Friday, August 10, 2007

THOR versus HULK
"... Let no man tear asunder!" (Marvel comics)
Avengers #5 When: March 1997
Why: Rob Liefeld & Jeph Loeb How: Rob Liefeld & Ian Churchill

The story so far...
Trapped in a pocket dimension created instinctively by the powerful son of Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman; the world's greatest heroes are reborn in new lives in the wake of the epic battle with the creature called Onslaught!

As though destined to relive key events in their lives, Bruce Banner is again exposed to a massive dose of gamma radiation, turning him into the incredible Hulk.

A mindless and rage-filled beast, the Hulk seeks the one opponent he can never reach: Bruce Banner! Following beacons of Banner's work, the Hulk charges Avengers Island where a live gamma reactor core is housed. Having demolished much of the building and the few attending Avengers themselves, Hulk stands supreme, but a certain thunder gods would have words with him...

Previous Form:
Thor (#13): Aided the Avengers in the defeat of his half-brother, Loki.
Hulk (#6): Defeated a trio of Avengers during a Banner-seeking rampage.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Thor 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Draw 6 (Warrior)
Energy Powers: Thor 5 (Lasers)

There's just something about those epic superhero encounters that hit the money every time. Hulk has memorable feuds with many of Marvel's heaviest hitting heroes, and while this isn't the first that comes to my mind, I cannot deny the intrigue presented by pitting a god of men, against man's greatest rages unleashed.

These days Hulk's gotten pretty savvy when it comes to combat strategy, but ten years ago we were still back in the angry, fight-on-instinct days of Hulk. My, how innocent we were. We never even imagined a gladiatorially baptised Hulk!

Traditionally Thor isn't exactly a rocket scientist, but I like to think of him as a battle-wary warrior, and potential successor to the wise father, Odin. So, from that perspective, I like to think there's a bit more to his strategy than disarming foes with his silly-speak, before going to town with the hammer. From that perspective, in 1997, Thor should have the edge.

We've heard it time and time before: Hulk is strongest one there is.
It might not be the whole truth, but it's always worth considering. Hulk's strength fluctuates far enough that, under the right circumstances, he can overpower even a god, however I'm not generally one who subscribes to the theory that Hulk is an endless perpetual generator of physical energy.

For that reason, I'm going to go with Thor, because I'd like to think that a god is distinguished by his endurance and sheer power. Granted, not every god is going to have super strength, but Thor's a warrior god. He should be able to handle the Hulk at least four days of the week.

The Pick: Thor (The numbers don't like, do they...?)

What went down...
Still searching for Banner, amidst the broken bodies of Captain America, Swordsman and Hawkeye [see; Avengers #4], Hulk finds instead a hammer-wielding god of thunder and lightning, descending to rain a world of pain upon him for daring to strike down his fellows.

Hulk isn't having a bar of it, declaring a child-like manifesto based on his own terms, but Thor's will is not easily swayed. With his hammer Mjolnir in hand, Thor swats what he assumes is a troll with force enough to send the Hulk flying through several adjacent walls!

Thor continues to open up with Mjolnir, completely controlling Hulk with thundering blows until -- "no." Having had his fill of tasty hammer treats, Hulk recovers from the initial impact of the flurry enough to stall the hammer in mid-swing.

With his barings about him once more, Hulk locks up with Thor, doing his best to wrestle the enchanted Mjolnir away from his mighty grip!

Not having much luck breaking the bond of hammer and master, Hulk uses his impressive strength to release his frustration by vaulting Thor into the air with an incredible swing. Thor, losing the battles of wills, lands on his back, but before Hulk can celebrate he's pulled to the ground by the hammer's enchantments.

The Hulk distracts himself with intent to pick the hammer up, burning into a furious rage over the defiance of the inanimate object.

Shaken, Thor is able to summon Mjolnir to his possession once again, leaping back into the fray with the fury of the heavens themselves. Lightning fills the Avengers headquarters as Thor commands a strike at the Hulk.

With the jade giant out of his way, Thor goes about feverishly clearing wreckage to free the mortals he had become so attached to. He discovers Captain America's shield and limp hand when a green finger taps him on the shoulder.

The two powers demolish further areas of the structure as Hulk proves unrelenting in his desire to prove superiority. Believing the hammer to be Thor's strength, Hulk battles Thor through the halls, moving further away still.

Thor delivers a two-fisted Polish hammer, knocking Hulk into Hank Pym's science laboratory where the damaged body of Vision lies motionless -- a witness to this epic clash of titans.

With Hulk on the back foot, Thor delivers a three-hit combination that would have obliterated any normal human being. The gamma-irradiated Hulk continues to take further punishment, suffering a diving attack before falling victim to a stiff right to the jaw that snaps his bulging head back. Finally, Hulk shows sign of fatigue.

"S-stop." "Thou art mad."
Ignoring Hulk's pleas, Thor prepares to strike once more, but finds his hand caught in mid-air. With a sly grin Hulk agrees, "Hulk is mad. Very mad."

With dramatic poignancy, Hulk gathers his power for a single blow that sends the thunder god airborne. He snatches Thor out of the air by the hair, and thumps once more with a face-breaking blow, before pounding the Avenger into the concrete foundation of the building with explosive results.

Lifting his body in triumph, Hulk bares witness to a Norse god - defeated.

The hammer...
Working his way through the entire team, Hulk wins again!
You can also find the beginning of Hulk's rampaging path, where he was unable to take down Avengers stalwart, Iron Man. [Iron Man #2]

Hulk has, of course, asserted his dominance on Secret Earths like many other sites because of the explosive release of World War Hulk. If I were a betting man, I'd think about putting some moolah down on the exact opposite result to help wind down the Hulk's returning conquests depicted in the event.

HULK NOT SO DUMB: Delivers call back to beginning of the issue, 'Enough!'The conclusion seems to be the source of much speculation, with the broad expectation being a begrudging truce between Hulk and other heroes, perhaps in the face of a new threat. (Skrulls, maybe?...)

We almost certainly have to accept that scalps taken by Hulk and his fellows will be minimal. Events of this nature inevitably have their sacrificial lambs, and from what we've seen it seems like Black Bolt may represent the most prominent of those, with perhaps this series Black Goliath yet to come.

If the alternative to a truce were to occur, and Hulk were to be put down by one of the heroes, the returning Thor is probably the best bet. Not only does Thor have the muscle to do the job, he also has many miles to go to reintroduce himself to the Marvel universe, after several years absent as a result of the Ragnarok storyline; detailing the cyclical demise of the gods.

We saw Thor's intervention in Civil War, where a cyborg Thor clone, created by Reed Richards and Iron Man, ran amok. As resulting in the afforementioned death of the giant-sized hero, Black Goliath.

In an abstract way, Thor now has the duty of making up for this injustice undertaken in his name. Few ways to reaffirm his presence in the Marvel universe would be more impressive than by returning to defeat the Hulk, who currently stands poised to threaten the entire United States, if not the globe.

Of course, that still poses a question for the future of the Hulk.
In this new tactical guise, the Hulk may finally be on the evolutionary path to becoming his future counterpart, the Maestro. Hulk may fulfill the destiny to become one of Earth's greatest villains, or perhaps Earth isn't even part of the equation.

Hulk found a sense of belonging after being shot into space by Tony Stark and the Illuminati. Veering off course led Hulk on an unlikely path that recast him as hero, and partner and father to a family, whose deaths motivate his attack on Earth. Could the stars provide a new home for the Hulk?

I guess we haven't even considered the Sentry, who has previously been seen to nullify the Hulk's rages. Then again, the implications of that come more from the irrational cycle of anger Hulk has traditionally felt, rather than the motivated and calculated attack we're seeing today.

It'll be two more issues before we know the Hulk's final fate, but if this issue's review has been any indicator, one thing is for certain: There's still much smashing to be done before World War Hulk is through!

With that, it's been a long week! For perhaps the first time ever we've delivered a battle for every day of the working week. If you don't mind, I'm going to go soak my fists in some ice! What do you people want from me?! Get off my lawn! Go read some of the archives, ya mooching yancys!

EXTRA: Forsooth! You can find more punches, kicks and licks across the bloggerverse via Bahlactus and his Friday Night Fights! Have at thee, noble mortals!

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 3.5
[Almost an entire issue dedicated to a fight, which consists of far too many splash shots and ill-defined scenes to be overly commended. Also sports one of the dullest covers going around, but a fun piece of a larger puzzle.]

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