Hulk Times A Hundred Equals HOLOCAUST!
Avengers Annual #13
Written by Roger Stern
Illustrated by Steve Ditko & John Byrne
Edited by Joe Rosen
Colored by K. Feduniewicz
Edited by Mark Gruenwald
Ah, 1984 — a good year for comics. Here's a little-seen treat featuring work from some of that era's best mainstream creators — Avengers Annual #18.
The plot of the story is pretty simple — villains keep invading Bruce Banner's abandoned base at Northwind Observatory1, so the government sends out a team of scientists to catalogue Banner's inventions and a team of Avengers to protect them. Unfortunately, the scientists themselves attract the attention of yet one more supervillain — Arnim Zola, who wants to capture them and pick their brains clean. And with an army of unstable Hulk clones at his command, Zola he might just be able to hold the Avengers at bay. It's a simply-told, continuity-heavy but still fun superhero story, and it's an enjoyable read but nothing memorable.
The real treat is the art team of Steve Ditko and John Byrne. A weird combo, isn't it?2 The art is credited to the two of them without specifying who did what, but it's pretty obvious that Byrne is inking over Ditko's pencils here — the surface polish is pure Byrne but the storytelling, figure construction and underdrawing is unmistakeably Ditko. They actually make a pretty good team — Byrne softens and modernizes Ditko's rough edges without smoothing them down too far he way that, say, Romeo Tanghal does. Here's a nice sequence from the book where Captain Marvel sticks it to Zola...
That's some nice, super-clear storytelling. The diagonal tilt of Reed Richards and Hank Pym lead into Zola's amorphous body in the second panel, and his globby arms lead down to the third panel, where the downward thrust of Captain Marvel's hands propel you into the scene-stealing explosion in the final panel. Zola's massive magenta bulk also leads you through all four panels, as that solid, otherworldly color instantly attracts your attention until it's blown all over the place in that final panel.
And what a final panel that is, eh? Byrne's added shadowing and line weight make Ditko's explosion feel fully three-dimensional3. A pity this isn't a 3-D comic, because that would have been spectacular.
A good issue to have for the Ditko completist, just for the sheer novelty of his collaboration with another comics superstar.
- This story takes place in the period after Hulk #300, when the near-mindless and extremely savage Hulk was banished to another dimension by Dr. Strange.
- Admittedly, it's not as weird as Avengers Annual #14's art team of John Byrne and Kyle Baker, but that's a story for another day.
- Though, truth be told, that flat sound effect does undercut the effect slightly.