Thursday, July 21, 2011

Incredible Hulk & the Human Torch: From the Marvel Vault #1

Hey, yeah, we still review new comics around here sometimes. Let's look at one that I bought recently. There will probably be another comics review coming in a couple of days.

Marvel has sure been thrifty lately. They've been releasing various inventory stories that, for one reason or another, never saw print. Instead of going the Marvel Fanfare route and establishing an ongoing series, they've instead been putting them out as one-shots. I have to admire the ingenuity, in that it generates lots of first issues.

Most of the inventory tales either released or solicited have been from the last two decades. The glaring exception is Incredible Hulk & the Human Torch: From the Marvel Vault #1, which utilizes an inventory story done for Marvel Team-Up in the early 1980s. The GCD says 1984, but I'm not even sure that's right. MTU ended that year (cover date Feb. 1985), and the last time the Hulk was replacing Spidey semi-regularly as the star of the book was 1981. Still, stranger things have happened, so the date could be accurate after all.

There is literally nothing special about the original story - at least, the evidence of it that remains. Jack C. Harris' turned out a workmanlike story, and Steve Ditko did a competent enough job in pencilling it. I realize I am not exactly being effusive here, but gosh, this is an inventory story that's been in a drawer for close to 30 years. It's not going to be a lost masterpiece.

That's not say Karl Kesel didn't try. He supplies both dialogue and inks and remakes the story into something a touch more contemporary. I have no idea how faithful he was to the basics of Harris' original script (I assume it was written full script, being an inventory story), but he added a glib tone that I suspect was not originally present. It's OK, but way too familiar nowadays since Mark Waid started doing it with Wally West so long ago. The inking works better, though I will always feel that Ditko is best over Ditko. Of course, that wasn't really an option here.

This comic is basically two approaches at war with one another. The plot and pencils are firmly entrenched in the early 1980s, oblivious to all the new things just on the horizon. Everything else, including the lettering and coloring, is fully 2011. It doesn't exactly work, but it does create a perfectly inoffensive hybrid book that is worth a look if you are a Ditko or Kesel fan or liked comics in the early 1980s. I would probably feel even more charitable if it were priced at either 50¢ or 60¢ like it would've been when originally conceived, but $2.99 isn't bad for today's prices

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