Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: The Incredible Hulk #474

[Concluding my look at Joe Casey's run on The Incredible Hulk. Another lesser known comic on Friday and then, who knows what on Monday.]

This is the last issue of The Incredible Hulk and Casey begins it in a strange way: Matt Idelson phones Joe Casey who is stuck, not knowing how to begin the last issue of The Incredible Hulk. Now, you would assume that this issue will be metafictional throughout--or, at least, framed as such--but it is not. Nor is that the point of this scene: this scene is here to remind us that "...THIS IS THE LAST ISSUE OF THE INCREDIBLE HULK! MAN, I WASN'T EVEN BORN WHEN THIS BOOK STARTED..." One of those legandary books is ending and no one cared because, soon, John Byrne and Ron Garney were relaunching the title. Casey wants to remind us of how big a deal this is--while, at the same time, reminding us that he is just an interim writer, not necessarily that skilled, and not worthy of ending the series. And is he wrong? Casey had only been in the business for a year at this point... did he deserve to end The Incredible Hulk?

The issue itself is an odd one that does resolve some things. The Hulk (with Banner's mind intact) and Qnax are in the Watcher's (not the usual Watcher) stronghold while aliens attack. This leads them to this weird "House of Truth" where they must confront their inner selves. For Bruce, this means the death of Betty where he realises that even if he didn't kill her himself, their life together led to her death, which makes him responsible. Somehow, he winds back on Earth right in the middle of the Abomination about to escape after beating on General Ross a little. This leads to what we'd assume is the ultimate showdown: pissed off Banner-as-Hulk confronting his wife's killer...

And it doesn't happen. Ross pulls out some weird giant gun and stops it from happening. The Abomination escapes, which Ross also allows. Bruce is willing to let Ross kill him, but he doesn't because Betty loved him. Bruce is left free and ready for the next Hulk series.

The issue ends with Ross in the room with Betty's chryogenic chamber, admitting that he failed in avenging her death, mostly because he recognises that he also played a role. It's a nice callback to the beginning of the run.

This issue contains a slightly-mind-bending scene, a staple of Casey's work. It also features the total dominance of Bruce over the Hulk. It has a subtle link to classic Marvel stories in the sense that it is all about power and responsibility, usually a Spider-Man theme, but Casey applies it here well. All of which leads us to...

Should this run remain forgotten? No. This is an entertaining and stimulating run by Casey. It fits in with his early work and provides glimpses of what's to come. It also acts as a prologue (of sorts) to his Deathlok run, which is very essential reading. This isn't an earth-shattering, blow-your-mind run, but it is solid superheroics. It can also probably be gotten for a very cheap price.