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The ’90s Revisited: The Incredible Hulk #444

incrediblehulk444Cable Vision

Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Angel Medina
Inker: Robin Riggs
Lettering: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Colors: Glynis Oliver
Enhancement: Malibu
Assistant Editor: Polly Watson
Editor: Bobbie Chase
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $1.50
Cover Date: August, 1996

It’s amazing how much “context” can play a role in a random issue working or not. This issue is labeled as Onslaught: Impact 1, meaning it was an “impact” issue of the first month of Onslaught. From what I recall, there were two types of issues associated with Onslaught: the Phase 1/2/3 issues, and the Impact 1/2/3 issues. Phase were main parts of the “core” story, while the Impact issues were much looser tie-ins…literally “impacted” by Onslaught, but not having much to do with the main story.

I pulled this issue from the quarter bin for that Onslaught tag. Reading it reminded me just how “loose” the tie-in could be. The basic premise of this issue is that Onslaught has basically wiped the Hulk’s mind, setting him on killing Cable. Banner’s been blocked out, so there’s just the mindless, mission-centered beast. The issue opens with Cable already beaten and barely conscious…the only other ally trying to save him is X-man Storm. The issue is basically one long fight-scene, as Storm turns the elements on the Hulk, and a death-ready Cable rallies and does what he can in his state. Eventually the two manage to develop a risky plan to break Onslaught’s control, and restore the Hulk.

Story-wise, there’s not exactly a lot to this issue. And yet, it shows that David “gets” the X-characters, writing a decent Cable and an impressive (at least power-wise) Storm. But, being a big fight sequence, there’s not exactly much character development…moreso we seem to have had a plot point (Onslaught possesses Hulk) that had to be dealt with to get the Hulk from there to the next plot point (back to being himself again, but Really Very Ticked-Off At Onslaught).

Visually, the art’s not bad, though nothing wonderful. The coloring seemed somehow kinda dull, and the Hulk’s shade of green especially a bit different, more subdued, than what I’m used to for the character. I’m also not all that familiar with this particular interpretation of the Hulk…but knowing this was the “Banner’s consciousness/Hulk’s body” era…and the mid-’90s (and this being a single, isolated issue I’m reading) that mostly gets a pass.

Overall, not a bad issue, but nothing spectacular. I don’t believe I’d ever read this back in the ’90s when originally published, so it was interesting to read a loose tie-in to Onslaught, and getting a single-issue “feel” for the “impact” of that story on this title prior to the bigger shakeup of losing Banner but keeping the Hulk that was the status quo once Onslaught ended.

As a 25-cent issue in an age of $3.99 comics, this was a decently enjoyable issue…but I’m not sure I would care for it without already having a working knowledge of the “main” Onslaught story. Taken by itself as a random issue and being a big fight scene, it’s not really something to specifically seek out unless you’re looking for all the Onslaught issues, or a complete PAD run on this title.

The ’90s Revisited: Warlock and the Infinity Watch #25

Blood and Thunder part 12: Raid on Asgard

Creator/Writer: Jim Starlin
Pencils: Angel Medina
Inker: Bob Almond
Letters: Jack Morelli
Colors: Ian Laughlin
Editor: Craig Anderson
Published by: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.95
Cover Date: February, 1994

It’s been years since I’ve read anything from this title; but when I originally read through what I had of the title–probably back in 2000 or so–this issue was not one of them. And, I haven’t read this Blood and Thunder story, either (other than having maybe read one or two other random chapters, but never have read it as a singular story or all the parts in order). Yet, I’ve had a vague concept of what the story was–Thor goes crazy and some of the cosmic characters had to team up to take him down.

That this had such a cool cover of Thanos, Warlock and a chained-up Thor piqued my interest such that I found myself reading the issue in its entirety despite lacking context of any recently-read earlier chapters of the crossover or any recent reading of any Infinity Watch issues for continuity reminders.

Basically, Warlock, the Infinity Watch, Dr. Strange, and the Silver Surfer show up on the Rainbow Bridge with Thor imprisoned in a stasis field of some sort. Odin sees this and assumes with Thanos in their midst that they’ve–despite proving their Character in the past–shown up with Thor as a hostage, and he sends the forces of Asgard against the group. After a lengthy battle, Odin wades into the fray himself before Sif and Beta Ray Bill intervene, finally putting everyone on the same page. Odin attempts to simply fix things, but it doesn’t work, and so he declares that Thor must die.

The story itself is pretty good–sufficiently “cosmic” for me, which makes sense given the characters involved. And this IS classic Starlin…and given his hand in Warlock and Thanos stuff through the years–particularly back in the early/mid-1990s when this issue came out–can’t ask for much better. I really like the way this plays firmly within what I recall of the ’90s Cosmic stuff–Warlock and his group, Thanos, Thor/Odin/Asgard, even the Silver Surfer is found here. Starlin‘s got a great grasp on his “usual” characters, and seems to do the same with the Thor characters–at least, they all seem within the characterization I’m aware of for them.

My main disappointment in the issue is with the art–for me, as a casual reader, it seems incredibly uneven. I really like the cover–it’s got plenty of detail, and the characters all look quite good–recognizable, detailed, etc.–and that goes for the outer as well as inner cover images. The art for the issue itself seems truly simplistic by comparison, though, with many panels having extremely minimalistic background if anything but solid color–and many of the characters (while they remain recognizable as individuals) are distractingly simplified such that they look ugly, rough, and unfinished or rushed–especially compared to the cover. This may be a stylistic thing–and doesn’t fail to get the story across–but it’s not exactly to my liking at present.

All told, though…this was a very welcome read as something I pulled from a bargain bin sometime in the last few years–I found it a few weeks ago while searching out other comics in my unorganized collection, and set it aside TO read. I’m not certain, but I think this issue and the Thanos/Odin battle may even have been referenced in the Dan Jurgens run of Thor, post-Heroes Return, which makes it that much more satisfying to (even a decade later) have finally read for myself.

Even with the cardstock, die-cut dual cover (you open the main cover to the same image of Thor, but surrounded by all the other primary characters involved in this story) and extra story pages, this issue was only $2.95 cover price–over $1 cheaper than a standard Marvel comic today. And with bargain-bin pricing–presumably 25-50 cents–if you’ve any interest in Thanos in particular–this is well worth the price of admission.

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