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Thursday, February 27, 2014

X-amining Incredible Hulk #340

"Vicious Circle"
February 1988

In a Nutshell 
Wolverine vs. the Hulk

Writer: Peter David
Art: Todd McFarlane
Lettering: Rick Parker 
Colors: Petra Scotese
Editor: Bob Harras
Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Plot
The X-Men arrive in Dallas just as a restless Hulk leaps into the air. Forced to avoid their plane, Hulk accidentally crashes into a commercial jet, prompting the X-Men to help it land safely. Investigating the damaged plane, Wolverine recognizes Hulk's scent. Shortly thereafter, Hulk is confronted by the National Guard, triggering a fire which threatens a nearby apartment building. As the X-Men help evacuate the building, Wolverine runs afoul of Hulk. Though he accidentally cuts Hulk with his claws, Wolverine apologizes and tries to leave, more concerned with helping the X-Men then fighting, but an angry Hulk attacks Wolverine.


Though Wolverine does his best to stay in control, he eventually relents, cutting loose against Hulk with an animalistic fury. However, as fast as Wolverine cuts him, the wounds heal, and their battle drags on until it's interrupted by Hulk's traveling companions Clay Quartermain and Rick Jones. Quartermain admonishes the pair for the senseless fight, asking if they really don't have anything better to do. Wolverine, angry at himself for losing control, says that he does, and leaves to rejoin the X-Men.    

Firsts and Other Notables
This issue features the first confrontation between Hulk and Wolverine in the page of Incredible Hulk since Wolverine's first appearance, in Incredible Hulk #180 and #181. It contributes to a personal rivalry between the characters that will color many of their later appearances together, all essentially built on the foundation of Wolverine having made his first appearance in Hulk's title. 

The X-Men guest star in this issue, arriving in Dallas where Uncanny X-Men #225 will pick up, though aside from Wolverine, they mostly disappear after the first few pages, and Maddie is nowhere to be seen (despite being offered up as the X-Men's pilot in Uncanny X-Men #224, it is Rogue and Wolverine who are flying the Blackbird in this issue).


The Hulk featured in this issue is the second iteration of the "Gray Hulk" (the character was originally colored gray, not green, in his earliest appearances), a condition which finds Bruce Banner transforming into Hulk at night, during which Hulk is relatively intelligent and his personality is more crass and cruel. Shortly after this issue, Hulk will begin working in Vegas as a bouncer under the name Joe Fixit.

I Love the 80s
This being a Peter David comic written in 1987 and set in Dallas, a Dallas joke is made.


The Hulk's blood is colored green throughout the issue, though in this case, that could just be a Hulk thing and not a standards thing.


Artistic Achievements
This is something of an iconic cover these days.  

The Best There is at What He Does
A technique that isn't used as often as it could be, Hulk uses Wolverine's enhanced senses against him during their fight.


Goaded into a berserker attack by Hulk, Wolverine laments that he's not as good at controlling himself as he thought.


Teebore's Take
Todd McFarlane drawing a Hulk vs. Wolverine battle that reprises Wolverine's first appearance? In the early 90s, that was one formula for back issue gold, and for years, this issue had a ridiculously high price tag on it. I can still picture the cover staring down at me from high on the wall, where the priciest back issues were kept, at one of the comic shops I frequented. The lure of a McFarlane-drawn Hulk/Wolverine fight never had as much pull on me as other "wall books" like, say, the first appearance of Gambit or the Wolverine/Sabretooth-centric issues of "Mutant Massacre", but I was always curious about this issue nonetheless. Certainly, nothing about the story inside is actually worth the high prices it was going for back in the days of the speculator boom, but then again, what issue was? But this is probably better than it has any business being.

Somewhat curiously (given that this is a Hulk comic at a time when the title character was actually capable of having an inner monologue), the story is mostly told from Wolverine's perspective, with narrative captions written in his voice a la the Claremont/Miller limited series. As a result, it touches briefly on Wolverine's struggles as leader of the X-Men, specifically the need to balance the good of the team with his personal desire to cut loose in a fight (something really only referenced once before, in Uncanny X-Men #221), as well as his ongoing struggle to control the animal inside of him in the face of the Hulk's taunts and raw power. Nothing here is essential reading (I certainly never missed it all those years reading "Fall of the Mutants" without it), and the actual Hulk/Wolverine fight is no paragon of action choreography, but it's a fair sight better than the average Wolverine guest appearance, spending some actual time inside his head, exploring his character, however minimally. A novelty issue, but one with at least a modicum of substance. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, X-Factor faces off against Hodge in X-Factor #23. Next week, "Fall of the Mutants" begins in Uncanny X-Men #225 and New Mutants #59. 

10 comments:

  1. The Hulk really comes off like a dick here (which, given the current status quo of the character at this point, is saying something). Clay Quartermain even more so.

    Whatever moral point the Hulk (or by extension, PAD) was trying to make about this story falls flat. The point I got was, if you push someone hard enough, they are going to react a certain way. It reminds of that one issue from the late 90s Alan Davis run on X-men, right before the Magneto War, where Magneto is having a conversation with that normal guy...a few parallels there.

    Overall, a very missable issue if you're an X-men fan.

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  2. I generally like Peter David. He's certainly written some stories I really enjoyed. But sometimes his humor is way too contrived. The Dallas joke here is one of those lines, making a long jump from point A to point B just for a tepid punchline.

    But more specifically, I'm thinking of the time he had Betty Banner dye her hair blonde just so he could give a brunette rival named Veronica. Or, in the early nineties, when apparently went on a Blackadder binge and gave Val Cooper an ex-husband named Edmund Atkinson and an assistant named Baldrick, who even used Baldrick's catchphrase, "I have a cunning plan." Some of that stuff is just cringe-inducing.

    Anyway. I hate Todd McFarlane's artwork, I guess is the point I'm trying to make here.

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  3. @wwk5d: Whatever moral point the Hulk (or by extension, PAD) was trying to make about this story falls flat. The point I got was, if you push someone hard enough, they are going to react a certain way.

    I totally read it as a relapse thing for Wolverine - he's trying to be in control, trying to be a leader, and then this jerk-ass from his past comes along, pushes all his buttons, and makes him lose his cool.

    Which makes for an interesting dynamic given who the star and guest star of the issue are. Then again, that could just be my X-Men-leaning bias at play...

    @Matt: But sometimes his humor is way too contrived. The Dallas joke here is one of those lines, making a long jump from point A to point B just for a tepid punchline.

    Yeah, I'm a pretty big Peter David fan and a sucker for puns, so his humor is right up my alley, but the Dallas joke here just isn't worth it.

    Or, in the early nineties, when apparently went on a Blackadder binge and gave Val Cooper an ex-husband named Edmund Atkinson and an assistant named Baldrick, who even used Baldrick's catchphrase, "I have a cunning plan."

    Heh. I remember being confused as hell by all those references reading those X-Factor issues as a kid, because I had NO IDEA what Blackadder was.

    Anyway. I hate Todd McFarlane's artwork, I guess is the point I'm trying to make here.

    Ha! Nice segue. :)

    I like his stuff in some places, but nothing here is terribly exciting. I'm pretty sure this was still relatively early in his run, and he certainly wasn't TODD McFARLANE (for good and bad) yet.

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  4. I believe we lost every right of complaining about the Dallas joke the moment the X-Men really did die and did come back. Sorry Betsy but everyone is joking about it, and us funny book people don't have a moral foot to stand on regarding Dallas.

    It's Bobby who would have been fully within his rights to joke about it when he was dying with cancer in the new series that he's really a carbon copy and his real self is healing in a cocoon at the bottom of some bay.

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  5. Yeah but Teemu it's not like the came back to life in Magneto's shower...

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  6. "I generally like Peter David. He's certainly written some stories I really enjoyed. But sometimes his humor is way too contrived. The Dallas joke here is one of those lines, making a long jump from point A to point B just for a tepid punchline."

    Yeah, the editor really should have cut that one. But sadly the editor on this issue really sucks, hardcore. :)

    Seriously, wow, so much hatred for the "Dallas" joke.

    I have to go with Teemu here. In context, I'd say the joke is anything but forced. Like you said, Teebore, it was 1987. That plotline in "Dallas" was a pretty popular -- even notorious -- television moment, and the "die in Dallas" thing is just PAD referencing the concurrent storyline in X-Men. If anything, the joke probably seemed like a pretty obvious one to make.

    Or maybe not. We'll have to wait until X-Men 225 and see if Claremont references J.R. Ewing out of the blue.

    "The Hulk really comes off like a dick here (which, given the current status quo of the character at this point, is saying something)"

    I'm ... not sure it is saying something. :) That was Hulk's whole deal at this time. He was an asshole in every issue, and he always brought out the worst in the people around him. That was his thing.

    "But more specifically, I'm thinking of the time he had Betty Banner dye her hair blonde just so he could give a brunette rival named Veronica."

    Wasn't a rival; just a co-worker. And Betty stayed blonde for 40 issues after that one-page gag, so I'm not sure I buy that he made her blonde JUST for that.

    "I totally read it as a relapse thing for Wolverine - he's trying to be in control, trying to be a leader, and then this jerk-ass from his past comes along, pushes all his buttons, and makes him lose his cool."

    I think that's exactly what he's going for. And again, if you read this era of HULK, you see it's a running theme that the character brings out the "monster" in the people around him.

    "I'm pretty sure this was still relatively early in his run, and he certainly wasn't TODD McFARLANE (for good and bad) yet."

    Indeed -- in fact this issue might have been the first step in making him TODD MCFARLANE ... Like you said, Tee, that cover became an iconic one pretty quickly.

    As for McFarlane's HULK run, it was brief, only 16 issues long (with a fill-in in there, so actually only 15). This is his 10th. I like him a lot on HULK, personally; I thought he and David had good chemistry.

    At any rate, it's interesting to hear these reactions to the issue. I loved these Hulk issues, and read this one (and the rest of the David/McFarlane run) long before reading "Fall of the Mutants," so I like it a lot. I like McFarlane's take on Wolverine, and the fight scenes, and the green blood. :)

    And I think Peter David's take on Wolverine is pretty on-target. (I can't remember if this is the first time PAD wrote Wolverine? Only about a year or so later he'd end up succeeding Claremont on the Wolverine solo ongoing, albeit not for long.)

    Tee, did you review Hulk 336-337, the X-Factor issues? I love those as well, although they don't really get into X-Factor's heads the way this one gets into Wolverine's. (Funny, PAD also succeeded Claremont as scripter on X-Factor too, not counting Nicieza's single fill-in ...)

    Bottom line, I do agree that this is completely non-essential reading as far as "Fall of the Mutants" is concerned, but I do think it's a great Hulk issue and was an enjoyable chapter of the saga that was unfolding in that series at the time.

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  7. @ Jason: "die in Dallas" thing is just PAD referencing the concurrent storyline in X-Men. If anything, the joke probably seemed like a pretty obvious one to make.

    I feel in the context it's not only allowed but it really is mandatory, when there are people on their way knowingly to go die in Dallas, and more than the whole thing is a fine example of the continuity controlling they still did in the 80s.

    Or maybe not. We'll have to wait until X-Men 225 and see if Claremont references J.R. Ewing out of the blue.

    It's the 80s, and it's Dallas. If they had chosen to mention that Forge's aerial was in the E-Wing of the Eagle Plaza it would have been completely acceptable too.

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  8. Hey... it was already snowing at this point in Dallas? Funny that the weather was messed up when the story arch started in #187 and now that we are coming to the end it's the same thing all over again. The extradimensional evils wanting to destroy universe lack some originality in the gimmicks department.

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  9. @Jason: Tee, did you review Hulk 336-337, the X-Factor issues? I love those as well, although they don't really get into X-Factor's heads the way this one gets into Wolverine's.

    I didn't review them - just noted them in the issue of X-Factor before they occurred (#20, I think). I read them, but X-Factor's role wasn't much more than your standard guest appearance schtick. Like you say, PAD didn't really get into their heads much, and there wasn't much in the way of adding to the overall X-narrative that happened. It was pretty much a Hulk story in which X-Factor guest starred, which is fine, but I didn't feel it warranted it's own post.

    I do think it's a great Hulk issue and was an enjoyable chapter of the saga that was unfolding in that series at the time.

    PAD's Hulk run is one of those things on my "to read" list; I've read snippets of it here and there, but never the whole thing. Given how much I enjoy his X-Factor stuff, I really need to give it a look.

    @Lempo: Funny that the weather was messed up when the story arch started in #187 and now that we are coming to the end it's the same thing all over again.

    Something which Claremont points out (via Rogue) in #225, even though, as you say, the snow is being caused by two DIFFERENT extradimensional evils. :)

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  10. A great issue, and like the best of Peter David's run, endlessly rereadable.

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