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BRONZE-AGE FLASHBACK: Incredible Hulk 196 (February 1976)

March 22, 2002

I've wanted to do a series of bronze- and silver-age reviews for quite some time. My "style" of collecting is kind of unusual. Because I don't typically by any new monthly comics, I tend to purchase back-issues in a haphazard fashion, usually from a few reliable e-bay sellers. This week's acquisitions were mainly from the so-called bronze age and included Doc Savage 1, The Champions 11, and Incredible Hulk 196, which I read this morning.

This issue sports an exciting cover that features Dr. Samson, General Ross, and Clay Quartermain (of S.H.I.E.L.D.) watching as the Hulk and his newly found partner, the Abomination, smash their way through a group of soldiers in a story amusingly called "The Abomination Proclamation!"

For reasons apparently explained in issue 195, the Hulk has found a new ally in the grotesque Abomination (whom the Hulk refers to as "big ears" on many occasions in this issue). This dastardly jade duo first make their appearance when they smash their way out of an AJAX Truck being driven by Jack Kronsky, a lovable mug with a wife and five kids (sounds like his rig ain't the only thing Jack's been gear jammin'). As Jack contemplates whether it was worth having a fifth child, the Hulk and the Abomination (heretofore to be known as the Green Machine) crash through Jack's rig (at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, FL, no less!).

The Green Machine quickly overpower the NASA "security force," including one security officer who makes a futile attempt to stop the Green Machine with a "moon-buggy" that is quickly demolished.
The duo (okay, Green Machine is getting a bit tiresome) breaks into the communications center at which point the Abomination instructs one of the employees to "patch me into the command broadcasting system!" Shortly thereafter, his message is transmitted upon viewing monitors that are located at various government offices including the Pentagon. At Hulkbuster Base (which, unfortunately, never had the financial sense to franchise its operation) General Ross, Dr. Samson, and Clay Quartermain also view this dramatic presentation during which the Abomination issues his demands: "100 million dollars in uncut diamonds!" Interestingly, the Abomination fails to request "cut" diamonds or even Swiss currency, which, due to the exchange rate during the time this issue was published, would have been worth far more than 100 million U.S. dollars.

Later at NASA, the government personnel prepare various meals for the Abomination. The Hulk seems, surprisingly, without appetite, apparently because the loudness of "big-ears" is causing greenskin's head to hurt. Suddenly and unexpectedly a NASA employee (apparently weary of being demoted to food services) attacks the Abomination with high-voltage cables. This only infuriates both the Hulk and his newfound partner, both of whom issue a verbal warning to the now-trembling NASA employee.

Meanwhile, Samson devises a plan to save the day. Overriding the Abomination's control of the communication system, Betty Ross appears on the viewscreens and makes a desperate plea to the Hulk to remember who she is. The Hulk ponders her words for a moment before the viewscreen is smashed by the Abomination. With no uncut diamonds to be found and his anger increasing with each moment, the Abomination plans to destroy the NASA base. However, Betty's image is everywhere (there are a LOT of viewscreens at NASA, ya know) and when the Abomination smashes yet another viewscreen it triggers that oh-so-deadly wave of hostility for which the Hulk is known. Seeing the attack of the viewscreen as a personal attack against his friend Betty, the Hulk lashes out at his now ex-pal the Abomination. A battle ensues and the Abomination smashes the hulk into a building, which completely topples down onto him. He then flees for a nearby rocket ship and notes that "This rocket is so simple to operate even a baby could fly it!" He plans to make good his escape and "ditch" the rocket "somewhere in South America." The Hulk recovers quite suddenly and grabs hold of the rocket during its ignition. As the rocket climbs ever skyward, the Hulk digs his powerful hands into the craft and eventually smashes into the control panel (at which point the Abomination merely punches the Hulk in the face and he releases his hold of the rocket and plummets earthward. He is surrounded by flame but, fortunately, his pants are flame resistant). To the Abomination's surprise and disappointment, the rocket explodes. I'm not sure if this is a commentary by writer Len Wein as to the craftsmanship of the rocket or the fact that perhaps more than child-like skill is needed to pilot such a vast craft.

This story is quite a gem, um, well, it's a cubic zarcona at least. The art, by our-pal Sal Buscema and embellisher Joe Staton is typical Marvel-house style of the era. It's adequate, but it's a far cry from what Brunner, Starlin, or Perez were doing at Marvel during this era. The story is memorable if for no other reason than to see government employees carrying tray-upon-tray of food from the NASA "commissary" to the Abomination's table. Also of interest is the letter column: Two of the three letter writers published in this issue lambasted the story in issue 192 (which you know I will be tracking down shortly).

Hulk on!

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