Characters Appearing: Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Hawkeye, Hulk, Iron Man, She-Hulk, Thor, Wasp
Hulk Smash Avengers #3
Issue(s): Hulk Smash Avengers #3
I know a lot of people are just completely against continuity inserts. The argument, understandably, is "quit messing around with the past and just make new stories!". Especially since, when writing stories that take place in the past, the creators so often screw things up. And believe me, no one feels the pain of a poorly thought out continuity insert more than me. I'd wager i'm the only person on Earth that has to physically shuffle books around to support some tenuous placement required by one of these issues (just see Hulk Smash Avengers #2). And yet, i actually love these things, especially when they are done by creators that obviously care about continuity and make sure their stories fit somewhere properly. A good continuity insert can add an extra layer of depth to existing stories, taking more time with characterization than was possible at the time, or providing those extra scenes that help grease the parts a bit, showing things that we'd otherwise have to just sort of assumed happened behind the scenes.
Take (duh!) this issue, for example. Hulk #280 ends with the Hulk having fought off a wave of the Leader's humanoids, and learning that Rick Jones and Bereet were kidnapped. And then in issue #281 we see the Hulk having already borrowed a Quinjet from the Avengers and waving goodbye to them as he flies into space. And, to be clear, that's fine. The Hulk's book was the Hulk's book and we don't need to directly see the minutiae of him showing up at Avengers mansion and actually borrowing the Quinjet and rejecting their help. But at the same time... why wouldn't the Avengers want to go stop a world threatening menace like the Leader, even if the Hulk didn't want them to? And hey, Captain America has a personal connection with Rick Jones as well. And by the way, this would have been the first real meeting between the Avengers and the Hulk since Bruce Banner took control. And it happens off panel!? So Roger Stern uses this issue to address all of those things. And also to show a little more of Captain Marvel's initiation period, something that again we saw bits of during Stern's Avengers run but it all happened relatively quickly.
To reiterate, Stern isn't fixing anything here. He's just filling in some gaps, and expanding on some established stuff. And it's all while telling a decent story and servicing the remit of this Hulk Smash Avengers series.
The series seems to be designed to show that the Avengers have been a part of the Hulk's history and have even tried to help or even recruit him at various times. This was, i think, thanks to the first Avengers movie. It's something that wasn't really supported by the comics, however; hence these issues. Stern slips in a line saying "all attempts to convince [the Hulk] to rejoin the Avengers were unsuccessful". And his story here looks at the period where the Hulk had Bruce Banner's intellect, which really would have been a great time for him to rejoin the Avengers. It's actually something that Bill Mantlo will tease and then drop off panel during this period. But Stern establishes here that even with Banner in control, the Avengers still have an inherent distrust of the Hulk, and it goes the other way, too.
Unfortunately, the kind of character development i've been saying is the benefit of these kinds of issues is actually cut short, in part thanks to a focus on some bystanders outside the mansion (see below) and in part thanks to the re-emergence of some humanoids. So the Hulk and the Avengers put aside their differences and fight the humanoids. And therefore there's no Hulk Smashing the Avengers, and also no Hulk Sits Down And Works Out His Differences With The Avengers Over A Nice Cup Of Tea.
Captain Marvel plays a big role in the humanoids' defeat, and people who think Stern overused her will see the same thing here, but it's really a group effort that allows CM to do what she does.
Captain Marvel is also the one who doesn't want to perpetuate the fighting when the Hulk first shows up.
But i believe the fact that the Hulk and the Avengers got off on the wrong foot here is meant to contribute to the fact that the Hulk doesn't have them come along. It's not explicitly said - here's the scene acknowledging Cap's connection to Rick Jones...
...but i'm fairly certain that could have went differently if the Hulk was properly welcomed when he first showed up.
The scene below is repeated from the waving goodbye scene in Hulk #281, although most of the dialogue has been changed (except for She-Hulk's thoughts about her cousin).
While all of this is going on, two bystanders outside the Avengers mansion, who are drawn to look like Mark Gruenwald and John Buscema, have an argument about the Avengers. In a little bit of role reversal, Gruenwald is shown to be an artist. But characteristically, he's the one that loves super-heroes and has an encyclopedic knowledge of their affairs (see References). But Buscema, who was known to not really like drawing super-heroes, challenges Gruenwald why he's drawing "freaks" instead of real heroes like cops, firefighters, or Conan.
In the end, Buscema comes around, of course.
A tribute to the penciler and editor of Stern's Avengers run. I do find it a bit saccharine and distracting from the story, though. If it was just a panel or two it would have been a nice nod, but it goes on a bit more than that and the "argument" isn't really very substantial. And the characters are so obviously meant to represent real people that it takes you out of the story a bit. I can understand wanting to honor people close to you that have passed, but it shouldn't be at the expense of the plot.
Less obtrusively, Captain America is first shown in this issue taking down a Hydra cell. He turns them over to an Agent Greenberg, which i assume is a nod to Glenn Greenberg, who Roger Stern collaborated with on the Hobgoblin Lives story.
Another thing that takes you out of the story is the in-your-face reference to Marvel's sliding timescale. At the beginning of the issue, She-Hulk and Wasp are at a spa together. And She-Hulk asks the Wasp about her romantic encounters with George Clooney and Puffy Combs.
The art can get a little weird, like She-Hulk walking on her tippy toes above, and weird looking faces.
But Karl Moline does a nice job handling a large cast and keeping it fairy "realistic" looking. And nice pacing; a good number of panels per page and no gratuitous or space-wasting splash panels. It's actually a fairly traditional style that i wouldn't have minded seeing more of in 2012. And as for Roger Stern, i'm happy to take him wherever i can get him. I think this issue shows that his writing ability is still strong. It's a little disappointing that he would get relegated to stuff like this in 2012; if i were running Marvel he'd be writing and/or editing whatever he wanted to.
Here's my original Speed Review on this issue, but it doesn't seem my opinion has changed much.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: This was designed to fit between Hulk #280-281 and Avengers #227-228 and... it does! Very neatly!
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
It is interesting at least that Stern worked out a way to make his Avengers and the Mantlo run on the Hulk mesh together; I'd complain that Bruce doesn't at least get something with Jen but I think Stern just left it to when they went after the Leader in the Mantlo issues.
Posted by: Ataru320 | August 18, 2013 7:31 AM
Have you done deadly genesis yet? I'm free to ignore obviously but your own rules here seem to force you to acknowledge it and take it as true. That one's much more than a continuity insert.
Posted by: Paul | August 18, 2013 12:01 PM
Deadly Genesis has a framing sequence that takes place in 2005, so i'll cover it when i get there (eventually!).
Posted by: fnord12 | August 18, 2013 1:00 PM
FNORD - When you wrote "A tribute to the penciler and editor of Stern's Avengers run. I do find it a bit saccharine and distracting from the story, though. If it was just a panel or two it would have been a nice nod, but it goes on a bit more than that and the "argument" isn't really very substantial. And the characters are so obviously meant to represent real people that it takes you out of the story a bit. I can understand wanting to honor people close to you that have passed, but it shouldn't be at the expense of the plot." My only issue with this is that I wouldn't know who they are if I had run into them on the street. In fact, the only real way I ever know that there are writers and artists writing themselves in is from reading your entries. I have to assume there are other people reading comics who aren't as familiar with the faces behind the comics either. So, from my viewpoint, I don't even pay any attention to them as anything other than characters in the story. Obviously, if there's a scene where the heroes are flying through Marvel offices, I can see your point.
Posted by: clyde | March 7, 2015 9:44 PM
Fair enough, Clyde, and i'll bet that most of the people that can recognize the creators appreciate the tribute and probably aren't as curmudgeon-y as me.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 7, 2015 11:31 PM
Interesting that Wasp is wearing the costume that Byrne designed for her, but this time she's gotten rid of the one pant leg.
One thing about Captain Marvel - a lot heros end up with powers and then have to adapt. Monica was a coast guard pilot - she was clearly brave and was the kind of "hero" being referenced in the argument long before she had powers. More than most heros in the MU, she's clearly of a mindset to help people, no matter the circumstances. I never really appreciated her until she became leader of the Avengers, but I have a much greater appreciation for her now.
Posted by: Erik Beck | May 7, 2015 6:30 PM
Erik, that's a good point about Captain Marvel. (Who, for what it's worth, was always one of my favorite characters.)
I think in its own way it applies equally well to the Falcon, who everybody thinks is super-boring but I actually really admire. The idea of a guy who cares a ton about his community, and so works to help people as a social worker--becoming a vigilante/adventurer/costumed problem-solver at night when the traditional channels don't work--is remarkably consistent and plausible to me. (Whereas Daredevil, who has to have nothing but contempt for legal ethics and his entire profession, just seems horribly conflicted.)
Posted by: James Nostack | May 29, 2015 10:36 AM
That would be an interesting take on Daredevil; he actually loathes lawyers, the legal system, etc. He's a lawyer playing the old "subvert the system from within" game. Got a client he knows is guilty? Give him a horrible defense so he's practically guaranteed to be convicted. A guilty client acquitted anyway? Well, you know all about her now, it'll be child's play to hunt her down and deliver justice by other methods. And he's also playing the long game; maybe, if he plays his cards right, he can become a judge. And then he can REALLY do some damage...
I know that Bob Ingersoll--both a comics writer and a lawyer--has often called out Daredevil and DC's Vigilante (a judge) for claiming they support and revere the legal system and then acting outside of it. I wonder what his thoughts would be on a character who actively hates it and wants to bring it down...
Posted by: Thanos6 | May 29, 2015 10:54 AM
And then there's She-Hulk, for whom they seem to be more two sides of the same coin...
Posted by: Morgan Wick | May 29, 2015 5:12 PM
I think that for Iron Man it could fit better before IM 164/167.
Posted by: Midnighter | January 3, 2016 2:12 AM
Comments are now closed.
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