THE INCREDIBLE HULK VS. DEATH'S HEAD: THE MONSTER AND THE MERCENARY!
Written and Drawn by: Simon Williams.
Review by STUART WEBB:
Synopsis: The Incredible Hulk sits alone and depressed as he mourns the death of his beloved Jarella. His misery is interrupted by a time distortion that dumps the Freelance Peacekeeping Agent Death’s Head at his feet.
Death’s Head has been sent through time to kill the Hulk to prevent a future world war. The already depressed Hulk snaps and starts pounding Death’s Head hard, though the mechanoid soon regains his ground and the two prove to be equally matched resulting in a titanic battle across the desert landscape.
Suddenly a strange wheezing groaning sound heralds the arrival of an old fashioned London Police Box containing a man who’s all teeth and curls and his robot dog.Though Death’s Head doesn’t recognise the face he does recognise the Tardis, and is quick to realise the meddlesome Doctor is once again interfering in his affairs.
The Doctor quickly explains the battle has the potential to destroy all of space-time and that the Hulk must not die now. Death’s Head doesn’t care, but the Doctor deals with him easily by having K.9. override his T.V.A device to send him hurtling through time.The Hulk is deeply uninterested by all this and still angry at his loss, so he runs off promising that the next time anyone bothers him the result will be HULK SMASH!
Epilogue 1: In the present day General Ross receives a memo from the Doctor via U.N.I.T that his clandestine plan to have the Hulk killed in the past has failed.
Epilogue 2: Death’s Head has been dumped in the Savage Land, and is stuck there until his T.V.A unit recharges. Just as he thinks his day can’t get any worse the Dinobots appear behind him…
QUOTE, UNQUOTE: Death’s Head: Greetings, yes? Are you the creature known as the Incredible Hulk, also known as Mr. Fixit, Holku the Green Scar and…HRM- Oh yes, Mechano the Clown?!
Hulk: Hulk is getting tired of this, wherever Hulk goes someone tries to kill Hulk! Someone like you!! That is why Hulk doesn’t have any friends… Hulk’s friends, like Betty, or Jarella- get hurt or killed because people won’t leave Hulk alone!!!!
Death’s Head: Erm… Not really caring, yes? As far as I’m concerned you’re still toast.
The Doctor: Would you both mind keeping the noise down? Why, I could hear you both from the Brighton Pavilion!
Death’s Head: I don’t know how- But it’s you isn’t it?!!
The Doctor: Yes!
Death’s Head: You… the pesky Doctor!!!
The Doctor: Yes!!
Death’s Head: Come to interfere in my plans again, yes?!
The Doctor: Yes!! Ha Ha, of course!
Death’s Head: No!! No!! NoNoNo, Yes?
The Doctor: Here, have a jelly baby, they’re terribly yummy.
Hulk: HMPH… Hulk doesn’t eat babies.
The Hulk: Huh? Funny Doctor has metal dog. Dumb.
The Doctor’s Note: Dear General- Mission failed, yes? Yours sincerely the Doctor. PS. Have a jelly baby instead…
Death’s Head: Well, one things for sure… [The Dinobots loom large behind him] at least today can’t get any worse, right?
Notes: Something a little different here (hence the slightly different review format), The Monster and the Mercenary! is an unofficial fan made comic done by artist Simon Williams for the 2009 Auto Assembly Transformers convention, where thanks to his day job as an artists on “proper” comics he was a guest. Despite the comic’s unofficial nature this is getting a review here as an addendum to the essays on the collections of the main Death’s Head comics for several reasons: The introduction from Simon Furman gives it some validation from the character’s creator; whilst there’s a lot of Hulk/Doctor/Transformers fan fiction this is basically it for Death’s Head so including it isn’t opening the floodgates to me having to do millions of the buggers; and most importantly of all it’s very, very very good and deserving of as wide an audience as possible.
Whilst many budding comic artists will start out in fanzines and their own self published works it’s unusual for someone already established in professional comics (and Williams is pretty much a mainstay of Panini’s home-grown Marvel comics) to go back down that route. Williams has made this comic simply because he loves both characters and wanted to do something with them together.
The comic itself is a homage to the 70’s Marvel UK title Mighty World of Marvel, a black and white title that reprinted American comics and was William’s first exposure the Hulk. The cover layout and logo (the full title being: Soulman Inc Sketchbook: The Incredible Hulk Vs. Death’s Head) are a deliberate recreation of the original books, as is the interior art being in black and white.
For the Hulk this story takes place immediately after issue #205 of his own title (from 1976). The present day section with General Ross occurs in the aftermath of World War Hulk and Death’s Head was supposed to arrive when the Hulk was in his more vulnerable (due to being stuck as Banner during the day) Grey Hulk persona as seen during Peter David’s run on the character.
Death’s Head’s origin point is more vague, chronologically it could come any time between him first working for the T.V.A. in The Sensational She Hulk #24 and the characters “death”. The narration box does mention him having fought an alternate version of himself, but as an unseen adventure that’s unhelpful.
For the Doctor this occurs early on in the Doctor Who Weekly strips where he’s obsessed with the Brighton Pavilion (something that quickly died out but whenever Doctor Who Magazine revisit the 4th Doctor or homage their early days it’ll usually get mentioned at least twice). This is of course before any of his other meetings with Death’s Head. Williams’ deliberately went for the Tom Baker version of the character rather than the McCoy version more familiar with Death’s Head as he wanted to use jelly babies and K.9. (plus it fits in better with the comics 70’s aesthetic). The 4th Doctor and Death’s Head had both previously been in Party Animals from Doctor Who Magazine issue #173 but never actually met in their brief cameos (and the 4th Doctor’s only words are indeed about the Brighton Pavilion).
For the Dinobots this most likely occurs between them being dispatched to the Savage Land to stop Shockwave and them being buried in tar for four million years at the end of that fight, as seen in flashback in issue #8 of the Marvel Transformers series.
As well as the comic there’s an introduction from Simon Furman, a afterward from Williams explaining why he did it and some art he’s done for various book and DVD covers, including “official” work on the Hulk and Death’s Head. Joe Rubinstein who served in the same capacity on the main Hulk series with several artists inks the cover.
Review: First up, I'm not nearly familiar enough with the Hulk to comment on how accurate the recreation of that era is, and I'm a smidgen too young to remember Mighty World of Marvel, though I've seen covers and the one for this is a nifty recreation.
However, I'm probably too much of an expert on Transformers, Doctor Who and Death's Head and I found the whole thing really wonderful. I especially like how Williams’ manages to homage the art style of several different artists- Death's Head himself is pure Geoff Senior, the Doctor has walked in from a Dave Gibbons panel and the final page perfectly recreates the look of issue 8 of the Marvel US comic- but at the same time it all meshes and doesn't feel disparate as it could.
The script itself is pitched just right. Normally a fan work involving several different franchises teaming up can't help but feel a bit self-indulgent and fanwanky. However, the beauty of Death's Head is he was always teaming up and running into other Marvel characters, both licensed and in-house so the whole thing felt very much like the sort of story that could happen in his "proper" adventures. The dialogue was spot on for everyone (I especially liked the reference to Doctor Who Weekly’s early obsession with Brighton) and the fight was well staged with the "neither one really wins" ending didn't feel like a cop out as it potentially could have.
The only real flaw I can pick with the whole thing is the Doctor's scarf doesn’t look quite right, but this lovely little comic will definitely be going on my bookshelf between the Death's Head and Dragon's Claws trades. Despite the “unofficial” nature of the comic and the high price (in comparison to professional comics) that results from self-publishing at good quality this is something that anyone with an interest in these characters should look into getting and enjoying. Frankly if Marvel had done as good a job with the later versions of Death’s Head as Simon manages here the character would never have vanished from shelves.