Essential Hulk volume 5


By Len Wein, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Chris Claremont, Herb Trimpe, Sal Buscema, Jack Abel, Joe Staton & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-7851-3065-9

By the close of the 1960s the Incredible Hulk had settled into a comfortable niche – and satisfyingly effective formula as radioactively afflicted Bruce Banner sought cures for his gamma-transformative curse, alternately aided or hunted by US General (and father of the scientist’s one true love) ThaddeusThunderboltRoss and a variety of guest-star heroes and villains.

Illustrator Herb Trimpe had made the character his own; the “house” Jack Kirby-based art-style quickly evolving into often startlingly abstract mannerism, augmented by an unmatched facility for drawing technology – especially honking great ordnance and vehicles – all of which looks especially great in the crisp black and white of these magically affordable Essentials volumes.

Most importantly, no one could possibly deny the sheer cathartic reader-release rush of a great big “Hulk Smash!” moment…

This chronologically complete monochrome mammoth contains Incredible Hulk #171-200, plus Hulk King Size Annual #5 (spanning January1974-November 1976) and opens with excessive bombast but no appreciable fanfare as ‘Revenge!’ (by Gerry Conway – from a Steve Englehart plot with art by Trimpe & Jack Abel) finds the Green Goliath a stowaway on a plane back to military Mecca Hulkbuster Base carrying new Project: Greenskin commanding officer Colonel John D. Armbruster who has taken over from the politically sidelined Thunderbolt Ross.

The camp is eerily deserted and the reason soon becomes clear as bludgeoning brutes Abomination and The Rhino attack. Having subdued the entire garrison, they plan on detonating the base’s gamma-bomb self-destruct device but are utterly unprepared for the Hulk’s irascible intervention…

Roy Thomas plotted Tony Isabella’s script for #172 wherein the Hulk – captured by the ungrateful soldiers he saved – is hurled into another dimension, allowing a mystic menace to inadvertently escape. ‘And Canst Thou Slay… The Juggernaut?’ reveals that even that magically augmented menace cannot resist our favourite monster’s might and features a telling cameo by the X-Men, after which Thomas scripts all-Trimpe art-fest ‘Anybody Out There Remember… The Cobalt Man?’, wherein another old X-adversary – Ralph Roberts – picks up the Jade Giant at sea before sailing his research vessel into a nuclear test explosion…

Dying of radiation exposure the deranged technologist then determines to demonstrate atomic bombs are bad to a callous, uncaring world by detonating one over Sydney in Doomsday… Down Under’ (Conway, Thomas, Trimpe & Abel). The second clash with the azure-armoured Cobalt Man results in a blistering battle in the stratosphere, a cataclysmic explosion and Hulk crashing to earth far, far away as a ‘Man-Brute in the Hidden Land!’ (#175, Thomas, Trimpe & Abel)…

Here a typically short-tempered encounter with the Uncanny Inhumans and devastating duel with silent super-monarch Black Bolt, after the usual collateral carnage, ends with the gamma gladiator hurtling to the far side of the sun in a rocket-ship for a date with allegory if not destiny.

During the early 1970s a throwaway Fantastic Four character dubbed Him was turned into a modern interpretation of the Christ myth and placed on a world far more like our own than the Earth of Marvel’s universe.

That troubled globe was codified as Counter-Earth and upon it the messianic Adam Warlock battled a Satan-analogue known as the Man-Beast. Hulk had briefly visited once before and now he crashed there again to complete the allegorical epic beginning with ‘Crisis on Counter-Earth!’ by Conway, Trimpe & Abel.

Since the Hulk’s departure Man-Beast and his animalistic minions (all spawned by godlike genetic meddler The High Evolutionary) had become America’s President and Cabinet. Moving decisively they had finally captured Warlock and led humanity to the brink of extinction, leaving the would-be messiah’s disciples in utter confusion.

Now with the nation in foment the Hulk’s shattering return gives Warlock’s faithful flock an opportunity to save their saviour in ‘Peril of the Plural Planet!’ but the foray badly misfires and Warlock is captured. Publicly crucified at the behest of the people, humanity’s last hope perishes…

Meanwhile on true-Earth Ross and Armbruster discover trusted comrade (and Ross’ son-in-law) Major Glenn Talbot has escaped from a top security Soviet prison and is making his triumphant way back to the USA…

The quasi-religious experience concludes with ‘Triumph on Terra-Two’ (Conway, Isabella, Trimpe & Abel) as the dead prophet resurrects whilst Hulk is waging his last battle against Man-Beast in time to deliver a cosmic coup de grace before ascending from Counter-Earth to the beckoning stars…

Incredible Hulk #179 signalled a much-need thematic reboot as Len Wein signed on as writer/editor with strong ideas on how to put some dramatic impact back into the feature. It begins with ‘Re-enter: The Missing Link’, as the Jade Juggernaut loses patience during his return trip and bursts out of his borrowed spaceship just as America’s military defences shoot it down.

He crashes to earth in the mining district of Appalachia and, reverting to befuddled Bruce Banner, is adopted by the dirt-poor Bradford family. They have a habit of taking in strays and have already welcomed a strange, huge yet gentle being they’ve named Lincoln.

As time passes Banner recognises the creature as a former Hulk foe known as the Missing Link. The colossal brute is neither evil nor violent (unless provoked) but is lethally radioactive, and the fugitive physicist faces the dilemma of having to break up a perfect happy family before they all die.

The Link of course, refuses to cooperate or go quietly…

Next comes the most momentous story in Hulk history which starts with ‘And the Wind Howls… Wendigo!’ (#180, October 1974, Wein, Trimpe & Abel), wherein the blockbusting brute bounces across the Canadian Border and encounters a witch attempting to cure her lover of a curse which has transformed him into a rampaging cannibalistic monster.

Unfortunately that cure meant Hulk had to become a Wendigo in his stead…

It was while the Great Green and Weird White monsters were fighting that mutant megastar Wolverine first appeared – in the very last panel – and that’s what leads into the savage fist, fang and claw fest that follows.

‘And Now… The Wolverine!’ captivatingly concluded the saga as the Maple nation’s top-secret super-agent is unleashed upon both the Emerald Goliath and man-eating Wendigo in an 18-page romp stuffed with triumph, tragedy and lots of slashing and hitting. The rest is history…

Back south of the border, Major Talbot has been reunited with his wife and family and is eagerly expecting a meeting with President Ford as ‘Between Hammer and Anvil!’ (with Trimpe taking sole charge of the art chores) finds the ever-lonely Hulk meeting and losing a true friend in jolly hobo Crackerjack Jackson.

The über-action portion of the tale comes from two escaped convicts who despise each other but are forced to endure togetherness because of an alien chain which shackles them whilst imparting overwhelming power. It’s not, nearly enough, however, enough to stop a fighting-mad, heartbroken Hulk…

Electrical vampire and life-stealer ZZZAX returns in ‘Fury at 50,000 Volts!’, wrecking a new life Banner surreptitiously carves for himself in Chicago, after which ‘Shadow on the Land!’ finds the wandering man-mountain battling alien invader Warlord Kaa who has taken possession of the Hulk’s shadow. This close encounter leads to Banner’s capture by Armbruster just in time for the President’s visit and a shocking ‘Deathknell!’ as the truth about Talbot is revealed when the trustworthy major attempts to assassinate the Commander-in-Chief.

During the attendant death and chaos Hulk busts out and General Ross regains his credibility by recapturing him, but the Soviet infiltration of the base is far from over as a traitor dons super-armour to continue the attacks in ‘The Day of the Devastator!’

This time when the Jade Juggernaut smashes their common foe, the American army are suitably grateful…

Sometime later SHIELD intelligence discovers the real Talbot is still a prisoner in Siberia and that Hulkbuster Base’s current problems have been caused by a Soviet mutant genius they’ve all battled before…

‘There’s a Gremlin in the Works!’ (Incredible Hulk #187, with Joe Staton joining the team as inker) features the return of the son of the Green Goliath’s very first foe The Gargoyle – see Essential Hulk volume 1 – a vicious mastermind with plans far beyond merely serving the Soviet state.

The little maniac is holding Talbot at his Bitterfrost fortress and quite prepared for Ross and SHIELD agent Clay Quartermain to stage a rescue bid, but all the cyborg super-soldiers and giant mutant monster dogs in the world are not enough when mission stowaway Bruce Banner gets scared and goes green…

The fiend’s personality-altering technology is exposed in ‘Mind Over Mayhem!’ but as the heroes escape with Talbot’s comatose body Hulk seemingly dies in Bitterfrost’s explosive death-throes. Nothing could be further from the truth and #189 sees the monster battle the Mole Man to secure a miracle-remedy for a sightless little Russian girl in ‘None Are So Blind…!’

Veteran Hulk illustrator Marie Severin inks Trimpe on ‘The Man Who Came Down on a Rainbow!’ as alien benefactor Glorian whisks the solitary man-monster to a veritable promised land in the stars, only to have the idyll shattered by invading Toad Men hungry for the secret power fuelling paradise…

After murdering Glorian, ‘The Triumph of the Toad!’ (Trimpe & Staton) is short-lived and catastrophically self-destructive after the enraged Hulk and the Shaper of Worlds extract a measure of justice for their fallen friend…

Cast back to Earth, the Green Giant lands in Scotland in time to get between feuding hotheads with violently opposing attitudes to ‘The Lurker beneath Loch Fear!’ after which Banner heads back to America where Ross and Quartermain have recruited a famous psychologist to fix the catatonic Glenn Talbot.

‘The Doctor’s Name is… Samson!’ finds the one time Gamma-powered superhero falling victim to another scientific gaffe and accidentally reborn as the green-haired strongman, yet still unable to cure his patient. For that he needs Banner, but when his wish comes true, Leonard Samson just isn’t tough enough to hold onto him…

After years on the strip Trimpe moved on to other things and Incredible Hulk #194 saw the pencilling debut of Sal Buscema in ‘The Day of the Locust!’ (with Wein & Staton still doing what they did best).

Lost in the American heartland the Hulk stumbles upon young lovers pursued by an overly possessive dad determined to end the affair. This angry parent however is a former X-Men enemy who can enlarge insects to immense size so the kids are more than grateful for the assistance of a Jolly Green Cupid…

With Samson and the army one step behind him, the Hulk befriends a small boy running away from home in ‘Warfare in Wonderland!’ Eager for any advantage Ross tricks the Abomination into attacking the Jade Giant but is unprepared for the gamma gladiators to team up rather than tussle in #196’s ‘The Abomination Proclamation!’

The villain’s innate viciousness soon alienates his temporary ally however and after winning another spectacular fight Hulk blasts off on a runaway rocket and crashes down in the Everglades where the invidious Collector has made his latest lair…

The phenomena fanatic is on a monster kick and, having scooped up Banner and a mute young man who is in actuality The Glob, feels ‘…And Man-Thing Makes Three!’ to be the perfect set. He has grossly underestimated the deeply buried humanity of his living trinkets and soon must face a mass-escape and the loss of all his living exhibits after ‘The Shangri-La Syndrome!’ hits home…

Hulk Annual #5 (November 1976) was the first all new King-Size compendium since 1968 and featured a huge monster mash reviving a half dozen iconic threats and menaces from the company’s pre-superhero phase. Written by Chris Claremont, with art by Sal B & Jack Abel, ‘And Six Shall Crush the Hulk!’ offers little in the way of plot but stacks of sensational action as a procession of resurrected aliens attack one after another, beginning with ‘Where There’s Smoke, There’s Diablo!’, ‘And Taboo Shall Triumph!’ and ‘It Is Groot, the Monster from Planet X!!’, after which ‘For I am Goom!!’ and ‘Beware the Blip!’ pile on the pressure until an evil mastermind is revealed as grudge-bearing Defenders foe Xemnu in ‘A Titan Shall Slay Him!’

Naturally even exhausted the Hulk is too much for the spiteful schemer…

Building up to a spectacular anniversary, Incredible Hulk #199 saw Samson and Ross employ all America’s most advanced assets in ‘…And SHIELD Shall Follow!’ (Wein, Sal B & Staton) to capture the critically necessary Jade Giant, but in the end it is the psychologist’s sheer guts and determination which won the day, allowing the big issue #200 resolution as Hulk is shrunk to infinitesimal size and injected into Talbot’s brain to battle materialised memories and a viciously sentient tumour as ‘An Intruder in the Mind!’

The struggle to restore the mind of Banner’s rival for Betty Ross-Talbot’s undying affections is not without complications, however, and at the moment of his greatest triumph and sacrifice the Hulk suffers a major setback and begins uncontrollably shrinking beyond the ability of Samson and his team to rescue him…

To Be Continued…

This superbly cathartic tome also includes Hammer and Anvil pages taken from the Marvel Universe Handbook plus an alternative cover to Incredible Hulk #174.

The Incredible Hulk is one of the most well-known comic characters on Earth, and these stories, as much as the movies, cartoons, TV shows, games, toys and action figures are the reason why. For an uncomplicated, earnestly vicarious experience of Might actually being Right, you can’t do better than these yarns, so why not Go Green – even if it’s only in monochrome and in your own delirious head?
© 1974, 1975, 1976, 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.