Saturday, January 3, 2015

Waiitng for the Trade (Hulk, X-men & Daredevil)


Waiting for the Trade


The 100 Greatest Marvels of All Time #13 – 10.
written by Stan Lee, Mark Millar, Frank Miller & Larry Hama
art by Jack Kirby, Adam Kubert & David Mazzuchelli
collects Incredible Hulk #1, Ultimate X-men #1, Daredevil #227 & Wolverine #75

 Why I Bought This: It was a $1.50 at my local comic shop and I’ve actually never read Hulk #1 before so that alone made it worth picking up.


The Plot: So in 2001 Marvel ran a poll asking for the 100 greatest stories of all time and then turned that into a series of four issue trades priced at $7.50 each. This one has the first appearance of the Hulk, the first issue of Ultimate X-Men, the first chapter of the Daredevil “Born Again” story arc, and the final chapter of the X-Men’s “Fatal Attractions” crossover.

(spoilers below)

 
Chapter 1 – We meet Bruce Banner, General Thunderbolt Ross and Betty Ross for the first time setting up Bruce as the meek but brilliant scientist, Betty’s crush on Bruce and Ross’s disapproval of Bruce. We also meet a lab assistant named Igor. It is the day of the Gamma Bomb test. Teenager Rick Jones goes joyriding into the military base on a dare. Bruce spots him and goes to evacuate the teen leaving it to Igor to halt the test but Igor has his own agenda and lets the bomb detonate. Bruce gets Rick to shelter but absorbs the bomb’s radioactive detonation. The military have Bruce & Rick locked in a bunk and when night falls Bruce transforms into a grey Hulk. He breaks out of the base and wanders into the desert as Rick follows. Hulk finds Igor ransacking Bruce’s office and beats him down. Rick helps Hulk realize he is Banner and Hulk seems like he is going to kill Rick to keep his secret safe but then turns back into Bruce. The military arrives and arrest Igor for being a spy and question Bruce and Rick about the Hulk. In his cell Igor contacts the Gargoyle, who seems to be a deformed Russian midget mad scientist and Gargoyle launches a missile attack. Bruce has Rick drive him to the dessert so when he transforms that night no one will be hurt however they are followed by Gargoyle. Meanwhile Betty goes for a night walk to cope with her worries about Bruce, bumps into the Hulk and promptly faints. Gargoyle then shoots Hulk with a mind control bullet and takes him to meet more some more Red spies. Come morning Hulk turns into Banner and he is not subject to the mind control. In a stunning display of astuteness for the Silver Age Gargoyle immediately figures out Hulk is Banner. Seeing that Hulk can become a normal human makes him cry. He then frees Bruce and Rick and turns his missile upon himself.

Chapter 2 – The Sentinels are killing mutants in the streets. And we learn this is authorized by the President as Magneto and the Brotherhood initiated terrorist attacks on NYC and DC a week ago. We see Beast (in his original ape-like form without the blue fur) where he gets bothered by bigots in a bar. Next punk rock looking Jean Grey recruits Beast, Storm and Colossus to the X-men. Professor X and Cyclops give the new recruits tour and introduce Cerebro and the other standard X-house gimmicks. We get the usual Magneto/Pro X were friends once back-story although this one had Pro X forming the Brotherhood with Magneto in the Savage Land before Magneto impaled him on a metal rod and cost him his legs, and then Pro X formed the X-men to stop Magneto. Cerebro sends the X-men to rescue a teen mutant runaway who ends up being Ice-Man and they end up fighting some Sentinels in the process. Afterwards Magneto sees the fight on the news and calls in the Brotherhood whose members include Toad, Scarlet Witch and Wolverine.

Chapter 3 – We open on Karen Page who is now a porn actress and a junkie and she sells DD’s secret identity for smack. Six weeks later the info makes it way to Kingpin, and he decides to test the info and if it proves valid kill everyone else who handled it on the way to him. Six months later Matt Murdock wakes up to get the mail where he learns he’s behind on his mortgage, being audited, his assets are frozen and his girlfriend is breaking up with him. Next he gets indicted on bribing a witness to perjure himself. The prosecution’s key witness is a cop with an impeccable record. Matt’s ex-girlfriend Glory finds her apartment ransacked and ends up moving in with Matt’s former law partner Foggy Nelson. Matt turns into Daredevil and pays a visit to the cop witness. The cop kicks him out of his home but after DD leaves the Cop makes a phone call asking revealing he is going along with this to get his terminally-ill son treated which DD hears from the roof with his super-hearing. When he gets back to his apartment he finds all the utilities are shut off. As the months pass Kingpin enjoys watching DD lose his cool more and more as he fails to shake down any info on who is doing this to him. Foggy is able to keep Matt out of prison but he loses his law license, which is just what Kingpin wanted. Meanwhile Karen narrowly escapes a hitman. Matt is wandering home wondering what to do next: he has no job, no assets and 30 days before the bank forecloses and then his apartment explodes. And finally Matt realizes this is all Kingpin’s doing and vows revenge.

Chapter 4 – Wolverine is in really bad shape after Magneto ripped the adamantium off his bones through his skin. If not for both Jean Grey telekinetically holding him together and his healing factor he’d be dead; and even so he’s in critical condition. The fight was on Asteroid M so now the X-men are trying to get back to Earth to get Wolvie medical attention before he flat-lines. Jean and Professor X enter Wolvie’s mind to shut down his pain receptors to help him survive and this leads to one of those mindscape stories where the telepaths witness key moments in Wolvie’s life some of which play out in a surreal manner. Anyway that goes on for most of the issue with cuts and back and forth to either problems landing the plane or X-men giving him medical attention as his health deteriorates. Ultimately the plane lands safely with a little help from Jean’s TK though she nearly gets sucked out of the plane when the roof blows off which causes Wolvie to wake up and grab her. We jump ahead a few weeks as Wolvie heals. He tries the danger room for the first time since the injury and it isn’t going well until he suddenly pops bone-claws, which even he did not know he had. In the aftermath of that incident, he talks with Jubilee and makes the decision to quit the X-men so he can walk the earth and find himself.

 
Critical Thoughts: Certainly for the price I paid this was worthwhile. The first two chapters were stories I’d never read before and both ended up being quite good. The third is a classic tale worth revisiting. The fourth one is pretty subpar, especially for a collection of all-time great stories, but that’s not enough to drag down the book as a whole. With that said let’s take them one at a time.

Hulk’s origin is another example of Stan Lee’s genius. What more needs to be said about the sheer volume of outstanding creativity Stan Lee gave us in the silver age. Yes, in the course of 50 years one can argue that a lot of Hulk stories tend to be the same thing over and over again, but for an original concept Hulk was like no other superhero before him. More than that Stan Lee works his magic creating outstanding supporting characters in Thunderbolt Ross and Betty. Even Rick Jones is a nice variation on the typical teen sidekick of the era. He is not joining the Hulk because ‘gosh gee wiz fighting bad guys is swell, and you’re the greatest Hulk;’ but because he is racked with guilt for accidentally turning an innocent man into a monster. (And decades later, Peter David would turn Jones into one of the most entertaining characters in comics). This is the first appearance of four lynchpin characters of the Marvel Universe, how can it get anything but a positive review.

Ultimate X-men was a surprisingly good comic. I say surprisingly good because I’m not much of an X-men fan in the main continuity and I have no use for the Ultimate universe (though admittedly I’ve read very little of it outside of Spider-man). First of all the art is fantastic in this book. The Sentinels have never looked more imposing than they do in this. On top of that this is really strong first issue to set up the revamped origin of the X-men. There’s some intriguing changes here in the Pro X/Magneto dynamic. This is good enough to make me consider reading more of it in the future, and it was not something that was remotely on my radar before.

The Daredevil chapter is exceptional writing. That is a hell of a cliffhanger. I’ve read Born Again before, but you kind of forget just how good it is, probably because DD is not a hero usually on my radar. I own the great classic DD stories (Elektra Saga, Born Again and Guardian Devil) but that’s about it outside of him guest starring in Spidey once in a while.

As for the Wolverine story, I hate mindscape stories in general that’s another subgenre where you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. Beyond that, I really don’t see why it is here. I don’t think Fatal Attractions is all that great a crossover to begin with but if you were going to include it I would go with the chapter before this which has the two big shock moments of Magneto ripping out Wolvie’s bones and Professor X mindwiping Magneto. This has what? The bone claws reveal? Really? I realize Wolverine is popular and this story was published about a year or so before the poll was taken so it was fresh in his fans mind, but even so are the bone claws that exciting a development that they belong above the other three stories in this list? Because I don’t see it, and history has proven this was just a footnote before Wolvie got his metal claws back a few years later.


Grade: If we’re averaging it’s three A’s and D which comes out to an A-.

11 comments:

  1. The Millar X-Men were great, the Bendis ones were good, the Vaughn ones started to slide and the Kirkman ones were garbage.

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  2. Early Hulk was cool because he wasn't like the childish monster everyone knows, he was basically a thug that sometimes had a heart. They went back to that Hulk when they turned him Gray in the late 80s. Vegas mob enforcer Hulk was the shit.

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  3. Daredevil's been red hot the last 10 years outside of Diggle. The Bendis, Brubaker and Waid runs are among the best in the history of Marvel, in my opinion.

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  4. Agreed. Whatever you decide, for the love of Jeebus get out before Ultimatum.

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  5. Daredevil has definitely been the most consistently well written character in comics since the late 90s.

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  6. "It was a beautiful piece of work, Kingpin. You shouldn't have signed it."

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  7. I re-read all of Miller's DD stuff recently, and - after going through the Elektra Saga - I wondered how I could have ever thought that "Born Again" was better. And then - as I read it - it WAS.

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  8. Waid's first 20-25 issues were great but it's definitely taken a steep downturn in quality after the Sons of Serpents story.

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  9. Your giving too much credit to Stan lee on the Hulk and his other Kirby collaborations. Stan would work on concepts with Jack and Marvel comics were drawn in advance and then the writers would put words in. Comics were visually already created by the time the writer got to it.

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  10. It's a Stan hater. How cute.

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  11. Just like the majority of His former collaborators.

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