Issue(s): Hulk #320, Hulk #321, Hulk #322, Hulk #323
Milgrom is taking over for Byrne here, and it seems pretty clear that he's following Byrne's plans for the series. That's not definitely the case, and especially since editor Denny O'Neil was fired from the book at the same time Byrne left it's hard to know exactly how much of Byrne's plots were known to Milgrom. But there was some indication in Byrne's run that Doc Samson's theory that the Hulk and Bruce Banner are separate entities was wrong. And when the four "big gun" Avengers showed up in Byrne's run, they did warn that if Samson couldn't get things under control, they'd return in full force. And then there's the fact that this is all leading to turning the Hulk grey, but i'll talk about that in the next entry.
But let's start at the beginning. With the help of Bruce's doctor...
...Betty convinces Bruce to take a vacation for their honeymoon. He leaves while the Hulk Busters and Samson are fighting the Hulk, information that Rick Jones and Betty conspire to keep from him.
Hulk tears apart the Hulk Buster's latest gear with no difficulty.
Bruce gets news of the latest Hulk battle while he's on his cruise ship, and he reacts the way i do when i get a call from work on my day off.
The Hulk Buster fight ends on a dumb note, with geophysicist Hideko Takata revealing that because she is Japanese she is also a master of Aikido, and therefore able to take on the Hulk for a few rounds.
Luckily, Captain Marvel shows up before the Hulk smashes the old lady into pulp.
CM keeps the Hulk busy until the West Coast Avengers arrive. She considers hitting the Hulk with gamma beams but decides to wait until the "science types" arrive.
While the West Coasters are fighting the Hulk...
...She-Hulk notices that the East Coast Avengers mansion is nearly deserted, and when she asks the FF where their hosts are, Mr. Fantastic tells her that they've left to fight the Hulk, who they consider "their problem", and they've asked the FF to hang back in case another threat emerges while the Avengers are occupied. She-Hulk obviously would have preferred to have been informed about the Hulk, and she heads to Hydrobase to get a Quinjet.
Meanwhile, the East Coast Avengers have joined the battle.
With so many characters involved, the fight with the Hulk is kind of a mess.
She-Hulk arrives and tries to reason with the Hulk, but he's unreachable.
Thus, the big pile-on continues.
The big moral question for the Avengers is should they use lethal force against the Hulk, and with She-Hulk's failure to calm the Hulk, it seems to be settled.
But the debate continues into the next issue, with Captain America especially paralyzed by it.
In Sean Howe's Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, he describes a weird edict from Jim Shooter towards the end of his reign where every story had to feature a "can't... must" moment. E.g., we can't kill a baby Beyonder, but we must kill a baby Beyonder. Morally, i can't sell this golden notebook, but i must sell this golden notebook. I thought it was kind of overblown; a random comment by Shooter (maybe "a good story features a moral dilemma") turned into a law through the retelling. But you can find examples of it if you look for it, and this "Must the Hulk die?" question seems to be one.
The thing is, it seems like a completely phoney dilemma. I don't see any evidence that the Avengers have the capability to kill the Hulk, especially in his current state while he's supercharged by the separation from Banner. I mean, go ahead and use "lethal force" until the Hulk falls down and doesn't get up, and then worry about whether or not you should kill him. No one needs to be pulling their punches here. If the Avengers had devised some specific Hulk killing device, or if they had some specific idea in mind, like maybe stabbing the Hulk through the heart with the Black Knight's sword, i could see the debate. But the dilemma as presented is so vague it seems meaningless. The real question here is are the Avengers capable of even surviving this fight, let alone killing the Hulk.
Anyway, it's hilarious to see the sidelined troops, Hulkbusters, and Doc Samson caught up in the bloodlust that we're meant to believe is infecting everyone.
Eventually the Avengers do manage to knock out the Hulk, really because the symptoms of his separation from Bruce are reaching the final stage, and Betty has to jump in to stop them from killing the Hulk after he's already out.
Earlier, we learned that Doc Samson's theory that the Hulk and Banner are separate entities was just plain wrong.
Bruce Banner doesn't care, and wanted the Hulk to be killed anyway, knowing that it would kill him too.
With the Hulk unconscious and now under military custody, the Avengers just pack up and leave. Which is really incredible. Actually, it's at this point that any moral questions should really begin: now that he's unconscious, what do we do with him? Well, one thing you shouldn't do is just leave him in the hands of the people he escaped from in the first place.
There's surely a thrill in seeing the combined Avengers teams going up against the Hulk, but it's worth comparing this fight to previous Avengers/Hulk battles. Hulk #300, which also features a Hulk devoid of Bruce Banner's personality, is a good point of comparison. The recent fight with just the Avengers' biggest guns during Byrne's run is another. And i think a big difference here is that Milgrom, perhaps to his credit, doesn't allow the Avengers to face off against the Hulk one by one as Mantlo and Buscema did, or limit the team to a more manageable group, as Byrne did. He has the entire group of Avengers attacking en masse. But while that may seem more sensible or realistic, it leads to these panels where the Avengers are just crowding each other and you've got Hawkeye waving an arrow or Tigra doing who knows what just to get them in the scene. There are a few scenes where there's coordination between teammates but for the most part it just reads like a lot of flailing, and it comes off less satisfying than the other battles i mentioned.
Also worth mentioning that what Milgrom adds for character moments for the most part feel out of date, like Wonder Man getting worried about death again or the Wasp getting annoyed by Cap naturally falling into a leadership position. One thing i did like was Hawkeye risking his life trying to take out the Hulk before the East Coasters show up; his compulsion to prove himself is still a going concern.
Anyway, in the aftermath of the fight, the soldiers start to notice that the Hulk has been increasing in size, and then Samson realizes Hulk's molecules are dispersing.
And back in his hospital bed, the same thing happens to Bruce Banner. I love the doctor's impulse to use his stethoscope, clearly the first thing to try when someone starts losing density.
A call is made to Henry Pym, but the man is completely uninterested in helping...
...and he just refers things off to the Vision. The Vision also doesn't really want to get involved because Scarlet Witch is close to giving birth...
...but he does arrive and, with an unusual use of his powers, manages to stabilize Bruce...
...and then transport him to the Hulk, where he re-merges the two.
Vision, however, becomes lost inside the Hulk's persona, which has reverted to his original brute form.
(That scene with Rick above is how you know we're dealing with classic Hulk.)
Betty manages to reach the Vision by talking about her love for Bruce, which causes him to remember Wanda...
...and pull free.
While all this is going on, SHIELD pulls General Ross aside with plans to give Ross the ability to seek "revenge" against the Hulk. It's kind of like they don't even know what's been going on. But more on that soon.
Even if the quality takes a dive after Byrne's departure, it definitely feels like some momentous stuff is going on here and indeed that will be the case.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places this during Avengers #270 (before the scene with Byrrah), between West Coast Avengers #10-11, between Fantastic Four #292-293, and between Vision & the Scarlet Witch #11-12 (Wanda is expecting "any day now"). For the East Coast Avengers, i've instead placed this before Avengers #267 instead of during #270 just because old preferences about not placing stories during other issues dies hard.
This arc begins with Samson saying, "Day six, still no further sign of the Hulk.". For maximum flexibility in terms of placement, i'm interpreting that to mean it's been six days since Samson saw the Hulk last issue, not six days since he first allowed the Hulk to escape. Samson also says that it's been "two weeks" since he knocked the Hulk out at the start of Byrne's run.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (9): show
One note- Marvels Eye of the Camera 5 has a demonstration against the Sub-Mariner's place on the Avengers taking place after this story. (Marvels:Eye of the Camera 4 ends circa Avengers 266.) That's ambiguous because there could have been more than one demonstration against the Sub-Mariner.
Posted by: Michael | December 1, 2013 3:44 PM
Worth noting that Captain Marvel did try Gamma Rays against the Hulk, during Avengers #300.
I liked Dr Fischer as a character and, stethoscope reflex aside, find it kind of funny that he just seems like a basic medical doctor- not to discount that, but how is it he is that adept at double checking advanced scientific work and correcting Doc Sampson's experiments? Is he also a theoretical biochemist?
Posted by: george gordon | March 3, 2014 3:58 AM
It's like the editors said to Milgrom "We want a big fight with the Avengers against the Hulk, but please try to draw it like you're aping John Byrne and not like the crap you drew during Secret Wars II." Either that or Barras is a much better inker than Leialoha.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 20, 2015 8:46 AM
Although I don't care for Milgrom's execution of the story, I do fully appreciate that Milgrom was trying to locally extrapolate what would happen next after Byrne's six-issue run, whether or not it was not what Byrne was intending to do himself. From my impression of the comics industry today, We would not be likely to see current writers care that much to build upon the previous creator's run, unless the previous writer was a close friend of the new incoming writer.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | July 2, 2015 1:32 PM
From what I've seen here, I think this really was the capturing of lightning in a bottle with what happens at this point. Milgrom figured that there was going to be a return to a former status for the Hulk that wasn't "HULK SMASH!!" coming back; but that to him lead to the Grey Hulk's return, which is where PAD came in and ran with it.
Though regardless of the art, that Shulkie in the first page of 322 looks terrible, at leat with her face. (yeah she's going through a lot with Bruce being the way he is but the face is just...ick)
Posted by: Ataru320 | July 2, 2015 1:57 PM
Ataru, have to agree with your "lightning in a bottle" observation. Byrne's run was short, but it give enough momentum to both Milgrom and David to take the series in a positive new direction that still honored what came before, but without repeating what came before.
Also, got to love how nearly all the Avengers ask "Must the Hulk die?" in unison, as if they are apparently auditioning for the next Pitch Perfect film. An only-in-comics moment!
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | July 2, 2015 2:44 PM
I'm re-reading this entry three years later and I still stand by my support of ol' Doc Fischer.
About Milgrom's plans- I have to say that it's somewhat unlike what Byrne apparently intended to do, so we have to give Milgrom credit for inexplicably resetting the status quo for several years. According to that blog (which I can't remember now but fnord has shared; regarding Byrne's Hulk run), Byrne was going to have the Hulk become like he was when he was kept locked up at night; rounder and brutish and still green; and Banner hunting him. That's nothing like a grey, brutish and well spoken Hulk feuding with Rick Jones as a second Hulk.
I was reading and buying these from 711 in real time as a seven year old so they are undoubtedly colored with sentimental lenses for me, but I think they hold up. If you have no awareness of superstar creators and are following for the characters- as I was, as a little kid- this was really magic and exciting.
Posted by: Wis | October 26, 2017 12:04 AM
I'd definitely like to see more of Dr Fischer. Yes, he seems like just the average medical doctor, but he's just the average medical doctor in the Marvel Universe, and he's seen other doctors become the sorcerer supreme, or at least become a creator of super-villains, so he's got an eye for any windows open for that sort of promotion himself.
So in the meantime he reads test papers on effects of bites from radioactive invertebrates, and he prescribes his patients things like "my psycho-stimulation drug". I'm fairly sure that here on Earth Prime, anything called a psycho-stimulation drug would be a placebo, but Dr Fischer created it in the mad scientist laboratory he's had installed at the back of his house, which he keeps having to tell the kids not to wander into.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | October 26, 2017 4:35 AM
Jonathan, son of Kevin we have stumbled upon our first fan-fic EPIC. I just know fnord is gonna want to host it here on supermegamonkey.
Posted by: Wis | October 26, 2017 4:45 AM
"Placeboman - he has super-powers because you THINK he does!"
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 29, 2017 6:09 PM
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