Friday, August 10, 2012

HULK #8 - November 1999

Death Match
Credits: Erik Larsen (writer), Ron Garney (penciler), Sal Buscema (inker), Steve Buccellato (colors), John Workman (letters)

Summary: Wolverine attacks the Hulk, temporarily blinding him, only to have the Hulk crush the claws on his left hand. During their fight, Tyrranus regains control of the Hulk, forcing him to grow more ferocious. Wolverine leads Hulk into an abandoned mine, where the Hulk inadvertently releases a gas that reverts him into Bruce Banner. Banner explains that Tyrranus is the person responsible for the Hulk’s recent rages, and Wolverine agrees to let Banner go in order to stop him.

Continuity Notes: Apocalypse’s newest Horseman of Death watches the fight via videoscreen. This is, of course, the real Wolverine. The mystery man standing next to Death mentions that Hulk once served as Apocalypse’s Horseman of War, and orders Death to take care of him.

Review: Hulk #8 ended up directly crossing over with Wolverine after Erik Larsen was given the job at the last minute. Former writer John Byrne and new editor Tom Brevoort had a mysterious disagreement (some of the rumors that went around online were hilarious), that ended with Byrne leaving the book. As I recall, Marvel’s official line was that Byrne quit, while Byrne claimed he had been fired. Regardless, Hulk was up for a new writer, and world’s biggest Hulk fanboy Erik Larsen eagerly campaigned for the job. He didn’t get it, but he was given one issue to fill in; I believe Wolverine was always supposed to guest star this issue, so it made sense.

The issue is, not surprisingly, an extended fight scene. Larsen does throw in a bit of human interest in two scenes, one that has a series of narrative captions describe the life of the fifteen-year-old girl the Hulk is close to killing, and a TV news montage that shows various reactions to the Hulk, but this is clearly all about the fighting. Hulk fans seemed to hate this issue, apparently because Hulk “wasn’t strong enough” (a complaint Hulk fans seemed to make a lot in this era) during the fight. Larsen allows Wolverine to hurt Hulk temporarily by stabbing his eyes and clawing him in the groin, which seems reasonable to me, but it certainly seemed to make people angry. What the fans chose to ignore is the overall flow of the battle, which often has Wolverine running away from Hulk and avoiding his giant fists.

The action is effectively rendered by Ron Garney (with great inks by Hulk legend Sal Buscema), so even if the fight feels a little long, it certainly looks nice. The main problem with the story is the ending, which not only has a mysterious gas conveniently reverting Hulk into Banner, but Wolverine casually walking away after Banner explains Tyrranus’ plan to him. Wolverine’s discovered that a bloodthirsty supervillain is mind-controlling the Hulk, and his response is to wish Banner luck and go along on his merry way? I’m not saying I want an extended, editorially mandated Wolverine/Hulk crossover, but surely Wolverine would’ve done something to help out.


Matt said...

So if Death is hanging out with Apocalypse, that means this Wolverine is a Skrull, right? I can never remember exactly when the switch took place. But anyway, maybe that explains Wolverine's apathy to Banner's situation at issue's end?

G. Kendall said...

The Skrull Wolverine is supposed to be brainwashed into thinking and acting like Wolverine, so he shouldn't be acting out-of-character...unless the Skrulls have left some subconscious suggestion ordering him not to help, for some reason.

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