Friday, March 21, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: The Incredible Hulk #472

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on The Incredible Hulk. I would have posted sooner, but I spent a lovely day of reading (The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster), music (four albums by Sarah Slean) and blowing my nose every twelve seconds. Plus, because it's Good Friday, the Subway near my house was closed. What's up with that? It was snowing, though, which made the walk pleasant. Not that any of that really anything to do with this comic. New posts Monday and Wednesday, but that does it for this run. On Friday, I'll have another lesser known Joe Casey comic.]

This issue begins the wind down of Casey's run as Bruce Banner encounters Qnax, the Xanatarean, some pink alien the Hulk has fought in the past (back in Tales to Astonish #73-74), but is now friendly. Yay. He needs to get back to his home planet to stop a Watcher and his "Ultimate Machine," which could fuck shit up big time. Bruce, being a good guy, helps him out. They use some sort of universal transporter to go take on the Watcher, but, before they leave, Bruce purposefully transforms into the Hulk and retains his intelligence. After they go through the machine, Qnax finds the Hulk mindless and destroying stuff, but he subdues him and Bruce regains control and transforms into himself. They find that they are on some strange planet that is near the Watcher's planet--one that is pissed off and ready to blow that bald-headed bastard to hell.

Meanwhile, Devlin Deangelo has sought out General Ross since they both want to see the Hulk dead. They use a tracker that Deangelo's people have created to track the Hulk... to a small town that he has destroyed. The army arrives, but Ross goes in all alone, because he is a crazy old man that no one has the good sense to punch in the face until he stops acting so goddamn crazy. But, he doesn't find the Hulk, he instead finds the Abomination.

This issue has a few trademark Caseyisms, including the return of Qnax all the way from Tales to Astonish--Casey has a fondness for older villains (like Zzzax, used in Cable) and also subverts expectations by making this one an ally. As the Hulk/Bruce evolves beyond older behaviours, so do his villains. Since Bruce is now more capable and heroic without depending on the Hulk, old rivals can no longer be so two-dimensional. (Does that sound convincing? I am making this up as I go, you know.)

Bruce's control over the Hulk here isn't exactly new, but does further Casey's strengthening of Bruce and takes it to its logical conclusion: Bruce and Hulk being the same person 100%. Although, the lack of control means the evolution isn't complete yet.

Ross's confrontation with the Abomination will prove interesting as it will highlight, in a few issues, the entire problem with Ross's character--and how misguided he's always been with his Hulk-obsession. Casey will also show that the character is unable to transcend his roots, unlike the title character.

The Hulk has always been a book about evolution, characterised by the various Hulk variants (and more directly discussed in Warren Ellis's current Ultimate Human mini-series), and Casey explores that idea throughout the run in various ways. Firstly, Bruce's evolution from the weak alter-ego of the Hulk to a more heroic and confident character that controls the Hulk aspect of his personality. Qnax has also evolved from his original Stan Lee roots. The Circus of Crime did not evolve and suffered as a result, while the Ringmaster did evolve and, as we see in Deathlok, prospers. General Ross does not evolve; he does not grow, he does not learn--he is the ultimate example of stasis (along with his long-lost "cousin" J. Jonah Jameson) and obsession.

But enough of that, I don't want to blow my wad when there are two more issues to go.