Characters Appearing: Doc Samson, Geiger, Hulk, Patchwork, Polaris, She-Hulk, Trina Sharp
Doc Samson #1
Issue(s): Doc Samson #1
The one thing that i will say in its favor is that it gets the idea of a Doc Samson story right. It's not a straight super-hero story, like some previous usages of Samson away from the Hulk (like Marvel Team-Up #102 or Marvel Super Heroes #6-8). It at least tries to do something with Samson's psychiatric training. Obviously the gold standard for a Doc Samson story is X-Factor #87, and you could use J.M. DeMatteis' run on Spider-Man a little prior to this as a blueprint for how psychological investigations of various characters could work as an ongoing. But that's not quite what happens here. The basic idea is there: the story starts off with Samson giving a lecture on how gamma radiation has caused repressed feelings to manifest physically (i'd quibble on some of the descriptions here but i'll let it be).
And then it turns out that a new gamma character has emerged, and they're a serial killer, and Samson is recruited to help the police hunt them down ("recruited" includes getting pestered by the detective and also beaten up by the Hulk, who wants the situation resolved but is afraid to deal with it himself because he turns into Banner when he gets angry, and feeling responsible for every gamma-powered character makes him angry).
So "serial killer profiler" for a new (unwanted) gamma character isn't exactly X-Factor #87 material, but it's along the right lines. And to further support Samson in the psychiatrist role, the Hulk also recruits She-Hulk to handle the super-heroics portion.
But, three pages later, an alert goes out and the next thing you know Doc Samson is fighting a gamma monster (having "Psychology!" as a battlecry doesn't make it so).
It's like Samson is wrestling with the plot itself. Samson doesn't want to do super-heroics, Dan Slott doesn't want Samson doing super-heroics, but here we are.
Now, a story isn't bad simply because it isn't the story i want it to be, or even the story that it wants to be. But on top of this failure to avoid the most obvious trope, the design for the villain is uninspired (just a big mess), and the dialogue is atrocious. The interaction between Samson and the Hulk is as stilted and histrionic as Bill Mantlo on a bad day...
...even before we get to the gratuitous violence (panel repeated from above to show how quickly the Hulk gets to swinging, but also compressed to show the unnecessary and unimpressive two-page splash).
This was still pretty early in Slott's career, so i'm not letting his scripting affect my opinion of his later more popular work, but as i said above, i'm happy to stick to having a single issue of this.
In later issues of this series it will become clear that there are actually two new Gamma characters in this issue. One is Patchwork, the real killer. The other is Dee Dee, akak Geiger, who duplicates the abilities and form of gamma-infused characters.
Patchwork doesn't appear outside this mini. Geiger will appear again, years later (mostly in Avengers: Initiate). Maybe more is done with Geiger in this series to make things interesting, but it seems unlikely.
Polaris also appears in this story, but Samson has to put her off for now.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place in the period where the Hulk turned into Banner when he got angry, so it's earlier than publication date, between Hulk #426-436 (a footnote simply says it takes place before #436). The MCP have it between Hulk #435-436, and they have Polaris' appearance in this issue (and a behind-the-scenes appearance next issue) between X-Factor #118-119. Per the MCP, X-Factor #119 then takes place before Polaris' appearance in Doc Samson #4 (which means that if i had the rest of these issues, they'd be split into multiple entries, which is the only reason that Patchwork and the cop, Trina Sharp, are tagged).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
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