Characters Appearing: Delphi, Henry Pym, Hulk, Loki, Wasp
Tales To Astonish
Issue(s): Tales To Astonish
Despite the crass opportunism of pushing out a bunch of Marvels clones, the books are generally quite good. This one is by Peter David, the regular Hulk writer. The story is nothing special, but it's done well. It's probably more interesting for the interactions between Hulk and Hank and Jan than for the threat they are facing, but good character interactions are a higher commodity anyway. As for the art, it has the usual problems for painted art: once you get past the initial novelty of it, you realize that everything is very stiff: individual panels look too posed and the action flow between panels is lacking. On the latter point, i wonder if the issue is less something inherent in painted art and more the fact that the sort of people who get into this kind of stuff are less likely to have cut their teeth doing sequential art (and/or haven't studied it, with a few artists like Alex Ross being exceptions). In any event, i probably ought to feel fleeced for having bought all of these at $6.95 a pop for what are generally pretty forgettable stories, but they somehow manage to feel worth it.
The villain of this story is Loki, making this feel more like an homage to the first issue of the Avengers than the Tales To Astonish series. Around this time in the Hulk's regular series, Peter David was doing an Asgard story, but unfortunately no connections are made. A portion of the story takes place under the sea, which could have allowed for a Sub-Mariner cameo (since he also used to appear in Tales To Astonish), but that opportunity is skipped as well.
The story begins in Norway with a criminal named Knut Caine. Loki is his personal hero, and we're introduced to Caine as he's getting vengeance on a judge that sent him to prison by putting him in a trap modeled after the myth where Loki was bound under the acid-dripping serpent (the judge's wife has to catch acid in a bowl to prevent it from hitting him).
Henry Pym is also in Norway to give a speech on "The Role of Super Sciences In Routine Police Investigations". The Wasp is accompanying him, but we're reminded that they are just friends nowadays. When the situation with Caine escalates, Hank and Janet agree to help.
They track Caine to the fjords (the phrase "pining for the fjords", from the Monty Python Dead Parrot bit is repeated no less than six times). The Wasp confronts Caine...
...but she's depicted as being a bit irresponsible in not capturing him immediately. She instead wastes time hurting him ("paying him back a little") and she allows Caine to hit her in the head with a rock. Caine is dropped under the sea. In a cave, he finds a knife empowered by Loki.
He performs a blood ritual, which transforms him.,
In this new form, he has a variety of powers.
Eventually the entity reveals to Hank and Jan that he is Loki. Caine still exists, but he's losing his sense of self.
Hank and Jan are blasted with an avalanche, but they're rescued thanks to the timely arrival of the Hulk.
The Hulk was alerted to the growing crisis in the area thanks to the Pantheon's Delphi.
Loki/Caine goes to New York. The heroes join forces and follow, despite Hank and Jan's disdain for the Hulk's "outlaw group".
Pym tries to contact Thor or Hercules, but is unable to get a signal. It turns out that Loki has completely transformed the city.
The Hulk and Hank have a little fight (Hank wants to contact a friend in the city, Hulk wants to go directly to fight Loki), resulting in some more of the tense interactions between the characters.
Eventually we get to the confrontation. Hulk starts things off with a ruse.
There are a bunch of minions to contend with. Nothing too interesting.
Hank is an evil, evil puppy killer.
But defeating the minions just puts more power back in Caine/Loki himself. So the Hulk tries another tactic.
The Wasp generally does not have a good showing in this book.
The Hulk eventually goes into a bestial rage and defeats Caine. He's then tempted by Loki's power. But the Hulk rejects the offer in short order.
The Hulk has tossed Loki's knife into the ocean, meaning it's still technically out there for someone to find.
Nothing great, and the actual fight with Caine is actually a bit boring (the idea was surely to give John Estes a lot of wild things to illustrate, but it all feels a bit staid). Once the Hulk is around, he definitely gets more of a focus (which is not surprising considering the writer). He's the main fighter against Loki's minions, his loss of control is an important point for the character, and he's the one who gets tempted. Pym at least holds his own from a superheroics point of view, unlike the Wasp. But i do like seeing the distrust between the more establishment heroes and the Hulk; if anything, i wish we had more interactions like that. I also wish that anything that happened here could have had impact on the regular line of books. Generally though, it's a fun little special.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP place this (along with some other Hulk appearances) between Hulk #419-420. But per the comments from Ben and Michael this will fit better in an earlier era for Henry Pym. So i've pushed this back into 1993, before Pym returns to his Giant Man identity. It's worth noting that Loki is technically a prisoner of Mephisto's realm at this point, but the unusual way in which he manifests in this story may circumvent that imprisonment and/or be an escape attempt. Loki will similarly be shown to be able to send his spirit outside of Mephisto's realm in Avengers annual #23 and Thor annual #19.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Is it just me or does this story read like it was written before Hank became Giant-Man again in Avengers 365-not like it was written after Marvels?
Posted by: Michael | December 12, 2017 7:58 PM
fnord, I have a question about the placement of this story, and this is down to me not having read all of the stories in the Chronological Placement Considerations. Specifically I bought the regular editions of Avengers #379-382, and not the Marvel Double Feature split book ones. From what I heard afterwards, that story ended with everyone except Hank Pym and Scott Lang losing their size-changing abilities. I don't recall seeing Janet Van Dyne becoming the Wasp in any issues after that until she nearly died and was mutated into an actual wasp-woman by Pym in "The Crossing." So I thought that she had lost her size-changing power during this time period.
In any case, I agree with Michael, this story does feel like it was written before Pym became Giant Man again in Avengers #365.
Posted by: Ben Herman | December 12, 2017 9:39 PM
@Ben- doesn't she shrink in Lunatik 1-2?
Posted by: Michael | December 12, 2017 10:35 PM
I hate the Wasp's costume in this because she looks like she forgot to put on her boots. It looks...like an incomplete costume.
Posted by: Bill | December 13, 2017 3:45 AM
@Michael - Um, that's a good question. I didn't read the Lunatik miniseries.
Posted by: Ben Herman | December 13, 2017 12:54 PM
I'm following the MCP's placement. I haven't read the Marvel Double Feature story yet (they are included in my GIT PDFs so if i do a second pass on 1994 for those, i will cover them). But Michael is definitely right that the Wasp is her usual self in the Lunatik series (Dec 95-Feb 96). So if something does happen to her in the Giant-Man story, it must get reversed off panel somewhere afterwards. I can revise if/when i cover the Double Feature issues.
Regarding when the story might have been written, it seems to fit perfectly for the Hulk at the time it was published/placed. The Hulk is acting directly on info from Delphi as opposed to taking orders from Agamemnon, and the scene with him going into a rage and then being targeted/tempted for evil seems to fit really well post Future Imperfect/Troyjan War. So maybe PAD just wasn't keeping up with Pym's changes? Alternatively i guess it could have been written for something else (an annual, maybe before the decision to go with this year's villain theme?) and then got repurposed?
Posted by: fnord12 | December 13, 2017 1:02 PM
Yeah, but Hulk 401, where Agamemnon goes on sabbatical, is cover dated Jan 93 and Avengers 365, where Hank becomes Giant-Man, is cover dated Aug 93. As for the Hulk's evil, Samson makes the point that the Hulk has been out of control all along- we just didn't realize it. And if it takes place after Rick's and Marlo's wedding, it would be odd for PAD to feel the need to explain that Nick told Hank and Jan about the Pantheon since the Pantheon and the Avengers were both at the wedding.
Posted by: Michael | December 13, 2017 8:20 PM
Fair enough. I've pushed this back to before Pym becomes Giant-Man again.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 17, 2017 3:53 PM
Regarding Loki's minions: is that supposed to be the real Fenris wolf (who in Norse mythology is an offspring of Loki), or just another wolf with the same name? Because the real Fenris has appeared before and will appear again, in Michael Avon Oeming's Ragnarok story from 2004.
Posted by: Tuomas | December 21, 2017 4:41 AM
@Tuomas- that's supposed to be an ordinary wolf magically transformed into a duplicate of the Fenris Wolf. Hence, fnord's line about Pym being an evil puppy killer.
Posted by: Michael | December 21, 2017 7:53 AM
Comments are now closed.
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