation sees the unthinkable realised: Earth's mightiest heroes are dead. The only survivor is the Hulk, who walks away mindless, confused, and not quite feeling himself.
As he treks across the country, new heroes emerge to pick up the slack.
Iron Man #1-#3: Heroes Reborn: Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk all over again.
Thunderbolts #1: The villains as heroes spin-off into their own series.
Deadpool #4: Hulk continues to struggle with the mysterious weakness.
Tale of the tape...
Strength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Techno 6 (Genius)
Speed: Moonstone 4 (Olympic Sprinter)
Stamina: Hulk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Baron Zemo 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Moonstone 5 (Arsenal)
Well, here you have something I don't think we've encountered on Secret Earths since month one with our first and third entries. Looking back, we find mixed results from those one man against a whole team, which doesn't paint a great picture for the Hulk, incredible as he may be.
The relative inexperience of the Thunderbolts as a cohesive unit casts at least some doubt in their direciton, but even if they aren't a 'champion team' they still pack a punch as a team of champions.
Physicality is always something relevent to a fight with the Hulk, and the Thunderbolts roll their powerhouses in in the form of Atlas and Moonstone.
The application of Atlas' strength is potent, but fairly minimal, while Moonstone's element of the cosmic broadens her use in a fight such as this. In fact, on a good day, one might even just about be willing to say Moonstone could take Hulk alone.
When you throw in the smarts of Techno and Citizen V, it's a potent combination of brain and brawn, with some energy blasts, solid soundwaves and flying armored guys to boot.
Taking all of that surface information into account, one starts to lean toward the Thunderbolts as the likely victors, given the scenario. This is further the case when one acknowledges the continuity of Hulk's encounter with Onslaught, and the plot threads of Heroes Reborn.
The Hulk simply isn't feeling himself, which is potentially a catalyst for unbridled, and desperate rage. Even with the potential calming effect of Janis [Joplin?] Jones in tow, keeping an eye out for the big green lumbering dummy, Hulk can wipeout ANY team on a good day.
That said, as we saw when he faced Deadpool, Hulk simply isn't up to it in the strength stakes. So, at the end of the tape, you'd have to tip Thunderbolts in this dual.
What went down...
For citizens of the Marvel universe, the sound of a rampaging Hulk getting nailed by airborn missile is probably a horrifying sound. It might even be more frightening to hear the jet engines of a flying armored superhero coming to the rescue, too, since that means chances of a fight are likely.
Yet, as the Thunderbolts [Moonstone, Techno, Atlas and Songbird] would discover, the only thing more terrifying than a rampaging Hulk, is a Hulk surrendering...
Notably stunned, the Thunderbolts take no chances.
Taking a field command role, Techno throws up his shoulder-mount laser cannon thingy, and orders Songbird to construct a solid sound prison to contain the jolly jade giant until their fearless leader can arrive.
A light hearted riff of Brian Bendis proportions gets a second run, as Atlas and Moonstone exchange 'human' words on the bizarre situation before them. Ordinarily this exchange wouldn't warrant mention, however -- DUN DUN DUN -- apparently Moonstone has a mysterious past with the Hulk!
Bad ass, mohawk sporting refugee from a future imperfect - Janis Jones - has been accompanying the Hulk, and it's at this point she observes Mach-1 making a sudden dash instead of getting revenge after she kapowed him with her low-tech Mad Max future staff... that shoots lasers.
As it turns out, Mach-1 was conveniently speeding up the introductions reveal Citizen V! Mysterious masked leader of these new champions of truth, justice, and apple pie.
With sword held high, he asks the imprisoned Hulk exactly what it is he's waiting for -- too which the Hulk reveals, "I was waiting... ...for all of you. In one place."
Yes kids. Excessive pauses did exist before Ultimate Spider-man.
The Hulk claps his hands together at startling speeds, forcing Songbird to break her vocal vibrations to create a defensive sonic buffer, thus protecting her from the kinetic effects of Hulk's sonic clap. (Or something).
Apparently, despite allowing the Hulk success in initiating his plan, Citizen V had actually brilliantly deduced this on his trip to the scene. He orders Mach-1 to fire off his heat seeking missiles, while Techno fires off rounds from his shoulder cannon.
Hulk leaps away from the cannon blasts, but is unable to outrun the heat seaking missiles that plow him into the ground, in much the same fashion as the opening pages of the issue.
Hulk is surprised to find that, despite feeling stronger than ever before, much like his encounter with Deadpool, he has been hurt. Bleeding from the chest, the Hulk is rescued by the most unlikely of archetypes -- puny human, Janis Jones!
Jones uses her unassuming staff to blast Moonstone and Mach-1 off target, and avoids Songbird sonic knives long enough for Hulk to recover.
For a moment Atlas is given the false impression he can go toe-to-toe with the Hulk, and to his credit he's more than just a puny human. In fact, as Hulk proves, he's perfect for hurling at pesky moustached inventors like Techno.
[Maybe when he gets back to Earth, Hulk should try hurtling Atlas at his pro-registration leader: Tony Stark. - Mike]
Strength in numbers allow the Thunderbolts to stay one-foot in the game, as the Hulk clearly begins to grow flustered.
Green blood smeared across his chest, Hulk stands like a lion caged as the Thunderbolts warn him there is no escape.
Still, this Hulk isn't any dummy, and is able to turn Citizen V's own words against him in a switcheroo that would have made Foggy Nelson proud!
Acting on their vow to protect the innocent (and get good PR), Hulk throws himself straight through the dam infront of which he fought valiantly, endangering thousands in the villages below.
The Thunderbolts have no choice but to act, and in the end, Hulk manages to make a sneaky exit with his sheet-wearing gal pal, before his injuries get the better of him.
Well, this was quite a tough one to call.
On points, the Hulk had his opponent's number, dominating for hte majority of the fight, but by the end his opponents were still willing and able to fight on. Hulk, on the other hand, technically made a retreat, and for that reason, he should officially be the loser.
Because Hulk was so dominant, I think you'd have to give him the win, but the Thunderbolts make a pretty might effort of their first outing.
Of course, by now we all know the Thunderbolts' nasty secret.
Surprisingly enough it had nothing to do with being a fairly bland combination of designs and characters, and more to do with being alter-egos designed by the Masters of Evil to fool a vulnerable world into trusting them while their greatest heroes were assumed dead.
This initial premise garnered much deserved attention, but like many things from the mid-nineties, it's probably gladly forgotten. Now the concept lives-on with, presumably, far superior execution, even though I'm descriminately disinterested in the book.
I chose this title because it's one of the modern Hulk milestones marking the first appearance of The Thunderbolts, but it really isn't a remarkable issue by any means.
I would say this issue actually highlights the struggles the character has endured at various points throughout the last two decades.
While Peter David will be fondly associated by many with the character, his revisitations have not been anywhere near as fruitful as previous projects.
While the Hulk on the Heroes Reborn side of the equation is having all kinds of Whilce Portatio fun, this half of the character is stuck in stagnant, boring, comic-booky melodrama laced with uninteresting guest characters, and a wandering plot.
This mediocre presentation is helped very little by, as quipped previously, PAD's pre-puBendis dialogue. It certainly intrudes much less than scenes from Ultimate Spider-man, but the quieter moments are unattractive parodies of legitimate characterization.
All of that said, Peter David can write a fight scene. Hot damn, yes he can!
While the overall arc of the fight in this issue is not particularly large, we are privvy to the cramped introduction of an entire cast of gimmick-packing characters who would be the subject of their own heavily promoted title.
We gain insight into the determination and dedication of these characters, while also getting a good whiff of the shocking twist ending that would end Thunderbolts #1.
Much like The Sixth Sense, more people would claim to have seen it coming than had actually read the damn thing before they knew.
Deodato's artwork is fairly typical of the time, and could probably benefit from denser layouts. Some benefit of the doubt has to be given due to the fact that the majority of scenes occur in barren desert location.
Still, pencils seem relatively standard, and a little uninspired. Colours and inks do little to service the page, producing fairly flat blanks of primary colours, and fairly standard blacks.
Points would also have to be deducted for reusing the same image of Techno and his shoulder blast cannon on pages six and thirteen. Thirteen, unlucky for some.
Maybe editorial was just a little hectic during the Heroes Reborn period. I'm sure there's a way we can blame this all on Lifeld, and be done with it.
The Fight: 4 The Issue: 3
NEXT: The villain that changed the hero forever! Iron Man versus Extremis!