Just last month I broke new ground in the world of Marvel Madness by sharing the first Incredible Hulk story I’ve ever tackled on the site. At the time I made a big deal about the fact that the Hulk is a bit of an odd character, because while most of his stories are weird, they’re generally not the right type of weird to discuss on the site. And, lo and behold, as soon as I made a fuss about how rare it is to find a fun Hulk story line I found that the very next issue after the Hulk’s disastrous charity dinner with the Valkyrie appeared to be right up my alley. And how did I know that this story would be something that would be worthy to share on the site, so soon after another Hulk story no less? Well, the cover for that story is the one at the top of this article, which should answer that question for you. Any time I’m working through these classic runs of Marvel superheroes and come across a cover with my main man, Doctor Victor Von Doom, I know that it’s going to be special. I just can’t get enough of stories where Doom gets to interact with the various other heroes of the Marvel Universe, and the Hulk was one of those character that I’d never come across. I’m sure Doom has dealt with every single one of the major heroes, and I’ve been creating a veritable bingo game of stories, so it’s nice to cross off yet another hero on that list. So, let’s get ready to see how Doctor Doom will manipulate the Hulk into becoming a living weapon for the glory of Latveria.
The issue begins immediately after the previous Hulk story we discussed here, with Bruce Banner waking up in an alley in Manhattan, no memory of what exactly has happened the whole evening, and with the whole police department trying to track the Hulk down. All Bruce knows is that he clearly has had some incident with the Hulk, and gets busy trying to flee from the police, trying his best to think on his feet and find some place to hide. Things seem pretty dire, and the police are closing in with each passing moment, so Bruce runs from his alley and onto the road, hoping to find someone to give him a ride. But, since he’s a shirtless man in shredded purple pants, his pickings are rather slim. Until a towncar comes peeling up to him, and the driver offers to give him a lift. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth, Bruce hops into the car and it begins speeding off, escaping the clutches of the police. And, who is Bruce’s mysterious benefactor?
Whoops! Bruce just caught a ride with a brutal foreign dictator. Which, I guess happens in the New York of the Marvel Universe, since Doctor Doom seems to spend an inordinate amount of time outside of Latveria just tooling around New York. Which brings us to the question of why Doom is currently driving around the streets of Manhattan just in time to pick Bruce Banner up. Well, he specifically came looking for Bruce, and plans on taking him to the Latverian embassy to discuss a proposition he has planned for him. And, on the way Doom tries to make idle chit chat, talking about how he has a much harder life than Bruce. Which, c’mon Doom. Show a little tact, man.
They do eventually arrive at the Latverian embassy though, and Doom bustles Bruce inside, just in time. Because it turns out that Doom wasn’t the only one tracking down Banner. The perpetual thorns in Banner’s side, General Ross and Major Talbot, have been looking for Bruce since all the media attention surrounding his charity dinner, and have followed him to the embassy. Which gives them a pretty considerable problem. I’ve never understood exactly how legitimate Ross’ vendetta against the Hulk is, and how sanctioned it is by the US government, but it does present an issue in regards to Latveria’s diplomatic immunity. They can’t exactly march in and drag Banner out. So, instead, they decide to set up a barricade and try to force Doom to send Banner out.
And, as you probably can guess, this plan doesn’t go very well. They deliver their ultimatum and even bring out a special weapon with Doctor Leonard Samson, a psychiatrist who also has gamma-induced powers. But, Doom isn’t particularly worried, because he has something cooked up. Doom gives a monologue about how amazing he is, and how he has a weapon that will devastate Ross and his soldiers. Which is when he opens up a window and releases the Hulk. The Hulk then silently leaps from the embassy, down onto the street, and starts tearing things up. He punches several soldiers, rips their tanks apart, and just generally causes all the usual destruction that he normally does. And, when everything is nice and pulverized, the Hulk takes to the skies, launching himself as hard as he can, away from the soldiers. But, they take the chance to blast the Hulk with a howitzer, seemingly blowing the monster to pieces.
As the shredded purple pants of the Hulk drift back down to the ground, General Ross and all of his compatriots stand if bafflement. Ross in particular isn’t quite sure how to feel. On the one hand he’s sure he’s going to get a promotion, and should feel a sense of pride in finally vanquishing his foe. But, on the other hand, he just murdered the love of his daughter’s life. Which has to be pretty awkward. Betty is absolutely shattered, having watched Bruce be blown to pieces by her father, all while standing in the huge and lame arms of Leonard Samson. But, as you can probably guess, everything we just experienced wasn’t exactly on the level.
It’s never a good sign to see Doctor Doom laughing. But, yeah, it was all a scam. Doom has apparently built a giant Hulk-shaped robot specifically to throw General Ross off the trail. And, mission accomplished! General Ross completely bought the robot, and now believes that the Hulk has finally been defeated, leading him to stop looking for him, since he’s supposedly dead. Which means Bruce now belongs to Doctor Doom! At least, that’s what Doctor Doom assumes. See, he has grand plans for Doctor Bruce Banner, and those plans begin when Doom unleashes a powerful tranquilizer from his gauntlets, knocking Bruce out so that he can be safely smuggled out of the country, and back to Latveria.
Doom has his lackeys drag Bruce’s unconscious body out of the embassy and onto a special jet that Doom himself pilots for some reason. The jet blasts off and quickly gets the pair back to Latveria where Doom gets to strut about while his loyal subjects hurdle praise at him. It’s all very ridiculous, showing how twisted Doom has made Latveria, but that gets skipped over when Doom announces that it’s time to drag Banner into the laboratory that will become his prison. Doom then begins explaining to us what his whole plan is. He’s built a device that can subliminally manipulate people, and he’s planning on using it on Banner to make him a loyal Doom enthusiast. He’ll then force Banner to build weapons for him, while occasionally having him transform into the Hulk to destroy things more personally.
And the plan goes swimmingly! After subjugating Bruce to his hypnotic device, Doom succeeds in turning Bruce Banner into a true Latverian patriot. Bruce completely believes that it’s his calling to create weapons for the mother land and his perfect ruler Doom. And, with that taken care of, Doom installs Bruce into a special laboratory where his expertise in gamma radiation is put to use, forcing him to begin crafting gamma bombs to unleash on the rest of the world. And Bruce loves it. He’s the most enthusiastic scientist in the laboratory, which is good, because Doom himself is about to stop by and check out the progress on the project.
And he’s not alone. Doom has arrived with a woman named Valeria, which was something that surprised me. I’ve previously discussed a famous Fantastic Four story on here called “Unthinkable” that involved Doctor Doom making a magical suit of armor out of the skin of his long lost love, a woman named Valeria. I also know that the Richards’ daughter Val is named after this same woman. But, I guess I didn’t realize that she ever actually showed up in comics. And, it’s entirely possible that this issue is a fluke, a one-time appearance of the character. I’m not positive. But, regardless of the history of the character, her role in this story is pretty clear. She’s here to give Doctor Doom shit.
Doctor Doom apparently keeps Valeria around to impress her with his mighty stranglehold on their homeland, and she responds to this by following him around and reminding him that he’s a crappy dictator, and that no one really likes him. And this drives Doom crazy. He keeps ranting to her, telling her that he loves her and would give her anything in the world, while she responds by blowing him off and reminding him that he’s got a room-full of kidnapped scientists making gamma bombs for him, which is pretty crappy.
She does succeed in bothering Doom though, and he eventually switches gears, reminding her that he’s the mightiest leader in history, and that he’s going to conquer the world as soon as his armory of gamma bombs are ready, all thanks to his recent acquisition, Bruce Banner. Valeria is actually familiar with Banner, and is pretty shocked that Doom has somehow convinced him to work for Latveria. She’s immediately worried that Banner will actually be able to build Doom the bombs he needs to launch the world into war, and by the fact that Doom has captured the Hulk to do so. Unfortunately, in her confusion she brings up the Hulk to Banner, causing him to have a bit of a nervous breakdown. Apparently Doom’s subliminal hypnosis works great, until you remind someone of their past, and it all comes crashing down. Which would be a problem with a normal person, but with Bruce Banner it’s a catastrophe.
Great going, Valeria! Now you guys have a Hulk infestation to deal with! And, as you might have guess, the Hulk is pretty angry. He doesn’t appreciate being trapped inside Banner, taken to another country, and hypnotized to never come out. So, now that he’s actually in charge of their shared body, the Hulk decide to get some vengeance. He starts destroying everything in Doom’s laboratory, getting ready to go on a classic string of Hulk chaos, until Doom does some fast thinking. He’s apparently been working on the tranquilizer he used on Bruce earlier in the story, and has now made it powerful enough to take down the Hulk. So, he blasts Hulk with the gas, and watches as the giant woozily turns back into Bruce Banner, before passing out on the ground.
Valeria is pretty aghast by what she just saw, and realizes that she probably shouldn’t provoke Banner, or Doom, anymore. She excuses herself to the room that Doom keeps her in, while Doom starts ordering his men around. They drag Banner away to give him another healthy dose of hypnosis, while Doom makes some deranged proclamations. He tells his men that they need to get their new gamma bomb ready to be used. The other scientists protest a bit, since they haven’t even tested it, but Doom doesn’t care, he wants to strike first. Which becomes problematic when he stops by to see Valeria again, and she makes him promise that he’ll never make Latveria be the aggressor, and that he’ll only use the bomb in defense. Luckily, Doom has come up with a ludicrous plan to get around that promise.
Okay, so there’s a lot of stuff going on in those four panels. Doom has decided that the perfect way to wield his new gamma bomb is to strap it to Bruce Banner’s back, have Bruce become the Hulk, and then release the Hulk into the world. The Hulk will then run into a neighboring country, where they will trigger the bomb and begin a war while also getting rid of the Hulk. And, to make everything nice and tidy, Doom has his men run into Valeria’s room and announce that the Hulk has actually stolen the bomb, and is running toward the border in order to instigate a war, on his own accord. Doom then make a big show about the fact that he needs to do the “humane” thing and detonate the bomb, stopping the Hulk from destroying the world, which will unfortunately start a war.
Valeria is terrified of their options, but agrees with Doom that detonating the bomb is the right call. Doom then happily triggers the bomb, and the two watch the massive explosion that follows. Unfortunately, as soon as this happens one of Doom’s men runs in and loudly announces that things went wrong, and the bomb detonated before it could get to the border. Which really blows up Doom’s spot. Valeria realizes that this whole thing was bullshit. Although, she also already suspected it. In fact, she was the person responsible for having things go wrong.
Okay. So, apparently Valeria suspected that Doom was up to no good, and managed to trick one of the guards into letting her check in on Bruce, who was being hypnotized. Doom’s plan revolved around making a hypnotized Bruce run for the border, but Valeria instead reprograms him in order to run to an uninhabited area where the bomb can safely be triggered, averting war for Latveria. And, as you might guess, Doom is not pleased with this news. In fact, he’s furious. He starts yelling at Valeria and orders his men to bring her to a dungeon.
Which is when the Hulk comes crashing through one of the castle walls, returning the beat the hell out of Doom. The Hulk immediately starts fighting through waves of Latverian soldiers, until Doom pulls out one more special weapon. Doom knew that he wouldn’t be able to take down Hulk without any gimmicks, and devises a special force field weapon that surrounds Hulk in a beam of energy, keeping him still. But, Hulk is eventually able to break the force field, and leaps out of the castle, bringing Doom along with him. The two start fighting atop Castle Doom, until a chunk of rock falls from the castle, and almost hits Valeria. This causes Doom to give up the fight in order to save her, protecting her with another force field. Which gives Hulk the opportunity to sucker punch Doom and put him in a bear-hug. Hulk then starts squeezing Doom, prepared to pop him like a grape, but Doom never backs down. And the only thing that saves Doom’s life is Valeria begging Hulk not to murder him. She hates Doom, but she won’t give up the possibility of finding the good man she once new inside his hate-filled exterior. The Hulk feels sympathy for Valeria in that moment, and lets the Doctor go, leaping off into the sunset.
I am always going to be a fan of stories where non-Fantastic Four characters are forced to interact with Doctor Doom. It’s one of my favorite things that Marvel comics can ever do. Doom is just the perfect villain, an insane dictator that will do whatever he wants to whoever he wants. Even if that person is Bruce Banner, one of the most dangerous human beings on the planet Earth. I love the idea that Doctor Doom wants a gamma bomb, so instead of just figuring out how to do it he just decides to kidnap one of the most wanted people in the world, forcing him to develop a bomb for him. And, not only that, he plans on then using the Hulk as a justification for a war that could potentially take over the entire world. It’s just insane. But, in the way that I love Doctor Doom stories. He just can’t make simple plans. They need to be as complicated as possible, and as prone to failure as he can make them. Because I can’t imagine any plan that involves strapping a gamma bomb to the back of the Incredible Hulk is a well thought out plan. Probably needed another pass on that one, Vick. But, I guess people do stupid things when they’re in love. Especially when they’re in love with a woman that they keep locked up in their weird castle. There’s honestly not a whole lot about this story that gets to show off the Hulk, but that’s kind of fine with me. The Hulk has never been my favorite character, and I’m really primarily here to talk about Doctor Doom, but I do enjoy seeing these two incredibly different characters tangling. Especially that bit at the end, where the Hulk really does defeat Doom, but takes pity on him because of Valeria. Because the biggest monster in this story is Doom. Which is why I love him.
Incredible Hulk #143-144 were written by Roy Thomas and G Friedrich, penciled by Dick Ayers, inked by John Severin, and lettered by Art Simek and Sam Rosen, 1971.
Categories: Marvel Madness