Hulk annual #20
Issue(s): Hulk annual #20
This year's annuals aren't crossovers, and the gimmick isn't as contrived as last year's new characters, but there is a theme: all are from the perspective of villains.
The Hulk barely appears in this annual, actually. He doesn't appear in the main story except as part of a fairy tale told by the Abomination. His only appearances is as a supporting character in one of the back-up stories. Neither back-up is by Peter David.
The Abomination story has Peter David continuing the development for the character that we saw in the last appearance that he wrote, in Hulk #384, which showed him living in a sewer among a population of homeless people (the story understandably makes no mention of the Abomination's appearance in last year's annual). David combines this with a story he wrote for Cloak and Dagger which ended up getting published in Marvel Super Heroes #7, in which the (seemingly) Golden Age Angel was a champion of the homeless. The previous Abomination story just had him living among the homeless, but by this story he is working with Angel. This is a good role for the Abomination which will get developed further. But this story only deals with that scenario as a framing sequence (illustrated by Salvador Larroca). Most of the story is taken up with a fairy tale (illustrated by Stuart Immonen). The Abomination comes across a woman named Sandy in Central Park with a death wish after the death of her boyfriend. Abomination rescues her from some attackers and then brings her to his homeless group.
There's a rare (if oblique) reminder that the Abomination is Russian when Sandy says, "My God!" after first seeing the Abomination's full form.
It's story time in the underground. Angel has just finished telling a story about "the man in black and the lady of light". And now the Abomination begins his fairy tale.
The story's female protagonist is Nadia, named for Abomination's wife. In the story, she's a princess, and her father the king has declared that whoever can defeat a monster will gain Nadia's hand in marriage. Nadia doesn't like the idea that someone defeating a monster should determine who she has to marry, so she dons armor to go defeat the monster herself. The village barber, Emil (Abomination's civilian name), also goes after the monster. The monster is the Hulk. Nadia puts up a decent fight but loses to the Hulk, but he falls in love with her when she takes her helmet off. Then Emil arrives, and uses a mirror to show the Hulk his true form (Bruce Banner). Hulk surrenders to him, but Nadia prevents Emil from killing the Hulk. Seeing that Nadia is in love with the Hulk's true form, Emil agrees to take on the curse for himself and becomes the Abomination, leaving Nadia and Bruce to ride off into the sunset.
If you wanted to read too much into the story, it's kind of interesting how the Abomination has re-cast himself as a long suffering martyr who sort-of blames Banner for taking his wife away with him. That doesn't fit very neatly with reality but who knows how the Abomination has re-written things in his own head.
As for Sandy, she falls asleep during the story and gets some much needed rest. When she wakes up, she's back in the park, but with a note saying that she is welcome to return at any time. She's a social worker, so her skills would be useful among the homeless society. There is a nice little message at the end showing how her time among the homeless has put her own life's tragedy into perspective.
It's a good story, but it could be disappointing to people wanting a real Hulk/Abomination meeting (not even necessarily a fight), and i personally don't have much patience for pages and pages being devoted to fairy tales and the like.
The first back-up features Doc Samson as the hero. He's helping out in Reno with a hostage situation perpetrated by someone believed to have super-powers. The guy seems to have (broadly speaking) shape-shifting powers that are triggered subconsciously.
Doc eventually gets through to a core personality and talks what turns out to be a young man down.
In Marvel Comics Presents #170, the kid will be dubbed "Psychobabble" (which is also the title of this story).
It's a pretty messy story. I really want stories about Doc Samson using his psychiatric training to deal with super-villains, but this was so chaotic and full of, well, psychobabble, that it's not what i had in mind. I think something along these lines could have worked. Maybe something closer to what J.M. DeMatteis was doing with Spider-Man villains, except instead of revealing that every villain had some deep rooted justification for their villainly, Samson could just use their foibles to stop them. Like, Electro is a meglomaniac so we can draw him out by calling him out in public. But Rhino is an introvert so he has to be handled differently. I guess what i really have in mind is the way that Moonstone's similar psychiatric training has been used, but for good.
The final story is a Pantheon story focusing on Achilles and Ajax and also the Arabian Knight. Achilles and Ajax have been sent to Trans-Sabal to meet with a Pantheon field agent who has tipped off the Hulk about a plan to ship Muslim soldiers to "some hot spot in Europe", which is later said to be Bosnia/Serbia. They are attacked by Trans-Sabalian Mandroids but they're rescued by the Arabian Knight, who turns out to be the Pantheon agent.
The sequence above addresses a continuity kerfuffle regarding the Arabian Knight. In Marvel Comics Presents #47, the Arabian Knight's family was killed. But in Uncanny X-Men annual #15, it was said that the Arabian Knight was forced to work for Desert Sword because his family was held hostage. This sequence reveals that the "family" that was held hostage was actually a group of undercover Pantheon agents. (Sadly, i guess that means that the Knight's family is really dead, but then he did seem to get more wives in Marvel Comics Presents #114. Maybe they were Pantheon agents too.)
When the Knight takes Achilles and Ajax to the location where the Muslim troops are getting ready to be deployed, it turns out that there's been a miscommunication. Ajax assumed that the mission was to stop the deployment, but the Arabian Knight wants to get the troops deployed.
The debate is made moot when the soldier camp is bombed while the Arabian Knight and Ajax are fighting.
Regardless of the politics of the situation, it seems like this operation was an epic fuck-up. Somehow either the Hulk was unaware of what Arabian Knight was doing as a Pantheon agent, or he failed to communicate it to Ajax before sending him on the mission. And since this is a back-up story not written by Peter David, the repercussions from this will never be seen. Still, it was an interesting topic to tackle; the sort of thing that the Pantheon was meant to be grappling with but rarely did.
This annual also has an additional feature: a photo album depicting scenes from Rick and Marlo's wedding from Hulk #418. I covered it (very briefly, in the Considerations) on that entry.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP place this (along with some other Hulk appearances) between Hulk #419-420. A newspaper headline seen in Central Park says "Hulk sought for questioning" but that doesn't have to be a specific reference or a recent paper.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showAbomination, Achilles, Ajax, Angel (Simon Halloway), Arabian Knight, Doc Samson, Hulk, Psychobabble, Sandy (Sewer Dwellers)
Wouldn't the man in black and the lady of light be Cloak and Dagger, from the MSH story referenced above?
Posted by: Luis Dantas | December 6, 2017 4:22 PM
Oh der. Thanks Luis.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 6, 2017 4:55 PM
That actually settles something for me, because the Appendix's chronology puts this story before the (main portion of the) Cloak & Dagger story, which seemed wrong to me and now is definitely wrong.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 6, 2017 4:59 PM
Is PAD suggesting that the Abomination's grandmother was taken to the gulags before Stalin died? Because this story was published in 1994 and Stalin died in 1953- 41 years before that. How old did PAD think the Abomination was?
Posted by: Michael | December 6, 2017 8:10 PM
As I recall, all of the 1994 annuals had stories that focused on villains.
Posted by: Ben Herman | December 6, 2017 9:48 PM
Ah, thanks Ben. This is the only annual that i'd read in real time, and i only have a few more which i haven't read for the project yet. So i hadn't picked up on that.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 6, 2017 11:06 PM
Stuart Immonen worked on 1994's Legion of Super-Heroes Annual 5 where he did a framing sequence around a fairy tale version of the characters.
Posted by: Wanyas the Self-Proclaimed | December 7, 2017 4:26 PM
@Michael: How old do you think the Abomination is? Because while it would rule out the Abomination being in his 20s, 30s, and even early 40s, it still leaves a wide range of ages for him to be. Marvel generally likes their characters to be perpetually 25, but Bruce Banner probably had to be at least in his 30s just when he became the Hulk, and I don't know whether Abomination would have been older or younger, but allow a few extra years for the intervening events and putting him in his mid-to-late 40s or even older by this point isn't unreasonable. That's assuming PAD was even thinking about age and years and wasn't just falling back on what he knew about Soviet Russia, which for all he knew could have been timeless and applicable to any era before at least Gorbachev's ascension.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | December 7, 2017 5:01 PM
PAD might have had the Stalin-era gulags in mind (it doesn't seem impossible for a Russian spy to be in his 40s), but he may also have been thinking of other Soviet persecution of religion which continued into the 1970s & 80s.
Some forms of Christianity (such as Jehovah's Witnesses & Eastern Catholics) were banned entirely and Grandma Blonsky could certainly have been arrested (or sent to an asylum) if she was involved in any organised teaching of such religions.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | December 7, 2017 7:17 PM
Interesting that Abomination's story has Nadia fall in love with Banner, considering what happens in the Bruce Jones run.
Posted by: Berend | December 8, 2017 6:14 AM
The Ron Perlman joke is a reference to the late 80s Beauty and the Beast TV series.
Posted by: Michael | December 9, 2017 12:05 AM
but there is a theme: all are from the perspective of villains
Huh. Like you (I see in the comments), I had no idea there was a common theme amongst the '94 annuals for all these years. But now as I think back over the ones I've read, it becomes more obvious.
Posted by: Austin Gorton | December 11, 2017 10:11 AM
Comments are now closed.
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