Every other week, Jason Shayer will highlight an issue or a run of issues pulled from the horde of comic book long boxes that occupy more room in his house than his wife can tolerate. Each of these reviews will delve into what made that issue or run significant as well as discuss the creative personalities behind the work. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
This “Special Abnormally Large Size Issue!” of the Incredible Hulk is another classic of the 1980s. Not only was it the climax and culmination of writer Bill Mantlo’s two year storyline featuring Hulk with Banner’s intellect, but it also kicks off a bold new direction for the Hulk.
Find out more after the jump!
This issue really highlights Sal Buscema’s art with his great page layouts (Hulk throwing Starfox the full length of the page, from top to bottom) and breathtaking splashpages (the double-page splash with Hulk smashing a billboard with the issue’s title is engraved in my mind and there’s a really great page with Doctor Strange and the winds swirling around him). Gerry Talaoc’s inks are very distinctive, but work rather well with Buscema’s pencils.
The last half dozen issues featured the slow deterioration of the Banner’s control of the Hulk. And with #300, there’s little to nothing left of Banner, leaving only the raw savageness of the Hulk.
S.H.I.E.L.D. does its best to contain the rampaging Hulk with street-level heroes trying to control the collateral damage. What Mantlo does so well here is tell the story from those affected by the Hulk’s rampage, like the members of a S.W.A.T. team, Spider-Man, Daredevil and some of this story arc’s supporting cast, like Katherine Waynesboro. More heroes show up only to fall to the Hulk. The Avengers then arrive on scene and engages Thor in one of the more memorable battles between these two powerhouses. Thor allows himself to go all out now that he’s facing the pure rage of the Hulk. And Buscema pulls off an amazing fight sequence.
All of this was to buy some time for Dr. Strange to find a appropriate dimension to banish the Hulk to. Dr. Strange joins the battle and whisks Hulk to a dimensional crossroads that will allow him to explore a variety of dimensions as he sees fit.
The next dozen issues gave Mantlo the opportunity to explore the Hulk’s personality as he experiences conflict in the various dimensions he visits. Mantlo used an interested dynamic, a psychological anchor to the crossroads, which teleported the Hulk back from any dimension to the crossroads whenever he was unhappy.
Jason Shayer has been trying his best not to grow up for that last 30 years and comics books are one of the best ways to keep him young at heart. He’s also known as the Marvel 1980s guy and has probably forgotten more than you’d ever want to know about that wonderfully creative era. Check out his blog at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com.