Bubonic Comics: The Incredible Hulk #456

Guest Post

It’s been quite a while since I dug through the comic bins, but I’ve decided to share with you a comic that marked my departure from reading Marvel Comics for roughly six years.

Growing up, I had been a huge Marvel Zombie. It had the most popular characters, the coolest adventures and the best artists, but the crapfest that was Onslaught and Heroes Reborn killed my affection for Marvel. I followed a few titles, including The Incredible Hulk, afterward.

The ridiculousness that was The Incredible Hulk #456 sealed the deal, however. And, as you read on, you’ll agree this issue should stay crammed in the back of your collection, never to see daylight again.

Currently, Hulk is receiving tons of well-deserved attention. World War Hulk is perhaps his brightest moment, especially considered how cut off from the rest of the Marvel Universe Hulk was during Bruce Jones’ run on the title. World War Hulk is as exciting as it is destructive. This issue, though, is embarrassing. It revolves around Apocalypse transforming Hulk into the Horseman War. Before we find out how that transpires, though, the issue begins with Rick Jones and his great-granddaughter (she’s from the future…don’t ask) driving around New Orleans.

Out of nowhere, the Absorbing Man decides to attack and destroy their car. Why does the Absorbing Man do this? Because he wants Rick Jones to come with him to Egypt to track down the Hulk. Last I checked, if you want someone’s help, you don’t almost kill them and destroy their only mode of transportation!

To help the plot along, Rick agrees to go along with Absorbing Man’s plan. Oh yeah, and in case you’re wondering, they somehow get a jet from mysterious benefactors (a.k.a. The New World Order, and [sadly] not the wrestling group) to help get them all the way from New Orleans to Egypt.

Anyway, Apocalypse has dragged Hulk to Egypt because he wants to guilt-trip Hulk into being his latest Horseman, War. I’m not sure what happened to the previous War, but hopefully he came to his senses and ditched Apocalypse.

Basically, Apocalypse’s whole method of convincing Hulk to join him consists of saying, “You think you’ve had a rough life? See these pyramids? I had to help build them. And I was betrayed by an Egyptian woman I loved 4,000 years ago. My life sucked worse than yours.”

Somehow, this form of persuasion, along with Apocalypse continually moaning over how superior mutants are to humans, convinces Hulk to become a Horseman. Seriously??

So, how does one go about transforming Hulk into a minion of Apocalypse? You don’t want to know, but I’ll tell you anyway.

Anyone who has read Peter David’s Hulk knows that Hulk’s “issues” stem from his father. Well, it seems the ghost of Mr. Banner follows Hulk around and badmouths him all the time. Evidently, this is caused by “shrapnel” from his past in his brain.

Apocalypse puts Hulk in a giant glass test tube and then uses a laser to destroy all this “shrapnel” that has enabled Mr. Banner’s ghost to berate Hulk.

Once this is done, the ghost is gone, and an oh-so-scary black mask is put over Hulk’s melon. Now he is evil. Yep, that’s all it takes to turn Hulk into War. Makes me feel bad for Angel – he had to have his freaking wings ripped out to complete the transformation!

Meanwhile, the Absorbing Man, Rick Jones, and his great-granddaughter from the future are aimlessly driving around the Giza Necropolis hoping that either Hulk or Apocalypse show up. While driving, they fail to notice one of the pyramids being levitated out of the ground. They finally see its shadow looming above and quickly jump out of their vehicle as the pyramid comes smashing down on the car. Somehow, a pyramid over 500 feet wide fails to crush and kill them.

Before they can gather their breath, War Hulk is on the scene and wearing the absolutely most ridiculous, horrible excuse for a costume. Take every single bad cliché about costume design in the 90s, mix them all together, and you have War Hulk’s outfit. He has that stupid black helmet, giant spikes, a humongous shoulder pad, underpants with a tough-looking skull on them, an Omega Red-style whip and a sword. The only thing he’s missing is pouches.

Anyway, War Hulk is able to use his fancy gadgets to “overload” and explode the Absorbing Man, leaving poor Rick Jones and his relative from the future defenseless. But, wait! Before War Hulk can smite them with one of his newly acquired appendages, Juggernaut comes running up from who knows where to stop the War Hulk.

I don’t know what happens next, because the reader is left with a “to be continued” box, and I never bothered to find out. I doubt I missed a darned thing.

This whole concept was just stupid. I have no clue how the big event or whatever this led into played out. In my opinion, Apocalypse is one of Marvel’s lamest villains, and the fact that he begrudgingly allows Hulk to be transformed into one of his Horsemen makes me hope that Peter David thought this was a stupid idea forced upon him by the editors.

Kubert, aided by his legendary father, produced pretty solid art, even if it did lead to one of the worst costume designs ever.

Fanboys complain about Hulk wearing a tiara. Let me show them a glimpse of War Hulk, then they’ll remember just how good things are for Hulk now.