Incredible Hulk Marvel Masterworks volume 9


By Steve Englehart, Archie Goodwin, Roy Thomas, Steve Gerber, Chris Claremont, Herb Trimpe & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-9194-0 (HB)

As the 1970s tumultuously unfolded, the Incredible Hulk settled into a comfortable – if excessively and spectacularly destructive – niche. A globe-trotting, monster-mashing plot formula saw tragic Bruce Banner hiding and seeking cures for his gamma-transformative curse, alternately aided or hunted by prospective father-in-law US General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross and his daughter – the scientist’s unobtainable inamorata – Betty, with a non-stop procession of guest-star heroes and villains providing the battle du jour.

Herb Trimpe had made the character his own, displaying a penchant for explosive action and an unparalleled facility for drawing technology – especially honking great ordnance and vehicles. Beginning with Roy Thomas – unofficial custodian of Marvel’s burgeoning shared-universe continuity – a string of skilful scripters effectively played the afflicted Jekyll/Hyde card for maximum angst and ironic heartbreak as the Jade Juggernaut became a pillar of Marvel’s growing pantheon.

This chronologically-curated hardback and eBook compendium re-presents issues #157-170, encompassing cover-dates November 1972 to December 1973, and opens after a revelatory Introduction from new regular writer Steve Englehart offers a few more intimate behind-the-scenes secrets…

Having just returned to Earth and normal size after a heartbreaking sojourn in a sub-atomic realm, the Jade Goliath promptly and potently battles a brace of old enemies in ‘Name My Vengeance: Rhino!’ (written by Archie Goodwin, with art by Trimpe & Sal Trapani) before being deviously dispatched – thanks to gamma genius The Leader – to the far side of the Sun. Here he discovers bizarre parallel world Counter-Earth and clashes with both the messianic Adam Warlock and his satanic antithesis in ‘Frenzy on a Far-Away World’, courtesy of Thomas, Steve Gerber, Trimpe & Trapani.

Meanwhile, on our planet heartbroken Betty Ross, believing her one true love is forever gone, marries the over-attentive, ever-present military martinet Major Glenn Talbot

Steve Englehart took over the scripting chores with #159 as ‘Two Years Before the Abomination!’ sees Banner and the Rhino explosively returned to our embattled globe only to again be attacked by General Ross’ Hulkbuster forces. The grizzled soldier is more determined than ever to kill Banner – to safeguard America and preserve his unsuspecting daughter’s new marriage. However, the resulting conflagration awakes a comatose Gamma monster even more deadly than the Hulk…

‘Nightmare in Niagara!’ sees the misunderstood man-brute instinctively drawn to the honeymooning couple, only to encounter deranged amphibian outcast Tiger Shark in another blockbusting battle issue, after which his northerly rampage takes the Green Goliath into Canada. Typically, ‘Beyond the Border Lurks Death!’ as the Hulk becomes a reluctant ally of the recently hyper-mutated Hank McCoy – better known as the Bludgeoning Beast – in a battle against the Mimic. This veteran X-foe possesses the ability to absorb the attributes of others, but this gift has become a curse, going tragically, catastrophically haywire and threatening to consume the entire planet…

Still under Northern Lights, Hulk encounters a terrifying carnivorous, cannibalistic horror called the Wendigo in ‘Spawn of the Flesh-Eater!’ but the maniacal man-eater harbours a shattering secret which makes it as much victim as villain…

Pushing ever Pole-ward, the Hulk reaches the top of the world but cannot elude Ross’ relentless pursuit. After a cataclysmic arctic clash, both man-monster and his stalker fall into the super-scientific clutches of Soviet prodigy the Gremlin (mutant offspring of the Hulk’s very first foe the Gargoyle) in ‘Trackdown’ and, although the Gamma Giant breaks free with ease, the American General is left behind to become a highly embarrassing political prisoner…

Shambling into Polar seas, the Hulk then is captured by a fantastic sub-sea colony of human aquatic nomads in #164’s ‘The Phantom from 5,000 Fathoms!’ Decades ago, egomaniacal Captain Omen had created his own mobile submarine nation and roamed the ocean beds at will, and foolishly thought the Jade Goliath would be his latest freakish beast of burden. Sadly, the draconian dictator has no idea how his dissatisfied clan hungers for freedom, fresh air and sunlight and would disastrously rebel to follow ‘The Green-Skinned God!’ to their doom…

Incredible Hulk #166 finally sees the Green Goliath back in the USA, hitting New York just in time to clash with Battling Bowman Hawkeye and a brain-eating electrical monster dubbed Zzzax in ‘The Destroyer from the Dynamo!’ Meanwhile in the sub-plot section, a bold bid to rescue General Ross from the godless Commies succeeds, but seemingly costs the life of his new son-in-law…

Jack Abel took over the inking duties in #167 with ‘To Destroy the Monster!’ as grieving widow Betty Ross-Talbot suffers a nervous breakdown and is targeted by intellectual murder mutant Modok and his agents of Advanced Idea Mechanics who need an infallible weapon to break the Hulk.

Just as ghetto kid Jim Wilson reconnects with the Emerald Behemoth, Bruce Banner’s bestial alter ego effortlessly destroys Modok’s giant robot body but fails to prevent Betty’s abduction. She returns in the next issue as a Gamma-mutated avian horror programmed to destroy her former lover in ‘The Hate of the Harpy!’

Issue #169 finds the temporarily triumphant Harpy and her verdant victim trapped aboard an ancient floating fortress in the sky in ‘Calamity in the Clouds!’ and battling together against a monstrous android Bi-Beast. When Modok attacks, intent on controlling the alien tech of the flying city, the response destroys the last vestige of the sky-citadel, propelling the now-human Banner and Betty onto a lost tropical island inhabited by incredible alien creatures…

The Englehart, Chris Claremont, Trimpe & Abel monster-romp ‘Death from on High!’ cataclysmically concludes this volume in tried and true terrain-trashing style.

Before it all ends, though, there’s one last treat in the form of a gallery of original art pages by Trimpe & Abel…

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, honestly vicarious experience of Might actually being Right, you can’t do better than these yarns.
© 1972, 1973, 2018 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.