As part of our ongoing consumer service for those who may be considering buying comic books published nearly forty years ago on the basis of entirely outdated promotional boasts found nestled within the pages of mighty Marvel mags, we examine whether or not the supposedly staggering story found in The Incredible Hulk #138 lives up to the hype. The checklist summary made the excitement as clear as can be: “Once more, our green-skinned goliath takes on the super-powered Sandman — and this time it’s for keeps! Plus — the shocking fate of Betty Ross!”
Since this is a Hulk comic, there’s the obligatory scene of Bruce Banner’s beloved Betty Ross enduring emotional anguish over the dire double-life that is her lover’s lot in life. In addition to the standard sobbed soliloquy, Betty’s maudlin mindset manifests in midnight mental meanderings that might make an aficionado of phantasmagorical facades like Fellini emerald with envy.
As if being trod upon by intangible images of her fearsome father and the pair of personalities positioned within her sorrowful suitor, being housed in a hospital means Betty is forlornly fated to face the shifty scoundrel known as The Sandman. The uncommon ailment that allows the fellow’s form to be as bendable as the banks of a blustery beach is causing catastrophe. His appendages are evolving to a solid, shimmering state solved only by a swapping blood with a sounder soul. The Sandman storms the sanctity of the center and selects Betty as his donor-under-duress. The swap goes swimmingly, at least for The Sandman, but he boasts that the consequences for Betty may be less desirable.
While his knack for nefarious names remains intact, The Sandman reveals himself as someone with fairly dubious bedside manner. Naturally, using Betty as a blood bank causes some dismay to Bruce Banner, hastening the heralding of humongous Hulk. The jade giant trades blows with the Sandman for page after page, a battle that the boisterous blurb promises is “for keeps!” Once the Hulk gets his foe submerged in a handy body of water, he propellers his beefy arms around until an emerging eddy tears The Sandman apart.
That certainly seems to check out as a battle “for keeps!” Surely, the Sandman is done for good. This 1971 comic book was probably his final appearance.
But there’s still the fate of Betty Ross to consider, a calamitous conclusion that could only be called “shocking!” The Sandman was no seer, but his prognostication proved positively, precisely perfect. Gaining a gallon or so of his polluted plasma had rough repercussions.
Whoa, true believers! It appears the heroic Hulk now has a light-refracting lady love, hardly the sturdiest sweetheart for a brutish behemoth whose tenderest touch can topple towering titans. Shocking? Surely.