I love the Defenders. I love their mismatched line-ups. I love their bizarre enemies. Most of all, I love the fact that they are the only super-hero team in which the Hulk ever made any sense. I can't see him taking orders from Captain America. He'd be out of place in the X-Men. I'm guessing Ben Grimm would have issues if he were considering Fantastic Four membership. But a group that includes as diverse a membership as the Son of Satan, Luke Cage, and Howard the Duck; a group where half the members, at the end of every other issue, curse out everyone else in the group and tell them to never contact them again even though they're sure to be there next month; a group in which three of the first four members were at one time or another sworn enemies of the Earth AND almost completely nude...this is a place where the Hulk could find a home.
Likewise, I think the Hulk's presence on the team made the Defenders a little more interesting. Most teams have at least one heavy-hitter strongman type. Super strength is common enough in the super-world that there's generally more than one person on any given team with some degree of superified muscles, but in most cases there's one really strong guy. The FF have the Thing, the X-Men have Colossus, the Avengers have Thor, JLA has Superman, etc.
If you can imagine what would happen if Thor abruptly attacked the rest of the Avengers a few times a day or if the Justice League had to contend with Superman storming off in a tantrum while they were fighting Amazo or the Injustice League, then you can imagine what it was like to be in the Defenders.
The Hulk makes reading those old issues a little more fun by being such an unpredictable element. Sometimes his brute power would tip the scales for the team, and in other cases his erratic behavior would turn the team's successes into disasters. Sometimes he would do neither and just leave. I imagine his presence was something of a gift to Defenders writers because they could use him pretty much however they wanted. If they wanted him to turn on the team they wouldn't need a particularly complex explanation. No demon possession or mind control or anything like that. "He got mad," is all they needed. At the same time, if they needed some Deus Ex Machina to take care of the bad guys, Hulk delivers some fairly solid Deus. If he got in the way of the plot somehow, they could just have him throw a fit and storm off for a few days.
What follows is a celebration of the many times and many ways in which the Hulk, in one way or another, fucked things up for the Defenders.
Defenders #4 - Hulk accuses Doctor Strange of malpractice
The Defenders return to Earth after battling the Nameless One. Barbara Norris does not fare well when Doctor Strange tries to save her, and using his unfortunately selective memory, Hulk blames the doctor. The Hulk leaps away after this scene toward a nearby castle which, of course, has all the bad guys in it.
Defenders #5 - When hot chicks on flying horses come looking for me, I do NOT try to kill them. Of course, I'm not the Hulk.
Valkyrie comes looking for the Hulk's help. He attacks her because, well, pretty much because she's there and apparently he finds her annoying.
Valkyrie, by the way, resides in the body of Barbara Norris, who is the same woman Hulk was so protective of in the earlier issue. I am not sure where this turn in Hulk's emotions towards Valkyrie comes from, but I'm guessing it has something to do with someone not putting out on the first date.
Defenders #7 - I guess they really did need a bigger ship.
Attuma attacks a beach and captures the Defenders. Hulk is uncharacteristically docile as he heads towards the ship his teammates have already boarded, until he realizes it's a ship. Rather than trying to free his buddies or stop Attuma and his renegade Atlanteans, he just leaves.
Defenders #8 - Well sure, I could tell you, but how would that help me be difficult?
Hulk returns to Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum after the beach battle with Attuma, but when asked about his teammates, he just doesn't feel like answering. He may have been holding out for a candy bar. I would've held out for a candy bar.
Defenders #11 - Hulk wants no more orders and no more waiting. Hulk better never work in a restaurant.
The Defenders encounter an army that Doctor Strange offers to freeze with his spiffy magic powers, but the Hulk decides to complicate things by making the army attack everyone. I don't blame him though. As Ike Turner always said, more punching means more fun.
Defenders #17 - Just let her go, man. Let her go.
Remember the hot chick with the flying horse that Hulk attacked in Defenders #5. Well, in this issue Hulk briefly attacks the team and jumps away because they "let girl leave." So apparently if you want to make sure to stay on the Hulk's good side, quickly identify the girls he likes, even when he hates them, and press them into slavery.
Defenders #18 - Dude...you couldn't have come over at a worst time...
While the Hulk was off being angry about Valkyrie leaving before they could pick out matching torn pants together, Doctor Strange, Nighthawk and Luke Cage get into a brawl with the Wrecker and his Wrecking Crew (in fact, the previous issue is the Wrecking Crew's first appearance). They fight at a construction site, and the Wrecker's monologuing almost leads to his downfall. He reveals that he and his buddies got their super powers magically, and Strange figures he can just suck the super right out of them (don't get dirty).
He's doing just that when the Hulk shows up to apologize to his buddies. Unfortunately, Doctor Strange erected an invisible wall around the construction site to keep civilians safe from the battle. Hulk pummels the wall as hard as he can until he eventually manages to knock the mystical barrier down which in turn renders Doctor Strange unconscious and gives the Wrecking Crew back their powers.
Defenders #19 - Hulk fights homelessness. Literally.
You'd think a penniless, half-naked guy who sleeps in the woods and eats beans wouldn't freak out around homeless guys. Who knew?
Defenders #21 - Hulk does not help the housing bubble situation.
Hulk is hanging out with some little kids, who apparently do not fear a huge, half-naked green guy. One of that fathers freaks out, and Hulk smashes his house. The child (I can't tell if that's a boy or an ugly girl) rightfully blames Hulk instead of predatory loans, and Hulk quickly transforms into Sad Hulk, the saddest one there is.
Defenders #23 - Hulk should not join F.E.M.A.
Yellowjacket recruits Hulk to help him save a couple of kids from a burning building. Yellowjacket tells Hulk to create a barrier around the fire with debris so it won't spread, and he flies away with a kid under each arm. Rather than keep up with the fire barrier, the Hulk decides to unleash one of those big claps of his on the fire. He succeeds in extinguishing the flames, and also in knocking Yellowjacket and the two kids he was carrying out of the sky.
Defenders #27 - It's 2011, do you know where your robots are?
Despite Yondu's urgings, the Hulk decides to smash a bunch of robots. This leads to a creepy mama robot who captures Hulk and Yondu and screeches about them killing her "babies."
Defenders #34 - What are the odds?
Remember when Hulk smashed that dude's house in Defenders #21? Yeah, he does it again. Same guy, same house, with that chunk of debris that sails over the guy's head.
Doctor Strange uses his powers to fix the house though.
Defenders #37 - Chopper! Sick Hulk!
Hulk attacks some cops outside the Sanctum Sanctorum. I'm...yeah, I don't remember why. He just does.
Defenders #40 - HULK SMASH FREEDOM OF SPEECH!!!!!!!!!
As he's bounding about, Hulk spots two groups of picketers, both for and against a movie called Waste. He stomps down in the middle of the group, for a reason I really don't understand. Not even joking, I don't know what the point of this scene was.
Defenders #49 - And now we've seen it all.
Hulk comes upon some kind of family picnic in Central Park, scares everyone off, and sits down for some chow. Unfortunately, Nighthawk is in trouble and the other Defenders need Hulk's help. Hulk doesn't feel like smashing though. He just wants ribs and potato salad. So, Valkyrie, Hellcat and Moon Knight attack the Hulk in order to piss him off and lure him to where the bad guys are, hoping he'll just kind of choose new targets when he gets there (it works).
Defenders #52 - STUPID FISH MAN!
Hulk spots Namor walking around and he's all like "Dude, what up?" And Namor's all "Pfft, whatever." The ensuing fistfight lasts the entire issue.
Defenders #54 - Beyond the sea.
As the Defenders cling to some wreckage in the middle of the ocean, Hulk decides he doesn't want to be there anymore. He nearly drowns everyone, except Namor of course. Stupid Fish Man.
Defenders #57 - Just flip a coin, Val.
After seeing a mystical vision of Ms. Marvel, Hulk is reminded of Captain Marvel who he recently fought, and so goes on a rampage in the Sanctum Sanctorum. When Valkyrie tries to stop him, Hulk clocks her upside the head. Again.
Defenders #61 - Why doesn't Hulk wear a cape? Because he's afraid of monsters.
Hellcat entertains the team by dancing with Devil Slayer's magic cape, but when a monster pokes its head from its folds, Hulk goes ape.
Defenders #61 (again) - Hulk doesn't like small spaces.
The Defenders have a plan to catch the Joker-clone Lunatik. Unfortunately the Hulk doesn't like the plan. Particularly he isn't in love with the idea of sticking himself in a small space. Pick whatever joke you want to make from that and proceed.
Defenders #62 - Extreme frisbee.
Don't play frisbee with the Hulk, moron.
Defenders #62 (again) - Hulk is an inconsiderate goddamn host.
After that, frankly I'm not very interested. The Hulk is still around in the book, but not as much. And the title wasn't as much as fun. Though, I guess I shouldn't complain. Considering they had the Hulk on their team, it's impressive anyone in the Defenders even survived that long.
SOME HULK LINKS
--A beautiful Hulk vs. Thing drawing by Chris Stevens.
--This week I posted an old review of Hulk Visionaries: Peter David Vol. 1 as well as new reviews of Hulk Visionaries: Peter David Vol. 2 and Hulk: Fall of the Hulks Prelude.
--Gary M. Miller reviews the "Chaos War" issues of Incredible Hulks. I think Gary enjoyed the issues a little bit more than I did, though he points out some of their weaknesses as well.
--The 3-part annual crossover "Identity Wars" featuring Spider-Man, Hulk, and Deadpool begins in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #38 in April.
--Also in April, Skaar is welcomed to the jungle in Skaar: King of the Savage Land.
I'm happy about this if for no other reason than the potential to make Incredible Hulks a little less crowded. I just read Incredible Hulks #620, and man, that kitchen needs fewer damn chefs. I think eventually I'll probably be writing a longer piece about this, but long-story-short since getting back to reading Hulk-related floppies, I've been very disappointed with Incredible Hulks. There's no time to focus on any single character. There are some really good moments in the book but they're lost in the shuffle. I really want that S taken out of the title. Taking Skaar out is as good a start as any. Not that I don't like Skaar. Actually I don't have a strong opinion on him either way.