May 13, 2013

Back Issue Ben: Iron Man vs. The Hulk

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

The Invincible Iron Man vs the Incredible Hulk
A Battle for the Ages
by Ben Smith

This week, we're taking a break from my neverending look at the Marvel Cosmic universe, to bring you some of that sweet Iron Man deliciousness you love so much.

If you’ve been coming around here for a while, you know I love to find old comics that may not necessarily show up on any “greatest ever” lists, but are hidden gems nonetheless. I picked up the following comics on the promise of an epic battle between the Hulk and Iron Man, and what I discovered was, and I don’t want to overhype it, one of the greatest comic books that you will ever read in your entire lifetime. If you don’t have this comic, get it. If you can’t get it, I have no faith you will be able to live a well-adjusted and satisfying life from this moment on.

Let the insanity begin!

Iron Man #131: Hulk is Where the Heart Is!
Plot/Writer: David Michelinie; Pencil Art: Jerry Bingham; Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton; Editor: Roger Stern

Our epic tale begins mundanely enough, with Tony Stark being driven home from the airport by his girlfriend Bethany Cabe. However, a traffic jam impedes their progress. Stark takes the moment to thank Bethany for helping him to not be a sloppy drunk anymore, before he notices several people running in the opposite direction.

(Speaking of the alcoholism, I see several people disappointed that the movies never addressed this aspect in full. And I have to say, seeing a super-hero movie tackling the gripping tale of substance abuse, isn’t exactly what I would call a rip-roaring good time.)

Stark investigates to find the Incredible Hulk, eating fruit from an overturned delivery truck. The police have surrounded the area, but Hulk doesn’t seem too concerned, saying “Bah! Hulk is hungry, only wants to eat fruit. But if stupid policemen bother Hulk…Hulk will east stupid policemen!”

Classic! It only gets better from here my friends.

Stark’s heart sinks, knowing he clearly has to get involved, and knowing he’s going to get pounded. (Quite a difference from today’s supremely confident armored Avenger.) He tries to make an excuse to get away to call the Avengers so that he can put on his armor, but Bethany one-ups him by saying she’ll go, because “You’re a well known public figure…your presence here could help ease panic.”
(I don’t know how many times I’ve been in tense situations,
and hoped that my favorite public figure was
there to help diffuse that anxiety.)

The truck owner decides he wants to take care of the Hulk himself (because his fruit isn’t insured, which is just irresponsible) with his pepper spray, which Hulk takes care of with one “flobb” of his arm.

Meanwhile, Stark has found the greatest place ever in the history of comic books to change into his armor, a van with “Love Machine” stenciled on the side.

The police have wisely decided to start shooting Hulk with their guns, which always ends well for people. The police S.W.A.T. helicopter arrives, which Hulk promptly throws a milk truck at.

When I first read the pilot exclaim “what the…milk?!” in my mind,
I read it as “what the milk!” which is now going to be my
favorite exclamation in my daily life going forward.

The helicopter abandons mission, since, in the pilot’s words “our windshields are all scummed up with cow juice!” Iron Man finally arrives on the scene, and just as quickly leaves.

Ethel tries to convince her husband Fred that they should leave, but Fred only has six payments left on their camper, and he’s not leaving it for nothing. Their son Ricky thinks the Hulk is neat. The police pull out a bazooka, firing it at the Hulk. He dodges, so of course it destroys the spot where the camper is, and the Hulk has to jump in and save them from exploding and dying.

Ricky wants to thank the Hulk, so he runs up to him and (this is where it achieves legendary status), asks the Hulk if he wants to play with his Micronauts toys. (Even better, he makes the Hulk be Baron Karza.)

Not only does the Hulk not eat him, he actually sits down and plays with him, calming him down enough to turn back into Bruce Banner. The police move in to arrest him, but Iron Man intervenes. Bruce actually pleads with Iron Man to kill him and end the horror once and for all.

Iron Man picks him up and takes him back to the penthouse of Stark International.

When I saw Iron Man tenderly laying Bruce down on the bed,
and read him say “Maybe it’s time I stopped fighting the Hulk…”
my mind wanted to finish that sentence with
“and started loving him.”)

The next day, Stark and Banner immediately get to work on curing him of the Hulk forever, echoing the bond that would later be depicted so well in the Avengers movie. They would spend the next few pages developing (with some help from Scott Lang) an implant that will regulate and control Banner’s pulse response. Naturally, the best way to test its effectiveness is to strap him to a chair and piss him off.

Fortunately, the implant seems to work, and they believe the Hulk is cured.

The police are happy to get this news, as they immediately move in to arrest Banner for his crimes against humanity. A trigger-happy rookie thinks the best opening gambit is to throw a grenade into the mix, with Iron Man diverting his aim at the last minute. It still lands near Banner though, and as the issue closes, a shadowy figure rises up amongst the smoke.

When the smoke clears, a particularly ripped Banner says “Hulk will smash!”

My brain thoughts: I don’t know if I properly expressed the amount of joy I received from reading the first half of this issue, but I gave it my best effort. It could be the Grande-sized amount of caffeine I’ve ingested, but nearly every line filled me with such excitement I just had to get it down in writing. This is a moment I will remember forever. (Probably not, but that’s why I write things down.)

Iron Man #132: The Man Who Would be Hulk
Plot/Writer: David Michelinie; Pencil Art: Jerry Bingham; Plot/Finished Art: Bob Layton; Editor: Roger Stern

The interesting promise of mass Banner carnage suggested at the end of last issue, is immediately changed as we find Banner strapped into a restraining machine, still screaming Hulk-like nonsense, as Stark and Scott Lang look on.

Dr. Maxwell calls in from Gamma Base with his expert opinion, that they only treated one side of the problem, and not both. (What sense that makes, I don’t know.) Stark’s brilliant plan to fix it involves…headphones with soothing music. (I wonder what they used. Some John Tesh? Sounds of the ocean?) This being ‘80s comic books, it works perfectly, with Banner returning to his normal mental state (which is somber).

Stark tells Banner they’re going to get right to work on fixing him, but that maybe he should hang out for a bit in the metal gauntlets. As Stark and his colleagues discuss how Banner’s heartbeat is rising above the levels that the regulator can control, and that his skin is slowly thickening, a disturbance comes from the room where Banner is being held.

Security bursts in to see Banner pleading, and turning a shade of green. (Maybe keeping the guy prone to anxiety attacks locked up in restraints wasn’t the best plan…) Stark and friends are now second-guessing the decision to implant a regulator powered with nuclear energy, into a man powered by gamma energy (what with his body absorbing all that new energy and all, and keeping him from ever calming down).

The alarm sounds, and Tony disappears so that he can spring into action as Iron Man. Hulk is putting the beat down on the guards, proclaiming that “and men won’t bother Hulk either..when Hulk throws them into ocean!” At which point one of the helpless men says “I-I can’t swim!” (Ha ha! Sorry buddy, that’s probably the least of your worries at the moment.)

Iron Man confronts the Hulk, but Hulk isn’t too happy about being trapped inside Banner for so long.

Iron Man decides to get the Hulk away from all the people, leading him to Stark International’s shipping facility on the water. (Why would he lead him to his own dock to probably get all smashed? That’s civic duty, right there.)

Iron Man waits under the water, until the Hulk is right above him, and then destroys the dock with a repulsor blast. Hulk hits the water, and Iron Man wraps a chain around his neck, hoping to get him to pass out. Hulk easily escapes from this, and hops away.

Iron Man searches for a way to beat him, knowing that if he can’t, everything that happens will be his fault. He finds the Hulk tearing apart what looks like the St. Louis arch at a Stark airfield.

Man, Stark International is everywhere, and Hulk keeps finding those places.

Iron Man flies through the arch, destroying it and sending Hulk falling to the ground.

Iron Man follows that up immediately with a truck fastball, which Hulk bats away with Stark’s favorite Learjet.

“Oh no, not the Learjet! That’s my favorite!” Priorities, Stark.

With the Hulk dazed from the massive explosion, Iron Man finally grows a pair and diverts all of the energy of his suit into one devastating punch.

The gambit works, with the Hulk knocked out cold. Unfortunately, a motionless and silent Iron Man stiffly falls forward onto the ground. He has won, “but…at what cost?”

My brain thoughts: Not as many classic lines this time around, but still a pretty epic bout between two of Marvel’s biggest characters. I hope that poor security guard learns how to swim.

My final brain thoughts: Cannibalism, milky exclamations, Micronauts toys, camper payments, tender Hulk lovin’, the priority of swimming, the St. Louis arch, and broken learjets.

Well, there you have it. I think we can all agree that the first eleven pages of this story may be the greatest eleven pages in comic book history (suck that, Alan Moore!). Even after that, you get a pretty classic bout between Iron Man and the Hulk, so what more can you ask for? Seriously, what more do you readers want?! So demanding!

Next week, Guarding the Galaxy!

1 comment:

Shlomo Ben Hungstien said...

those were some fun reviews on what looked like a couple of great 80s issues i'll be on the look out for them next time i'm browsing some back issue boxes. also, i wonder how that Micronauts referrence made it into one of those issues you'd almost think Bil Mantlo had written them.

Post a Comment

All comments on The Comics Cube need approval (mostly because of spam) and no anonymous comments are allowed. Please leave your name if you wish to leave a comment. Thanks!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.