Friday, March 4, 2011

In appreciation: Archie Goodwin, Hulk #156

In a series of adventures beginning with the shrinking of the Hulk in #154, the emerald behemoth has encountered the enigmatic Shaper of Worlds (#155), who needs the dreams of others to find a focus for his powers. The Hulk's heart's desire has directed the Shaper to guide the quickly-reducing hero to the microscopic world of his choice, one readers had visited the year before through the words of legendary science fiction writer Harlan Ellison, who gave us the world of K'ai...and green-skinned princess Jarella, who loved the Hulk.

Specifically, Jarella, leader of her people, loved a form of the Hulk created by the magic of her wizards, Holi, Moli, and Torla. This Hulk has Bruce Banner's intelligence---so as you may know, that's Hulk's human alter ego, the man whose Gamma Ray device accidentally changed his body for life. That same spell begins working once more, as Bruce/ Hulk realizes immediately upon arriving on K'ai.

That's to his initial disadvantage; someone's smashed the capitol city to ruins. Furthermore, aboard great flying beasts, the minions of a wizard named Vizor return here often to pick off Jarella's followers, who come here to mourn their losses. Bruce recovers his senses and uses the Hulk's power to route his foes. His next encounter is with the remainder of Jarella's people, who joyously bring him back to camp. Shortly, Hulk has a plan, involving gigantic creatures he describes as "part dog, part boar", the Warthos. He wrangles the head of the pack with his superhuman strength.

Meanwhile, Vizor presses Jarella to marry him. He takes her to a merciless dungeon full of her followers, and threatens to kill the prisoners systematically for each refusal. By this, she becomes his betrothed...

...but not before Hulk arrives, riding the back of the Warthos, attempting to spout popular culture references that are lost on the soldiers as much they would be on modern readers. The rescue works, though. Now Vizor needs a new plan.

The villain arrives at an island, where we discover the culture of assassins, a mercenary group, the oldest form of civilization on K'ai. Here, technology, rather than magic, was the dominant form of progress. Their great weapon, should they become allies, is a device that dredges up---and gives form to---their greatest fear. What will this do against...the Hulk?

Their conspiracy prepares us for the climax of the story...coming up next.

Goodwin's impromptu world building, picking up from Ellison, provides the details for a plot that never slows down---always developing a character, a relationship, a confrontation.

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