Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"That which gods have joined together..."
(Marvel comics)
Avengers #4 When: February 1997
Why: Rob Liefeld & Jeph Loeb How: Chap Yaep & Ian Churchill

The story so far...
Believed dead, the Avengers and Fantastic Four survive their battle with Onslaught when Franklin Richards whisks them away to a pocket dimension of his own creation, housed within the tiny avatar of a blue ball.

Within this dimension the heroes are reborn, as though their fates were predetermined to play out again as destiny decided them. For Bruce Banner, his transformation into the Hulk begins again as he falls victim to a terrorist attack on one of Tony Stark's gamma nuclear bases, which exposes him to massive amounts of radiation.

Intent on destroying Dr. Banner, the Hulk survives a battle with Iron Man and begins his trek toward any totem that might signify his other. Attracted to a similar nuclear power source on Avengers Island, the Hulk finds his next battle with the few stationary members of Earth's mightiest heroes!

Previous Form:
Captain America (#5): Overcame powerhouse Mr. Hyde with Batroc the Leaper.
Hawkeye (#95): Supported the Avengers on several adventures.
Swordsman (#25): Holds a solo victory over the Hulk, as Deadpool.
Hulk (#9): Holds a solo victory over the assemblage of the Thunderbolts.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Captain America 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Captain America 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Hulk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Captain America 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting Ability: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Hawkeye 4 (Arsenal)

Okay, so we could sit and sulk about the fact that I'm the only blog in the universe not reviewing World War Hulk -- or, we could have ourselves our own little World War Hulk with what little we have. Yes. That's it.

So, if you were with us but a week ago you might have seen this coming.
It's there that you can figure out why Deadpool is listed in this clash, because damned if I'm going through all of that again. [Avengers #1]

Suffice to say that the Avengers are in a bit of bother in this particular case.
If you've hit up Avengers #1 just now, you'll be skimming over the entry that features a collection of Avengers facing off, for a time, against Thor, and doing so just barely. It was only Loki's sinister schemes that turned the battle in the Avengers' favour, otherwise they were up the proverbial creek without a Scramjet.

That team included Vision, Scarlet Witch and Hellcat, all of which are absent at this particular junction. Vision is out of action as per battle with Kang, and Scarlet Witch is busy falling into Loki and the Enchantress' web of deceit.

Hulk is strongest one there is.
It might not always be true, but nine times out of ten when Hulk walks into a building and says this, he's going to be right. This particular building, Avengers Island HQ, is no exception. Hulk is strongest one there is, and Hulk is mad.

The Avengers have the homeground advantage, but when the Hulk is ripping your hi-tech headquarters down around you, that can be more of a problem than an advantage -- especially when your headquarters houses a nuclear reactor core.
Oops! You can just bet a SHIELD architect is slapping himself over that faux pas. Nuclear Fission is so six months ago.

Swordsman, this world's counterpart of Wade Wilson, is decidedly less skilled (and wacky) than his usual counterpart. He and Hawkeye managed to be the only ineffective members of the team during the battle with Thor and Loki, no mean feat on a team with timid Scarlet Witch-classic, and hairy Hellcat.

Captain America is always the X-factor, but alone with his knuckleheaded allies, even Cap might not be able to overcome the overwhelming odds of a rampaging, butt naked, mindless Hulk.

The Math: The Avengers
The Pick: Hulk

What went down...
Monitor duty takes a turn for the interesting; Hawkeye discovering a rampaging naked green goliath entering the halls of the Avengers Island headquarters.

Hulk soon inadvertently finds his way to Hawkeye, smashing wildly through any wall or construct that gets in his way.

Hawkeye draws his bow quick to respond, shooting off an arrow rigged to expand into a weighted, electrically charged net. Though a charge sufficient enough to shake the Hulk is delivered, he quickly makes light work of the netting, tearing it asunder like an excited child through wrapping paper on Christmas morn.

Hulk puts Hawkeye down with laughable ease, knocking him out with little more than a hulking flick of doom.

Captain America and Swordsman assemble on the scene to come to Hawkeye's aid.
Despite Cap's previous dressing down during a training session, the impetuous Swordsman charges the Hulk with the promise of making him sorry with a dose of stabby mcpain.

Before Swordsman can put his blades of death to work, Hulk snatches his tiny human hands in his own, breaking the fragile bones of the puny human. Thus, "Hulk is not sorry. Hulk is Hulk."

Cap interjects, tossing his shield to strike Hulk in the neck sufficiently to gain his attentions.

Captain America tries to talk the Hulk down, informing him that no one by the name of "Banner" resides on the island, all the while recalling seeing just such a name in the SHIELD files.

Cap considers a potential connection between the Bruce Banner responsible for building the Avengers Island gamma core, and the rampaging beast before him.

Disinterested in the talky-talk, Hulk lets rip with a burst of speed to attack the "flagman" who tossed his nasty shield at him. Cap tries one last attempt to reason with the Hulk, in much the same fashion as the Thor fight, whilst bracing himself for impact.

Hulk, getting madder by the second (but not interesting enough for me to pad this out to get to the splash pic), collides with Cap's shield with a shuddering boom!

... SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE THE ROOM!Though Cap and his shield manage to hold up to the initial impact, the power of the Hulk is too much for any mere mortal. With no one left standing, Hulk lets out a roar, "NOTHING CAN STOP HULK!"

The hammer...
After some none-too-subtle tap dancing to get to the scanned images, Hulk wins! X-52, tell them what he's won!... Oh, right...

So, why the dedication to a picture of Captain America and Hulk butting heads inside a yellow text outline? Look, I haven't been able to get a hold of any issues of World War Hulk, so I haven't yet had the pleasure of reading a giant sound effect produced by Hulk and Iron Man. So this is my way of just prepping for what will eventually come.
This is the teaser for all the mayhem that will eventually arrive.

Now, speaking of ghosts of mayhem-future, I'd like to think we're having some fun here. Lately there's been a collection of throughlines to a lot of the features, so hopefully you can get a little bit excited for the promise of a Thor/Hulk confrontation sometime in the near future.

Even though I haven't been reading World War Hulk, I've been keeping loose tabs on what's going on, and there's a somewhat inevitable consensus regarding the nature of the consequences of the events.

I think heading into the event we all knew Hulk, for all the talk, couldn't "win" this thing. You can't expect Hulk to ever fullfil his potential, because that would involve murderizing some of the greatest icons and cash cows Marvel Comics have.

What's been unfortunate about WWH is the disjointed atmosphere we have in the Marvel universe, post-Civil War. In a lot of ways WWH doesn't have the platform to be an event as we know it, so it's awkwardly wading it's way through compromises and situations that can resolve themselves in no satisfactory way.

I saw recently a discussion where a Hulk fan mentioned that World War Hulk promotion was entirely forthcoming, but the inherent flaw was that promos were built on the claim that Hulk was madder than ever before, and heading to Earth.

Hulk can't possibly live up to that, and that's where I can understand the disgruntled readers dropping WWH through the third or fourth issues.
As has been a theme throughout these Heroes Reborn posts, I like to shine some credit back on these maligned issues.

While the series were free to operate within their own self-contained pre-Ultimate universe, they were still dealing with the characters, and therefore could only bend and shape them so far. What Heroes Reborn did well with the Hulk was to give him the space to make his way from a starting point to a conclusion, doing so in an order that coordinated between crucial events in other books. Meaning Iron Man could be taken down solo [Iron Man #2] as the first step in what essentially served as an incidental spine for greater events.

Hulk does redeem himself by simmering low enough to work with the side of angels, and really that seems the inevitable conclusion to World War Hulk, but given the circumstances, events have been so congested, they lack the smooth flowing graduation of this Heroes Reborn story. Although, perhaps ironically, also letting World War Hulk down is the marketing decision to spread the story quite thin, further complicating matters with tie-ins, less than cohesive.

Recently revealed were letters from Mark Millar, who pitched Civil War as a tighter, more finite event where the heroes would reunite in the final act (and Thor would return) to face the threat of the Hulk. Presumably this high concept would have provided a more streamlined landscape to give World War Hulk the stage it's due.

I personally am of two minds. As much as I like strengthening the events through a logical and dramatic graduation process, it might have been equally disappointing to see Civil War be so contained. I quite enjoy, for all it's difficulties, the division and social atmosphere of the registered and rogue heroes. It seems inevitable they will eventually be reunited by cause, but for the time being it's nice to see those ramifications.

It's just a shame that characters like Dr. Strange, who are almost demanded of a Hulk event of this scale, should really be unseen, existing in the underground.
Concessions like this haven't been singular, either. Ed Brubaker's Daredevil fairly casually highlights a new leniancy toward seasoned characters who wish to be unregistered. Something unthought of during the Civil War event-proper.

While this certainly makes the writer's job easier, and frees momentum up for us the readers, it feels like a typically slack late move from Brubaker. A writer who seems to initiate himself to a readership through strong ties to an existing status quo, before lazily meandering off to much less invested takes.

EDIT (October 4, 2007): Swordsman has been relisted as his own character, as per the Superboy-Prime Directive. These stats have been removed from Deadpool's listing.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4
[A competent, but perhaps slightly brief Hulk battle, more a step in the journey than an epic to remember. Perhaps a little soon for creative shifts, as Loeb seemingly helps purge Avengers of naff concepts, like Swordsman. Still, fun!]

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