Wednesday, January 8, 2014

IRON MAN #131

"HULK IS WHERE THE HEART IS!"
Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: Jerry Bingham | Letterer: Diana Albers | Colorist: Ben Sean
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Bethany is driving Tony home from the airport when traffic comes to a halt, due to the Hulk eating fruit from an overturned truck up ahead. Bethany leaves to call the Avengers, while Tony changes into Iron Man and confronts the Hulk. However in the end, the Hulk reverts to Bruce Banner thanks to the friendship of a young boy. Iron Man takes Banner back to Stark International, where the two collaborate on a device to keep Banner's pulse steady and prevent him from changing into the Hulk.

Once the device is designed, built, and implanted in Banner, stress tests result in no transformation. With Banner seemingly cured, the army arrives to arrest him. Banner makes a break for it, prompting a young troop to hurl a grenade at him. Iron Man deflects the grenade, but the explosion is enough to trigger a transformation in Banner. However the change is mental only, as Bruce Banner emerges from the smoke ranting in the Hulk's voice.

Continuity Notes: At the story's outset, Tony has just returned from his trip to Hong Kong. Throughout the story, Iron Man refers to the Hulk as one of his greatest enemies and even seems to fear him, but no footnotes are provided to direct readers to past clashes between the two.

In addition to Bethany Cabe, this issue also features appearances by Mrs. Arbogast and Scott Lang, the latter of whom builds the pulse monitor after Banner and Stark have designed it. A footnote also finally states that Lang's identity as Ant-Man is known only to himself and Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man.

For those who care, Tony's trip to Hong Kong is said to have taken three days. Following the issue's initial scene, days pass as Stark and Banner design their device, and then the action skips weeks ahead while it is built and implanted, and while Banner heals. This is the largest time leap since the Michelinie/Layton run began. Making an informed but ultimately arbitrary guess, I would think it's been about two months since that initial battle with Madame Masque and the Ani-Men.

My Thoughts: I've long known that the Michelinie/Layton run features a classically-regarded battle between Iron Man and the Hulk, so I assume this must be it. As the first installment of a two-part story, this issue sets up an interesting premise: what would happen if the Hulk's brain emerged in Bruce Banner's body? I believe Peter David tackled this question during his time writing the Hulk's series, but I'd had no idea the concept predated that run.
Beyond the main set-up, little else happens in the issue. There are no sub-plots to speak of. The entirety of the story is dedicated to the Hulk situation, which makes the issue feel a little flat. There's only so much intrigue you can get out of the Hulk. He's a very straightforward character. I did enjoy seeing Tony and Banner working together, though. Their collaboration here foreshadows the mutual respect the characters show toward one another in the 2012 AVENGERS movie.

Lastly, this issue marks the start of Jerry Bingham's five-issue stint as penciler. Though with Bob Layton inking, it's hard to see a huge difference from any other artist. I will say, however, that Bingham's layouts are a bit better than Layton's were in the previous issue.

1 comment:

  1. Tony's battled the Hulk as a member of the Avengers, of course (going back to Avengers #1), and given that Hulk took on the whole team, Tony might be understandably worried about a solo encounter. The only IM/Hulk one-on-one that I readily recall was in Hulk's own book, I believe during the story where the Hulk first meets Jim Wilson…which might even have been #131 of *that* title, if my memory isn't too rusty.

    (And Tony had a tank-load of military back-up in that fight, and still didn't do too well. Hulk is more Thor-class than Shellhead-class, IMO.)

    —Dan

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