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David Banner

by yo go re

His name is David Banner, and he's a doctor by trade. Or at least he was, until the government shut him down. He's big daddy Banner, the man ultimately responsible for the Hulk, whether through the comics' domestic abuse or the movie's genetic tampering. Of course, it's only in the movie that he turned into the Absorbing Man.

A lot of people were disappointed by Hulk because they didn't get to see the movie they expected: instead of the mindless action flick promised by the trailers, theatre-goers found themselves subjected to a subtle and complex paternal examination. Even some of the most effective CGI work yet seen on film failed to alleviate audiences' anger over being forced to think. Poor babies.

Nick Nolte played the insane, haggard David Banner, leaving bitemarks on the backgrounds in his wake. Say what you will about the performance, or how it integrated into the film, but when else would we ever get a Nick Nolte action figure?

In an effort to duplicate his son's powers, David Banner ended up with abilities of his own, able to join his molecular structure with any object. This began simply, with just a hand or foot, but eventually became a pretty complex power, as Davey fought the green goliath as electricity, stone, water and just about everything else.

Actually, that fight is one of the film's strongest comicbook roots: in Incredible Hulk #125, Hulk is fighting with the Absorbing Man. He tosses the villain into a mountainside, where he becomes stone and goes hand to hand with the Hulk before beginning to absorb his gamma-based powers. The only thing missing is a dip in the water.

The Hulk figures may not have had a lot of variety, but kids seem to love the things. For collectors, though, there wasn't much appeal. The fact that we managed to squeeze a David Banner out of the line is a small victory. The fact that the figure is so good is just an unexpected bonus. To begin with, despite his face being made of rocks, there's no mistaking who he is.

There's only been one figure of the Absorbing Man over the years, probably because it's so hard to re-create his powers in plastic form. Taking a page from McFarlane Toys' playbook, ToyBiz decided that interchangeable limbs were the way to go. Banner includes four arms and four legs.

The figure is sculpted with varying textures all over his body: the head is stone, the right shoulder is wood and the chest looks like cooling lava. His right arm switches from wood to metal by the time it reaches the elbow, while the left is bark all the way down. His right leg is a dark stone and his left, well, is unclear. The leg is painted brown, as if it was supposed to be wood, but the sculpt doesn't look like the other limbs. The jagged, wrinkled look almost suggests water or electricity; I'd love to know who the sculptor was so we could find out what it was originally supposed to be.

The extra legs are both the light gray stone, as is the extra left arm. The extra right arm is wood from shoulder to fingertips, and blends in nicely with the figure. The pieces all pop in and out easily, and leave David Banner with a full range of motion. He's articulated at the neck, waist, shoulders, wrists, hips, knees and ankles, and while some elbows would have been nice, I suppose we can make do without.

David Banner is just the kind of figure I like to see from a movie line. Yes, getting a Hulk figure is de rigueur, but the supporting characters are where a line's real strength lies. The beauty of the Spider-Man line wasn't just that Super Poseable Spider-Man was so great, but that we got Mary Jane and J. Jonah Jameson figures as well. In that regard, the Hulk line was shallow. ToyBiz did put a bit of effort in right at the end, but let's hope the Hulk Classics line does a better job of mining the character's history.

-- 01/30/04

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