Issue(s): Hulk #306
...and the crew of a floating solar sailor vessel that hunts him, Moby Dick style.
The boat's captain is pretty high-concept. He's a robot and after having been damaged in his previous appearance, he's now also the ship's figurehead.
I love it.
The Hulk is force-ably recruited into the crew (once again, the Hulk is a complete pushover while in the Crossroads)...
...and the hunters agree to take the Puffball Collective (*sigh*) along with them on their hunt as well. However, the rule preventing the Collective from exiting through any of the Crossroad's doors doesn't get magically cancelled out just because he happens to be on a boat, so he's left behind after all.
Puffball had been bonding with the Hulk, trying to understand more about him...
...so the Hulk gets upset when his "friend" isn't brought along. He causes enough of a tantrum that the crew is unable to complete their mission, and they have to go back for Puffball. When they return to the Crossroads, the Hulk utters his first word in about ten issues.
The hunters put Puffball in a magic force-field bubble that lets him leave the Crossroads...
...and they continue their quest. When they catch up with Klaatu, the ship's #2 guy, Xeron, nails him with an energy harpoon. The idea is to drain Klaatu's energy, granting everyone aboard the ship immortality.
Ensared with multiple harpoons, Klaatu drags the ship across multiple dimensions, including Hank McCoy's home planet...
...but eventually figures out that he's a gigantic monster and he's being pursued by a tiny ship, so he turns around and gives it a good swat.
Something about Klaatu's plight triggers sympathy in the Hulk (it's almost like a premonition if you know what's going to happen when Alpha Flight goes fishing several issues from now), and he frees him from the harpoon snares.
With the crew's ship and plans in wreckage, Dr. Strange's failsafe spell brings the Hulk back to the Crossroads, and the Puffball Collective goes with him.
I can't get enough of this guy.
Without a doubt, Sal Buscema is turning in great art on this run, and while the Crossroads setting was clearly something of a struggle for Mantlo, it's allowed Buscema to really go wild artwise.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Hulk is showing signs of intelligence, allowing for Marvel Fanfare #20-21 to take place sometime after this arc (specifically after Hulk #308).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
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