Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Incredible Hulk - The Ringmaster!

The early issues of The Incredible Hulk offer a somewhat different take on the core concept each and every issue. In the first issue we had an emotional classic sci-fi tale about a man who is transformed against his will into a creature of great might and the in the second we get a hair-raising and somewhat hare-brained goofy sci-fi tale of alien invasion. The third issue offers up something else yet again. The focus in the series really shifts a bit to Rick Jones who through no great planning comes to be in control of the power of the Hulk.

In the first story Rick is convinced by General Thunderbolt Ross to lure the Hulk onto a rocket ship for the good of his country. He has been told that only the Hulk can survive the test vehicle's trip but then he discovers it was a ruse to send the Hulk into deep space. That plan fails when the Hulk's ship encounters a belt of radiation which seems to augment and alter the Hulk's body and since Rick was attempting to communicate with him runs down those lines of communication and stings Rick as well. When the Hulk's ship crashes he emerges and is discovered by Rick who learns that now the two of them have a bond and he can control the behemoth.

The second story reprises the origin in a sleek three pages by means of Rick's reflection. It's an economical way to keep new fans up to date and is very effective.

The third story introduces The Ringmaster and his circus of crime. While Rick Jones sits watch outside the underground chamber in which the Hulk is imprisoned, the Circus of Crime invades a small town and after the Ringmaster has hypnotized everyone, they rob them blind. They move on to the next town where Rick, taking a break, finds it and looks to relax. He is hypnotized and that brings the Hulk who is also brought under the Ringmaster's spell and even performs as an attraction. But that doesn't last and the Hulk ends up causing havoc and the FBI finally arrive to sweep up the criminals. The story ends with Thunderbolt Ross crying out that he shall capture the Hulk but it's futile as Rick atop his Gamma buddy heads off into the sunset.

There is almost no Bruce Banner in this one. The conflict between the Hulk and Banner is largely dismissed and the trauma this time is centered around Rick Jones. I don't know to what extent the convoluted solution to have a teenager in control of the Hulk was intended to be the new paradigm of the series, but it's a strange change from both of the previous issues.

But hang on as things change yet again. To be Hulkinued.

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