Comics : What Price A Life? (Chicago Tribune)

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This review was first published on: 2000.

Background...

Included as a supplement in the Chicago Tribune, this sixteen page comic has a cover by John Romita but the interior is uncredited. (Actually, the inside may be Romita as well, or possibly Sal Buscema, who was pencilling the Hulk at this time. The inking looks like the work of Bob McLeod and the story was probably by Bill Mantlo who was writing both the Hulk and Peter Parker. This is all guesswork, of course.)

The splash page itself is lacking a title but, according to the cover (which features the Hulk smashing through a wall while Spidey leaps to avoid him), the story is called "...What Price a Life?"

In Detail...

"What Price a Life"
What Price A Life? (Chicago Tribune)
Year 1980 : SM Title
Summary: Reprinted later in Marvel Teamup #126
Distributor:  Chicago Tribune
Editor:  Tom DeFalco
Writer:  Jim Shooter
Artist:  Tomoyuki Takenaka
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Team-Up #126 (Story 2)

Our story begins with the Hulk, trapped in Manhattan, surrounded by barricades, police vehicles, and cops with riot guns. (Wouldn't you think, seeing as this comic was a supplement for the Chicago Tribune, that they would have found some way to have it take place in Chicago? Well, there is a double page Marshall Field's ad in the centerfold and the story does finish in Chicago. But I don't want to spoil anything.) A searchlight is pointed right into his eyes and he is ordered to surrender. But the Hulk never gives up without a fight. Using his great strength, he uproots a lamppost and throws it, striking a police van and disorienting the officers. The "civilian bystanders" panic and flee. "All but one... His name is Peter Parker."

Peter runs into an alley, scales the wall, and changes into his Spider-suit up on the roof. He knows that fighting the Hulk is "a no-can-win proposition" but he also figures he can handle it better than the cops can. Plus, he plans to snap some news photos. After all, he could use the money since he's down to his last five bucks.

Back at the scene, things do not look good. One police car is overturned, another is battered, and the Hulk is hefting a huge chunk of sidewalk over his head. The cops don't dare shoot at such close range for fear of hitting each other. (Not that bullets would do anything to the Hulk anyway.) The Hulk rears back, preparing to throw the concrete, when a voice right above calls him a "spoilsport". Spidey has landed right on the chunk of sidewalk. He leans down and shoots webbing in the Hulk's eyes.

Even though that webbing "would hold a rhino for hours", the Hulk easily rips it away with his right hand as he drops the chunk of concrete with his left. Spidey stands on a nearby wall and induces the Hulk into ignoring the police and charging at him instead. Unfortunately, one officer decides it is a good chance to "rid this town of two menaces". Spidey realizes that the cop is "drawing a bead" on him so he must leap away, even as the Hulk plows into the wall in his attempt to attack him. The Hulk instantly recovers, lifts a car and throws it at the web-slinger. Spidey knows he could dodge it (no pun intended) but, if he does, it will strike the cops. So he catches it ("I'm just glad you picked a compact car", he tells the Hulk) and tosses it aside. The Hulk makes another attempt at striking Spidey but the bug-man evades him, then swings away. The Hulk follows. At the scene, one cop figures the two super-heroes were "in cahoots" with Spidey helping the Hulk to escape. But another is counting his blessings. The further the Hulk goes from him, the better.

Up by the rooftops, the Hulk almost succeeds in grabbing ahold of Spider-Man but the webster vaults away at the last minute. The Hulk lands in a deserted warehouse district. Spider-Man is nowhere to be found.

(And here's the Marshall Field's ad. Spidey is there inviting the kids to come meet him at the store. He lists four appearances at four Marshall Field's locations. The original Spider-Woman appears just above him for no discernible reason. On the facing page, the Hulk roars, "Aaarrgghh! I am Hulk, the most powerful creature on earth. So strong, can even leap to top of any building in Chicago! But I'm mad, too 'cuz Spider-Man is invited to Field's and I'm not! Don't make Incredible Hulk madder. Come in soon..." Now back to our story.)

The Hulk is tired and looking for a place to rest. He rips the door off a loading dock entryway and enters the warehouse. Spidey watches from above, clinging to a wall. As he slowly climbs down, he notices that his spider-sense has stopped tingling. He interprets this to mean that the Hulk has calmed down enough to turn back into his alter-ego of Bruce Banner. Spider-Man is afraid that his appearance will panic Banner into becoming the Hulk again so he changes back into his civvies (which he had in a websack on his back). So, it is Peter Parker who enters the darkened warehouse.

Inside, Dr. Bruce Banner gives himself up. He's tired of running and asks to be arrested. But Peter calls the Doctor by name, tells him he's not a cop, and offers his jacket to the man dressed in only torn purple pants. He suggests that Banner leave town before the cops figure out who he is. But Bruce is flat bloke. He doesn't even have enough money for bus fare. Peter pulls out his last five dollars and gives it to the Doctor. When Banner balks at taking the money, Peter tells him, "Once, when I needed it, some stranger gave it to me! I'd like to think, in some oblique way, I'm returning that favor." Banner takes the money, telling Pete he senses they have more in common than it appears. Peter pats Bruce on the shoulder and tells him to "hang in there, hear?"

Months later, Bruce Banner is living in Chicago. (See? I told you Chicago would finally appear.) He has a job and a boarding house room. As he heads home one night, a shaken older man approaches. The man tells Bruce that he has been mugged and that the thugs took his pension money. It is all the money he had. Bruce goes looking for a policeman but runs into the four muggers instead. One pins Bruce's arms back while another punches him in the stomach. But a third notices that their victim is suddenly getting bigger and, next thing they know, all four of them have been thrown into a nearby alley. Bruce Banner has become the Hulk and the muggers cower in the cul de sac as the green giant seizes a section of metal fencing. He waves it over his head, as if preparing to impale the muggers on its spikes but, instead, plants it in a small semi-circle around the thugs, imprisoning them in a very restricted cell.

As the Hulk leaves, the mugged man, too old and tired to run, figures his number is up. But, the Hulk is surprisingly gentle with him. Somehow, in his "muddled brain, a memory is dimly sensed". The Hulk understands the man's plight and he responds by pulling a five dollar bill out of his pocket. He gives it to the mugging victim, then leaves.

The old man clutches the bill as he looks at the broad back of the departing Hulk. He thinks about how strange this all is. It reminds him of a time, years before, when (yes, yes, wait for it...) he gave his last five dollars "to a boy named... Parker"! (Unlikely? Hey, what do you expect from a newspaper supplement?)

The issue finishes with one-page origins of Spider-Man and the Hulk. Once again, Spidey's origin eliminates the whole Uncle Ben aspect but it does have my favorite line in the whole book. As he observes the experiment, Peter thinks, "Radioactivity... what a fascinating subject. We know so much, yet so little about it." Hmmm. So true. So true.

The last page offers "Key energy-saving tips from Captain America, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Spider-Woman". Spidey's contribution is, "Right, Web-Lady! (Responding to Spider-Woman's declaration that "transacting business with a 15 cent stamp (Hah!) or a phone call is a lot cheaper than driving!") And even more can be saved at home, effendi! Try to keep your thermostat down to 65 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer! Each degree closer to these temperatures will shave 2% off the utility bill!" Remember, you heard it here from the ol' web-spinner!