Savage Hulk: The Man Within


By Alan Davis, Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, Mark Farmer, Sam Grainger & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-630-4

In 1969, after six years of quirky, deliciously off-kilter adventures, The X-Men comicbook folded. It was a relatively early casualty of the latest periodic, repetitive changing-of-reading-tastes, which saw the buying public once again shun superhero stories in favour of genres like war, westerns and, most especially, supernatural horror yarns…

Of course after the fantasy fad receded again the team emerged resurgent and unstoppable in 1975’s Giant-Size X-Men #1 and have since become an unshakable fixture of contemporary comics and cinema culture. Nevertheless when they first folded, a goodly number of us strange funnybook fans couldn’t believe the loss of such outré and irreplaceable characters.

Despite their reappearance in recycled reprints a certain magic had gone from the world back then and this most modern confection by Alan Davis seeks to redress that loss, albeit 45 human years later…

That final 1960s X-Men exploit was a weird “sort-of” team-up and, as it pivotally informs the all-original 4-part tale by Davis, inker Mark Farmer and colourist Matt Hollingsworth which comprises the majority of this scintillating compilation chronicle, the editors at Marvel have thoughtfully included it – in all its raw glory – at the back of the book.

I’m reviewing it first because that’d just the way I am…

‘The Mutants and the Monster!’ by Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema & Sam Grainger (X-Men volume 1#66, cover-dated March 1970), was actually the epilogue to an epic clash between the mutants and voracious alien invaders.

The campaign had shockingly brought back long-believed dead Professor Charles Xavier, who then nearly killed himself for real by uniting every mind on Earth in a psychic thrust of unparallelled force to repel the already repellent Z’Nox.

The tragic aftermath was seen here: a debilitating coma caused by the exertion left the telepath near death, able only to convey a feeble psionic message which sent the team hunting for Bruce Banner in Nevada.

Apparently, the two cerebral heavyweights had previously and secretly collaborated on a gamma-powered device which might now be able to save and restore the fallen Xavier…

However the harried young heroes, in their hasty attempt to save their mentor, forgot one crucial fact: when you hunt Banner what you usually end up with is an immensely irate Incredible Hulk

The resulting destructive debacle wrecked a lot of landscape but throughout the extended brouhaha, the Hulk seemed to be subconsciously leading the titanic teens to his hidden desert lab where the prototype Gamma Stimulator was stashed.

Despite colossal carnage and inevitable US Army interference the gadget was recovered and the Professor saved…

Flipping now to the front of the book, the main event reveals a previously undisclosed follow-up encounter published as Savage Hulk #1-4 (August to November 2014) ‘The Man within’ and opens with TV coverage of the Nevada battle being carefully scrutinised by Gamma-spawned evil super-genius The Leader. The sinister savant soon gleans a connection between the mutant warriors and their previously unsuspected boss Charles Xavier…

The Hulk meanwhile is fending of another furious attack by the military even as back in Westchester County the recuperating Xavier examines the life-saving device and realises Banner had completed it to cure himself of his emerald alter ego. The mutant mentor soon discovers why it didn’t work on the tragic titanic transformer. It needed a telepathic trigger…

Convinced he can return the favour and finally cure Banner, guilty, grateful Professor X accompanies Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast, Iceman, Havok and magnetic warrior Lorna Dane back to Nevada and Banner’s clandestine laboratory. They are all blithely unaware that The Leader has already staked the place out…

The frenzied fugitive at the heart of the matter meanwhile has been found by a well-meaning elderly couple whose offer of assistance leads to unbridled terror as the timid down-and-out suddenly shapeshifts into a mountain of angry green muscle…

Nearby the X-Men have been ambushed by the murderous, monstrous Abomination, who is also hunting for the Hulk and their titanic tussle soon intrudes on the Jade Giant’s agonised antics…

The three-way war immediately escalates after the army closes in, all guns blazing, but the merely human military are swiftly driven back by the mutants, leaving the Hulk to totally trash his gamma-powered nemesis single handed.

In the quiet aftermath, Marvel Girl uses her own still-developing telepathy to quell the victorious Hulk’s rage and re-manifest the deeply traumatised Bruce. Soon the physicist is conferring with Xavier and preparing to be rid of his ominous other for all time, but as their salvation device is set in motion none are aware that deadly threat is nearby, awaiting the perfect moment to strike…

Shock follows shock as the procedure goes awry with the hulk’s gamma-energy migrating to Marvel Girl, creating a bellicose green giantess reeling with incomprehensible psionic power.

…And that’s when The Leader makes his move at the head of an army of mechanoids and a legion of the Hulk’s old foes…

Only Xavier is aware that things are not entirely what they seem and is capable of combating the true source of the fantastic threat, aided by the Hulk’s most incredible gamma-fuelled transformation yet…

Also included in this splendid and explosively entertaining epistle are the original covers by Davis, Farmer, Val Staples, Matt Hollingsworth & Brad Andersen plus Marie Severin & Grainger’s 1969 classic image, and a selection of variants from John Cassaday, Alex Ross, Ryan Stegman, Jim Starlin and Dale Keown.

Cleverly conceived, beautifully illustrated, riotously action-packed and stunningly suspenseful, this tale of triumph and tragedy is pure vintage Marvel Mastery, ably augmented by the original inspirational yarn from the end of a unique era and offering readers young and old a magnificent chance to re-experience the glory days of the House of Ideas.

™ & © 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.