Issue(s): Hulk #402, Hulk #403, Hulk #404
Of course the downside to me getting books regularly again was that this was also when i started reading DeFalco's FF. I guess that's the price you pay. But while that and a lot of other books fell to the wayside, i continued with Hulk through the end of Peter David's run even when at times it felt like everything else Marvel was putting out was horrible.
This story starts with the Hulk investigating a mysterious land developer that is wiping out huge swaths of the Amazon rain forest. He gets into a fight with a logger that throws the Hulk around with surprising ease.
The secret is pretty well kept, but we learn in the end that he's the Juggernaut, working for the Red Skull. It's a great reveal.
Interspersed with the above fight are scenes of Doc Samson showing up to try to help with both Marlo and Rick.
We also see some flashbacks dealing with the fallout from the Hulk getting put in charge of the Pantheon. The other members of the Pantheon Royal Family (so to speak) take it with varying degrees of acceptance, with Achilles in particular flipping out. We also see that the Hulk tells Betty that he'd like her to move in with him at the Pantheon Mount, but she doesn't want to be isolated there. So they come to a compromise which shows some growth in their relationship. He can commute to work from Betty's place in Reno, but only if he agrees to start seeing Samson as a therapist.
And while i'm going to have a lot of praise for Gary Frank, let me just say that Jan Duursema did a really good job filling in for the past few issues. This fight with the Juggernaut is a classic in my mind, and the fact that it was done by an artist that was really just kind of holding down the fort between the Dale Keown and Gray Frank runs is all the more impressive.
But now we get to the "soon-to-be-deified", as they're introduced, team of Gray Frank and Cam Smith.
Frank previously worked on Marvel UK's Motormouth & Killpower, and it was a pretty smart move recruiting him away from that to work on Hulk (a big loss for Motormouth, though).
I like Frank's faces, and he's great with drawing ridiculously big characters like the Hulk and Juggernaut.
That's also a great sequence writing-wise, showing the Red Skull to be as good handling super-villain henchmen like the Juggernaut as Baron Zemo was during the Masters of Evil storyline (and without resorting to sedatives).
I also like Hulk's "couldn't make me serve you a tennis ball" line. Poor Mentallo gets no respect.
Mentallo's attack gives Frank a chance to really show off, because Mentallo first attacks the Hulk with images of all his past villains.
This is a pretty standard line of mental attack, though, and the Hulk deals with it fine. Mentallo says that the last time Bruce Banner was in control of the Hulk's body, overwhelming odds could have broken him, but it's different this time. So the Skull directs him to "Probe deeper. Find things that he's buried". Mentallo does, and finds Bruce's father.
And that breaks the Hulk and puts him under Mentallo's control.
While Mentallo is working on the Hulk, Juggernaut is walking around the Skull's "N.W.O." compound, and he happens to be around when something breaks out of a room labeled Project Piecemeal.
Meanwhile, as the Skull noted above, the Avengers have been sent in to investigate the same thing as the Hulk. Even with my renewed comic book collecting, i was not reading the Avengers and had not in some time. So i was pretty disappointed by this group of Avengers. A beardless Hercules, a pale Vision, and a team comprised pretty much entirely of B-listers. But i do think Peter David is really great about getting to the heart of the current team dynamic.
Little guest appearances like this were, to my mind, a great way to help keep up with what was going on in the rest of the Marvel universe without having to collect everything.
Anyway, the Avengers encounter the Juggernaut first, and then the mind controlled Hulk.
It's implied that the Vision's ability to phase and then re-solidify inside Juggernaut's head would be a way to stop him, and there's a running gag where the Vision keeps getting knocked out before he can do it.
I don't really agree that that should be possible, but since it never actually happens it's a moot point.
And it's a fun fight.
There's a great moment where care is taken to show Sersi's reaction to Crystal unleashing her full power. A nice subtle moment. We've seen the rivalry between them. But you can imagine Sersi realizing here that pissing Crystal off is not a good idea.
In my opinion it's worth more than all that Bob Harras was doing with the characters in the actual Avengers issues.
What really ends things is when Juggernaut compliments the Hulk, which ruins the ruse of his father browbeating him.
So it's a psychic backlash from repelling Mentallo's control that knocks out the Juggernaut, and that i'm totally cool with.
The Red Skull's base is destroyed, but he and other members of the "New World Order" manage to escape, and we see them meeting at the end, and learning that Piecemeal has escaped. With the exception of Silvermane, we don't see who else is in the cabal.
Peter David will return to the NWO in future issues of the Hulk, but it unfortunately never really goes anywhere. I don't know if this was simply because David never got to it or if he had a conflict with, say, the Captain America office, who "owned" the character. Mark Gruenwald also had the Red Skull as the leader of a cabal, but it was markedly different from this.
Back home, Betty learns that chickens are being treated with gamma rays to increase their growth. This is more of a parallel with concerns about irradiated food than the set-up for a storyline. A later lettercol confirms that they really were (are?) irradiating food with gamma rays, but of course real life gamma rays aren't like the Marvel versions.
And Marlo's brothers Keith and Ray show up to try to take her home.
Rick tosses them out for now.
The psychological side of this story, with the way that Mentallo's manipulations do and don't work on the Hulk and the reveals about Hulk's father, elevate what is already a really great super-hero story into something a little more.
Quality Rating: A
Chronological Placement Considerations: Sersi's costume is red in issue #402 and green in #403-404, and i'm not sure which is meant to be correct, but i'm letting that rule out placement based on her costume alone. Crystal, on the other hand, is wearing her pre-Avengers #360 costume, and the Vision is not in the colorful body that he gains (so to speak) in that story.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAchilles, Agamemnon, Atalanta, Betty Ross, Black Knight (Dane Whitman), Crystal, Delphi, Doc Samson, Henry Peter Gyrich, Hercules, Hulk, Juggernaut, Keith Chandler, Marlo Chandler, Mentallo, Piecemeal (NWO), Ray Chandler, Red Skull, Rick Jones, Sersi, Silvermane, Ulysses, Vision
First time I have heard about this issue and thoroughly enjoyed reading the scans and your commentary. Good job.
Posted by: Grom | September 21, 2016 7:49 PM
Juggernaut's appearance is a little odd here since when we was with Tolliver in X-Force 5 begging him to heal Black Tom and when we see him next in Deadpool 1, he's at one of Tolliver's buildings, trying to see if Tom is okay.
Posted by: Michael | September 21, 2016 8:10 PM
As a fan fix, you could say that Tolliver was part of the New World Order, one of the Skull's shadowy accomplices. But it would also work just to say that he's on loan from Tolliver here, or freelancing while Tolliver works on "curing" Black Tom.
Fnord, I recall seeing interviews with David where he confirms that editorial interference scotched the NWO plot.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | September 21, 2016 11:11 PM
Michael, who is the moron you are referring to? The prosecutor? Department of Child Safety? I do not know the stories but interested to hear. While we know the father is guilty I suppose the system presumes he is innocent and in the absence of child abuse young Bruce should continue to reside with him. Were there any Aunts or Uncles on the Mother's side? What about the Mother's parents? Unrealistic that family members on the mother's side would not have done something to protect Bruce though in the absence of evidence it would be difficult to successfully apply for guardianship.
Posted by: Grom | September 21, 2016 11:34 PM
The quicksand apparently pulled the dinosaur off of Caine's shirt.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | September 22, 2016 2:03 AM
@Michael Brian Banner was innocent before proven not guilty by reason of insanity. With a good lawyer, he'd have limited supervised visits with Bruce before the trial. And he's a smart guy so he'd find a way to get Bruce alone long enough to get the fix in. I've always taken that scene as having the essential elements of what Brian must have said to get Bruce to lie on the stand.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | September 22, 2016 7:03 AM
@Erik It's not just any dinosaur; that's Earl Sinclair from the "Dinosaurs" TV series that had notoriety around then! Didn't know Cain was a fan of that show.
Posted by: Ataru320 | September 22, 2016 8:14 AM
Peter David has never been the regular writer of the Avengers, but he should be.
Black Widow is supposed to be the current chairman, so why is she absent from this story?
Posted by: Steven | September 22, 2016 9:09 AM
It is a sad reality of life that very little happens even in extreme cases of unfitness for parenting, alas.
Fnord, I agree that PAD is doing a lot better with the characterization of the guests stars of a single issue than Bob Harras manages in half a year.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 22, 2016 9:13 AM
"Your honor, I move that we must find Bruce Banner's father guilty on all charges"
Posted by: Andrew | September 22, 2016 10:06 AM
Peter David's Hulk - pretty much the only thing that kept me reading any comics in the early 90s.
Posted by: Bob | September 25, 2016 7:09 PM
a minor point, but I would think the Vision might have more of a patience/sympathy for the Hulk since he was extraordinarily crucial (and in long-term ways, too) in the merging of the character in #323 which set off some very significant developments in the next couple of years.
Posted by: Wis | January 28, 2017 2:51 AM
Jan Duursema is an excellent artist. To my mind, the definitive Star Wars artist (Dark Horse years).
Posted by: Dave77 | April 14, 2017 8:54 PM
She is. Cannot wait for Hexer Dusk!
Posted by: Cecil | April 15, 2017 12:30 AM
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