The Hulk vs. The Commies: How Stan Lee Abandoned Big Green In Propaganda Hell
Journey Into Marvel – Part 53
Allright, Extremites, we are half way through Hulk and he looks nothing like his debut. He has the intelligence of Banner and all the edge that was established in the first issue has been lost. Fitting that Hulk’s next conflict is against the Communists.
No doubt, you are as sick as I am of the Stan Lee Communist plot, but it’s what he has on offer for us today. Judging by the title, “The Gladiator From Outer Space,” I had high hopes that Hulk would now have a decent nemesis but the creatives once again throw Big Green under the bus.
Jack Kirby once again shows his artistic adeptness when it comes to the Hulk. The opening three panels in which a piece of landing gear descend from the sky is a wonderful example of smooth Kirbyesque tension. These three panels depict the wheels of an alien landing gear descending in increments. He twists the angle of perspective to show the speed of the descent. When the gear plants itself on terra firma a hulking pink alien named Mongu, reminiscent of a professional wrestler, bounds out of the ship and challenges Earth’s “mightiest mortal” to “hand-to-hand combat.”
Even though this challenge seems an empty one, at least it gives Hulk something more to do than mope around worrying about his inner beast. Mongu is simple but maybe he can be the nemesis Hulk needs.
For no reason beyond that age old comic trope of the ‘higher code of justice’ Hulk — and yes, Hulk does this — charters a plane to the Grand Canyon to fight Mongu.
Only one issue ago, Hulk bounced his way across the globe. It was established that he can jump vast distances. Now he needs a plane to get from New Mexico to Nevada. In forcing the Hulk to rely upon a man made form of travel perhaps he can become more human. This is the newest retconn in effort to inject humanity in what was previously an uncontrollable beast.
Humanity is behind this whole plot anyway. Shortly after Hulk searches the Grand Canyon and confronts Mongu, an army of Communist soldiers surrounds him. It appears that Mongu is an animatronic automaton suit that is run by a Soviet officer name Monguski.
Surprise, surprise, it’s the Soviets!
When Stan Lee is pressed for decent antagonists he relies on his mainstays: Communists and Aliens. In this case he turns to both and creates a fake Alien invasion run by Communists. Communist plots often descend into empty propaganda. In this case the propaganda backfires. The Americans end up more moronic than the Communists.
Stan is asking us to except big conveniences for this Communist plot to make sense. Mongu travels in a converted MiG yet the US army, which surrounds the ship in the first panels, does not notice the clearly human design. When these Communists make themselves known they are fully clad in uniforms. They made no attempt to hide and the full platoon was cramped into one MiG. The story is thin.
It is Stan Lee’s thin writing that condemns Hulk to be unpopular. Not only does his character change from story to story, even within the same issue, Hulk still has yet to get a decent antagonist beyond a shrill and paranoid General.
None of it works, and were it not for Jack Kirby’s inspired art, this story would have no merit.
Stan Lee has abandoned the Hulk.
It is sad to see Hulk get such a short shrift creatively.
Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.
Rating: 1/2 out of 5
Pros: Jack Kirby’s detailed and vibrant pencilling.
Cons: Thinly veiled poorly written propaganda. Convenient character creation. Lack of any attention to continuity or plot creation. So much more.
Last Review: “The Monster and the Machine!” (The Incredible Hulk #4 Nov.1962)