Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Heart Of The Atom!
Under this beautiful Dave Cockrum cover art is a beautiful story of love for Marvel's original misfit monster, the always incredible Hulk. Heat of the Atom collects the Jarella stories from across many years of the Hulk's comic. Jarella is the beautiful blonde princess who loves the Hulk and who he loves too. Their romance is one of Marvel's most tragic.
The saga actually begins as something of a stunt. In the early Bronze Age comics were still groping for relevancy in the broader social spectrum and successful science fiction writer Harlan Ellison added to the cache of the form when he agree to plot some stories for Mighty Marvel. Two stories that he produced ended up as The Avengers #88 which is the first part of a tale that continues into Hulk #140. Roy Thomas wrote both tales.
The Avengers story by Thomas, Sal Buscema and Jim Mooney is not included in this trade, but is summarized in the first few pages of the initial Hulk story lusciously illustrated with Herb Trimpe breakdowns and Sam Grainger finishes. Essentially a monster name Psyclop in service to his other-dimensional masters needs to shrink the Hulk into what we now called the microverse. The Avengers try to stop this but fail and then are removed from the story by the simple trick of mind erasure.
The story continues in a tale titled "The Brute that Shouted Love as the Heart of the Atom!", which is a variation of the title of a Harlan Ellison short story collection. Roy even goes so far as to include the titles of other Ellison tales in the dialogue and narration of the story itself. As I said, this was pretty much a stunt.
In the story, the Hulk finds himself on the microverse world where the lovely and exceedingly green Princess Jarella rules the kingdom of K'ai. After defending the city from giant warthog-like monsters the Hulk is hailed as a hero and soon enough becomes the consort of the Princess herself, who has an eye to making him her hubby. Needless to say, the Hulk who has his raging mind calmed by the magics of Torla, Holi, and Moli (three wizards) is rather happy to stay.
But Psyclop has other plans and the Hulk is ripped from his potential happiness. Psyclop is defeated of course but the Hulk has seemingly lost paradise.
Some time later through magic Jarella comes to Earth but is followed by an assassin. She finds the Hulk again, but once again the pair are parted before they can find happiness. This is neat little story by Archie Goodwin, Chris Claremont and the awesome Herb Trimpe and John Severin team.
Then thanks to Goodwin and Trimpe and the science of Hank (Ant-Man) Pym the Hulk returns to the Microverse world to battle himself as it were in defense of the Kingdom of Ka'i and to protect his Princess. That it doesn't end happily is likely not much of a spoiler.
The Hulk ends up in the Microverse again thanks to Len Wein and the absolutely fabulous art team of Sal Buscema and Joe Staton. To be honest it was the art of these two working in tandem which got me over on this trade. I love how Staton's finishes add an almost luminous luster to Buscema's breakdowns and on whiter paper the art looks even better than I remember. This time Hulk finds Jarella again, just in time to save her from the clutches of a revived Psyclop.
The pair survive and actually arrive on Earth where (spoiler alert) poor Jarella dies to save an innocent life. The Hulk needless to say is a tad upset and goes on a classic rampage.
The Defenders step in and help slow him down, at least long enough to come to terms with his grief, at least a bit. The saga of the Hulk and Jarella seems to finally be over.
But then Bill Mantlo writes up a neat little tale expertly illustrated by Sal Buscema, which has the Hulk take Jarella's body back to the Microverse where he finds a devestated land. After battling the Gardner, Jarella is laid to rest at last and one of the great Marvel love stories comes to an end.
There is a What If which postulates what might've happened if Jarella had lived. It's clever enough, but sadly doesn't have the emotional punch I'd have expected of a story like this. Written by Peter B. Gillis and drawn by Herb Trimpe the story follows the Hulk as he becomes a hero of the world of K'ai and saves the world. I have to confess the John Buscema cover showing Jadejaws in full-Conan mode might be the best thing about this humdrum little outing.
The Hulk found a profound peace when he was with Jarella. That was comforting not only for him, but for his fans who from then on knew it was possible. Sadly that peace was all too brief, but then that's what great stories are made of.