Incredible Hulk Marvel Masterworks volume 12


By Len Wein, Herb Trimpe, Chris Claremont, Sal Buscema & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-1029-7(HB)

Bruce Banner was a military scientist accidentally caught in a gamma bomb blast of his own devising. As a result, stress and other factors cause him to transform into a giant green monster of unstoppable strength and fury. He was one of Marvel’s earliest innovations and first failure but after an initially troubled few years finally found his size-700 feet and a format that worked, becoming one of the company’s premiere antiheroes and most popular features.

During the 1960s, artist Herb Trimpe had made the character his own; the Jack Kirby-based “house” art-style he initially employed quickly evolving into often startlingly abstract mannerism, augmented by an unmatched facility for drawing technology – especially honking great ordnance and vehicles – and, crucially, who could possibly deny the sheer cathartic reader-release rush of those spectacular “Hulk Smash!” moments…

However, during the time of the tales in this chronologically complete hardback and digital monolith (re-presenting Incredible Hulk #197-209 and Incredible Hulk King Size Annual #5, March 1976-March 1977), the artistic reins would pass to another illustrator who would become inextricably associated with the Jade Juggernaut, whilst writer Len Wein continued to insert fresh ideas and characters, redefining the man-monster for the modern age…

Following a fond reminiscence from artist Sal Buscema in his Introduction, the blockbusting battle-action starts with the aftermath of the Jade Juggernaut’s latest battle with arch-nemesis the Abomination: a clash that left Hulk unconscious in the Florida Everglades…

Here the invidious Collector has made his latest lair and soon scoops up a trio of terrors. The phenomena fanatic is on a monster kick and, having scooped up Banner and a mute young man who is in actuality resurrected felon The Glob, feels ‘…And Man-Thing Makes Three!’ (by Wein, Buscema & Joe Staton) to be the perfect set.

The immortal maniac has grossly underestimated the deeply-buried humanity of his living trinkets and soon faces 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 reprobates attack one after another, beginning with ‘Where There’s Smoke, There’s Diablo!’, ‘And Taboo Shall Triumph!’ before ‘It Is Groot, the Monster from Planet X!!’ weighs in, 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 sees ambivalent frenemies Leonard “Doc” Samson and General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross employ all America’s most advanced assets in ‘…And SHIELD Shall Follow!’ (Wein, Sal B & Staton) to capture the critically necessary Green Gargantuan, but in the end it is the psychologist’s sheer guts and determination which win the day, allowing the big issue #200 resolution as Hulk is shrunk to infinitesimal size and injected into amnesiac Glenn 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 Hulk suffers a major setback and begins uncontrollably shrinking beyond the ability of Samson and his team to rescue him…

Issue #201 features ‘The Sword and the Sorcerer!’ wherein the Hulk finds himself marooned on a perilously primitive sub-atomic world just long enough to liberate a primitive people from the domination of brutal despot (and demon-possessed pawn) Kronak the Barbarian before starting to diminish once more. His last stop is the promised land of his beloved and long-lost alien queen Jarella

Sadly, ‘Havoc at the Heart of the Atom’ reveals how his last visit had rendered the world tectonically unstable, shattered the ancient civilisation which once had the power to blend Banner’s mind with the Hulk’s body. Moreover, the once-gentle population had turned on the queen they held responsible…

Reunited now with his beloved, the simplistic brute swears to fix the problem and is soon embroiled with the antediluvian horror who first hijacked him to the Microverse and who still craves bloody revenge…

Once again evil is defeated as the ‘Assault on Psyklop!’ heralds another crushing defeat for the vile insectoid and a guardedly happy ending for the man-brute as a rescue attempt from Earth brings Hulk home, carrying an astounded Jarella with him…

Herb Trimpe briefly returned in #204 to pencil a tale of time-bending might-have-beens, as brilliant theoretician Kerwin Kronus offers to eradicate Banner’s problems by turning back time and undoing the accident which created the Hulk. Sadly, the experiment succeeds all too well: briefly forming an alternate timeline wherein original sidekick Rick Jones died and the time-master became an even greater menace to reality. Banner/Hulk must make a heartbreaking sacrifice to close that ‘Vicious Circle’

‘Do Not Forsake Me!’ in #205 then depicts the most tragic moment in the Green Goliath’s tortured life as Jarella sacrifices herself to save a child from rampaging robbery robot Crypto-Man, leaving the bereft Hulk ‘A Man-Brute Berserk!’

His grief-stricken trail of destruction leads from Gamma Base, New Mexico all the way to New York City where even his friends and allies are unable to calm the grieving green goliath, leading to a brutal battle ‘Alone Against the Defenders!’ who finally realise compassion is the only method that will work against their traumatised foe…

Hulk #208 finds ‘A Monster in Our Midst!’ as Bruce finally rejects ending his pain-wracked existence and begins a new and – hopefully – stress-free life where his alter ego will never be seen again. That resolve only lasts as long as it takes the maniacal Crusher Creel – freed as a consequence of the Jade Juggernaut’s most recent rampage – to accept a commission from a triumvirate of hooded schemers who want the Hulk dead…

However, even though ‘The Absorbing Man is Out for Blood!’, the super-thug is no match for Hulk’s unfettered fury, but his well-deserved defeat results in Banner collapsing unconscious in alley where he is eventually found by a mystic do-gooder in search of an ally…

To Be Hulk-inued…

This catastrophically cathartic tome is rounded out with original art pages and covers by Jack Kirby, Frank Giacoia, John Romita, Dave Cockrum and others…

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 exciting episodes, so why not Go Green – even if it’s only in your own delirious head?
1976, 1977, 2018 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

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