Monday, January 13, 2014

IRON MAN #132

"THE MAN WHO WOULD BE HULK"
Writer/Plot: David Michelinie | Finished Art/Plot: Bob Layton
Pencil Art: Jerry Bingham | Letters: Joe Rosen | Colors: George Roussos
Editor: Roger Stern | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As Bruce Banner is restrained in Stark International's lab, Tony, Scott Lang, and Dr. Sondheim, the surgeon who implanted the pulse regulator, realize that Banner is changing slowly back into the Hulk. The regulator is nuclear powered, and Banner's gamma-irradiated cells are overcharging it, such that it is regulating his pulse at higher and higher levels.

Even as they make this discovery, Banner completes his transformation and bursts out of the lab. Tony changes to Iron Man and challenges the Hulk. Their resulting battle carries them across the Stark compound, ultimately ending at the airfield, where Iron Man puts everything his systems can muster into one super-charged punch. The Hulk is knocked out, but when Rhodey jovially claps Iron Man on the back, the armored Avenger collapses.

Continuity Notes: Tony contacts Gamma Base for information on the Hulk and learns that it was discovered some time back that the Hulk's physicality and mind are not necessarily linked, and one can exist without the other. A footnote points to HULK #227, which, as it happens, was written by IRON MAN editor Roger Stern.

A mysterious shadowed figure appears in the issue as well, watching a news report on the Hulk situation and recalling that he sent the Unicorn to test Stark's defenses in issue #113. Yes, this is -- the Other, that long-dropped "mystery villain" (who is still pretty clearly the Titanium Man) from Bill Mantlo's final issue prior to the Michelinie/Layton takeover.
Vic Martinelli, Stark International's head of security, appears for the first time in this story (though here given the surname Dick). He will continue as a minor supporting cast member for the rest of the Michelinie/Layton run, and far into the subsequent Denny O'Neil run, as well.

My Thoughts: I'd say this issue lives up to the hype. Iron Man and the Hulk, in a brawl that carries them from Stark's lab to the loading docks and then to the airfield, with lots of wanton collateral damage along the way, is a formula for success.


Bingham and Layton provide some spectacular visuals, with plenty of big panels to make the fight seem larger than life, culminating in an outstanding full-page splash (a rarity at the time) in which Iron Man KOs the Hulk. As a kid, I would've eaten this issue up and re-read it often -- which is pretty much the highest praise I can give a superhero comic.

The return of Titanium Man -- I mean, "The Other" -- is a welcome development as well. I hate dropped sub-plots, but I had faith that as long as Roger Stern was editor, we would see him revisited. Well, it took a year and a half in publication time, but here we are.

Lastly, I had no idea that it was Roger Stern, during his run writing THE INCREDIBLE HULK, who had revealed that the Hulk's mind and body could exist separately from each other. I guess we have him to thank for planting the seeds which would eventually sprout into Peter David's "Smart" Hulk of the nineties, one of my favorite iterations of the character.

4 comments:

  1. I've read most of the second Michelinie/Layton run, but not much of their original stint. I'm curious about the Omnibus, but I think I'll wait until I can find it at a decent price.
    That cover is great. I would've loved that as a kid.

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    1. Having now read the entire thing, I can officially recommend this Omnibus. It's a very nice book (as most of them are), and the stories, as will continue to be reviewed here, are mostly pretty entertaining. I'm sure the price will go down more though, since this run isn't as revered as things like the Claremont/Byrne X-Men (that Omnibus has gone through three printings!), so waiting is probably not a bad idea.

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  2. Let's not forget that Bill Mantlo (whose Hulk run was the second-best thing he's ever done, btw, just behind Micronauts, IMO) did a nice long series of "Hulk with Banner's mind" from Hulk 271-299, before the reversion to an absolutely rampaging Hulk in #300. Peter David did a great job gathering various Hulk plotlines (including the "Grey Hulk" arc he inherited, which he nicely transformed into the "Joe Fixit" character) before coming up with the "Integrated Hulk" he used for the back half of his run, but he was hardly the first to plant them.

    And I guess the first "Hulk-with-Banner's mind" story would be his trip to Jarella's world, in Hulk #140, by Roy Thomas.

    —Dan

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    1. Good point, as someone who considers SECRET WARS a must-read-every-few-years guilty pleasure, I should've recalled that period in the Hulk's life even though I've never read any of the Mantlo run.

      I hear good things about Mantlo's HULK (and his MICRONAUTS and ROM), but my loathing of his Spider-Man material has kept me from ever checking them out. Marvel did, however, recently release the bulk, if not all, of his eighties HULK run in trade paperback... so perhaps it's finally time to give it a try.

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