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Friday, February 27, 2009

This Week's Suspended Animation - The Hulk At A Crossroads

For those who enjoyed the much-touted “Planet Hulk” storyline from a couple of years ago, I’d like to suggest another tale in which Marvel’s Jade Giant took a wild ride out of this world. You’ll find it in a 1984-85 saga, contained in issues 301 through 313 of The Incredible Hulk.

In issue 300, Doctor Strange banished the Hulk from Earth, as he had become a creature no longer under the influence of Bruce Banner’s persona, and was totally given to unrestrained rage and murderous destruction. Marvel’s “Master of The Mystic Arts”, placed the Hulk at a dimensional crossroads, the “doorstep” of many different worlds. Here, it was believed, the Hulk could do no harm and no harm would come to him. Well, one outta two ain’t bad.

This storyline did something that’s always interesting for a character who is well-established, well-defined and in a bit of a rut; it put him in unfamiliar territory. Fans were treated to situations in which The Hulk was no longer “the strongest one there is”, but was in fact in danger for his very life, more often than not.

These issues represent the tail-end of Bill Mantlo’s stint as writer on the title, and they are a fitting crescendo. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was making the Hulk an even more sympathetic character than before, despite being nearly devoid of the power of speech. That, and giving fans a fantastic slugfest between the Hulk and an N’Garai demon (a reference X-Men historians should recognize) in issue 308.

Sal Buscema provided art for all but three of the issues mentioned. My appreciation for him can be found in last week’s Suspended Animation column. It should suffice to say that the action of these issues could not have been better served by anyone in the biz, then or now.

These issues are recommended for Hulk fans, as well as those who like mystical storylines with plenty of action. Look for them at comics shops and online retailers and auctions.

Review by Mark Allen

(Not enough Hulk for you? Check out The Incredible Hulk Library!)