Tuesday, January 25, 2011

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #69 - October 1990

A Subtle Shade of Green

Credits: Gerry Conway (writer), Alex Saviuk (penciler), Keith Williams (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Renee Witterstaetter, Paul Becton, & Heidi Goodhue (colorist)

The Plot: A mysterious scientist builds an energy-transference device, while Peter Parker and Betty Brant investigate a monster sighting in New England. The monster is actually the Hulk, who is traveling with his wife Betty Banner. The scientist detects Hulk’s energy and tries to absorb it while he rests as Bruce Banner. Banner transforms and swats the scientist, accidentally killing him. Spider-Man arrives and briefly fights the Hulk. Hulk leaves him for dead and escapes with his wife.

The Subplots: Robbie Robertson asks Peter to forgive him after his recent behavior. Kristy Watson is released from the Eating Disorder Unit, and accepts a job as the Osborns’ live-in nanny.

Web of Continuity: This is Betty Brant’s first job as a reporter, and she isn’t thrilled with Peter abandoning her when he spots the Banners’ jeep turning into the forest. Mary Jane ponders why she’s so attracted to fellow actor Jason Jerome, a reference to a subplot running in Spectacular Spider-Man.

*See _________ For Details: The scientist is supposed to be the brother of the one who died in Fantastic Four #51 (“This Man…This Monster!”). The footnote incorrectly lists the issue number as #53.

Production Note: Bob Sharen is incorrectly credited as colorist. Issue #71 lists the colorists as Renee Witterstaetter, Paul Becton, and Heidi Goodhue (perhaps that last name is pseudonym).

Review: Gerry Conway’s final arc begins, and it’s far from a classic. In fairness to Conway, he originally planned on taking a few issues off after #70 and then returning, so he didn’t know he was going out on “Spider-Hulk.” This issue sets up Spider-Man’s eventual transformation, while a few supporting cast members are given a little attention. Robbie formally apologizes to Peter, as Kristy finally checks out of the EDU and is given a job as the Osborn’s au pair. This is possibly the last time Kristy was given more than three lines of dialogue in a mainstream continuity book (although Tom DeFalco did resurrect her in Spider-Girl, which seems fitting for that title). When the extended Harry Osborn arc begins next year in Spectacular, I don’t think Kristy even makes an appearance, nor do I recall her ever getting any type of a send-off. Much like the unwanted siblings on Happy Days, Family Matters, and That ‘70s Show, she just disappeared.

Speaking of garbled continuity, can anyone explain the Hulk’s appearance in this issue? He’s back to green and dumb status, even though he appeared just a few months earlier as Joe Fixit in Amazing Spider-Man. I was always under the impression that Peter David never reverted Banner to the dumb, green persona during his Incredible Hulk run. There aren’t any footnotes indicating when this change might’ve occurred, so it’s hard to know if this is supposed to tie in to a specific Incredible Hulk storyline. Also, I thought Marvel had a policy that the Hulk never killed anyone during his rampages. Yet when he accidentally kills the scientist in this issue, the incident isn’t treated as a particularly big deal. Could this be the Hulk’s first on-panel kill?


Matt said...

I enjoyed this 2-parter as a kid, though I'm guessing based on your review that it might not hold up for me now.

I never really thought about the conflicting Hulk status quo, but the timelines do seem off. Having recently read most of the Peter David Visionaries books, I only recall the dumb green Hulk appearing one time. Betty is kidnapped or something, and gray Hulk isn't strong enough to save her, so he reluctantly lets green Hulk out to save the day. But I'm pretty sure it was a one-issue appearance (almost immediately afterwards, he became "Smart" Hulk), and I don't know exactly when it happened in relation to this particular issue. But if they were published around the same time, maybe Conway was under the impression that the Hulk was returning to the old status quo.

I also didn't realize Conway had plans to return to Spider-Man after taking a break. Too bad, because these concurrent runs on Spectacular and Web are among my personal favorite periods for the character (though that's due in no small part to nostalgia -- I was about 10-12 years old during the time he was on these books). I would've loved to see him pick up where he'd left off with this stuff.

The Estate of Tim O'Neil said...

Yeah, my personal recollection was that this issue popped out during a very brief time when the Hulk was both dumb & green AND smart & gray at the same time, in the immediate build-up to the "Honey I Shrunk the Hulk" storyline that merged all the various permutations. So there's not a large window, in terms of the Hulk's continuity, when this story could have occurred, but there *is* a window, however small. In Conway's defense he maybe didn't know that dumb & green's return was a temporary phase.

I remember this story being, well, dumb. Bad note on which to go out.

G. Kendall said...

This issue was published two months after this Hulk issue:

Looks like you guys remembered it pretty accurately. Just looking at the covers, the gray Hulk is back in the very next issue, so this story probably does have to work pretty hard to fit "in-between the pages."

The first hit I got when searching "Incredible Hulk, October 1990" was the "Death of the Incredible Hulk" TV-movie, by the way.

Jason said...

The Hulk appearance slots between Hulk 373 and 374, most likely. (I was collecting Hulk at the time, and bought this issue to see how it fit in to the Hulk saga, only to realize it was a total digression.) But I did put some thought into how it fit in.

The way it went down in Hulk at the time:

In issue 370, Banner and the grey Hulk hash things out on the astral plane, or inside their shared mind. (Dr. Strange casts a spell that makes this meeting possible.)

While they're talking, and walking across the mindscape, they come across a "mental block" -- a giant, bolted door.

Right after that, the Hulk is possessed by a demon.

In issue 371, while Dr. Strange and Namor fight the demon-possessed grey Hulk, Banner flees from the demon on the astral plane.

Finally, Banner comes to the bolted door (which is no longer giant), and he unbolts it. It swings open with the sound effect "Smash!"

We don't see what's behind it, but Banner and the demon/Grey-Hulk are bathed in green light. We hear the sound effect "Raaarrr." The demon is terrified, and flees. The Grey Hulk is once more himself. He looks at the door and says, "Banner! You idiot! What did you do!" And the two of them work together to close the door and rebolt it, the grey Hulk saying stuff like, "Put your back into it! We can't let it out!"

Then in issue 372, Banner faces a menace during the day (he only turned to the grey Hulk at sunset at these times). He can't turn into the grey Hulk, but he starts getting really pissed, and he turns into the green Hulk instead. He calms down, reverts to Banner, end of issue.

Issue 373 begins with the grey Hulk once again trying to close the metal door on the green Hulk. The green Hulk rages, but ultimately gets shut behind the door. The grey Hulk says, "Great. Now that Banner's let him out once, it's going to be that much harder to keep him from showing up again."

I think it's after this that the Spider-Man issue takes place. It jives with the way the grey Hulk talks about how the green guy could get out again.

And in fact, in issue 375 of Hulk, Banner is once again threatened during the day, starts to get excited, and he actually assumes he will become the green Hulk again. (He doesn't, because we once again cut to the astral plane, and the grey Hulk is once again holding the metal door closed, and shouting, "Don't let him out, Banner! Let me out instead!" (Which he does.)

Issue 376 has the door getting shattered to bits and the green and grey Hulks fight it out on the astral plane.

And issue 377 has both personalities merging with Banner's, leading to the "merged Hulk" era.

Great run of issues, btw. I read them over and over as a kid. (Does it show?)

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