Characters Appearing: Glow (Triad), Goblin (Triad), Guardian (Triad), Hulk, Puffball Collective
Issue(s): Hulk #308
Actually, Mantlo does a good job introducing a little twist with the Puffball, and throwing in some existing Marvel continuity. It turns out that this Collective is a corrupt version of its homeworld colony, but it was exiled to the Crossroads for freeing N'Garai demons...
...which killed the rest of its people and devastated their world. The Hulk helps the Collective return home this issue (it's a little unclear why they were so eager to get home), but when the Hulk realizes what's going on...
...he returns to the Crossroads and re-seals the Puffball dimension, this time with the evil Puffballs trapped with the angry N'Garai, who tear it to pieces off panel (awwwww!).
Also of interest, the Hulk is demonstrating a surprising amount of intelligence. The issue stars with the Hulk pointing at a map leading to the Puffball world, and saying "Here, friend?". Later, trying to open the door to the Puffball dimension, the Hulk says, "Every chain can be broken -- LIKE SO!!!".
And finally, in order to get a headstart on the N'Garai, the Hulk leaves the Puffball dimension by deliberately triggering Dr. Strange's failsafe spell that brings him back to the Crossroads. This isn't necessarily demonstrating that Bruce Banner is still alive somewhere within the Hulk (although the memories triggered at the use of the word "Home" do imply that; see below), but more intriguingly, whatever the source of the intelligence it's clear that it's available to the Hulk as the Hulk, without Banner (e.g.) asserting any kind of control. It's an idea that anticipates future developments for the character.
Finally, these issues introduce Glow, Guardian, and Goblin.
They'll soon be used to delve into some psychological aspects for the Hulk, even if right now it just feels like the Hulk has substituted one annoying floating narrator for three.
Overall, some tantalizing developments.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 196,567. Single issue closest to filing date = 164,921.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Pushed back a bit in publication time to make room for Marvel Fanfare #20-21.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
This might be my favorite period for Sal Buscema's art. Maybe it's the inks by Gary Taloc but I suspect that most of the credit belongs to Sal. His work in the seventies was solid but it evolved over time. This era of the Hulk really showcased him. Shortly after this his style would evolve again when he went back over to Spider-Man, but t never had the power or the grace of his work on the Hulk at this time. Great storytelling, great character work, a real sense of texture. This is Sal at his best.
Posted by: Jay Patrick | April 27, 2013 6:15 PM
In wondering about Mantlo's contribution to Uncanny X-Men 96, I'd forgotten about this issue. Maybe the cairn in particular was a Mantlo suggestion, even if the N'Garai were Claremont's own concept? In any case, I like to see this issue as in some sense Manlo's sequel to the X-Men story.
I have to disagree with Jay on the Buscema/Taloc question. Sal's work here is very different from his near contemporaneous work on Balder the Brave. Sal's a solid artist, but his pencils seem to work especially well with powerful inkers like Janson and Taloc. They add weight and grit to Sal's naturally smooth and light style.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 27, 2013 9:39 PM
Hey if Taloc deserves the credit then so be it. The whole package reminds me of early Mike Mignola, especially the Hulk himself. It's great stuff regardless.
Posted by: Jay Patrick | April 28, 2013 1:30 AM
In the interview book Sal Buscema: Comics' Fast & Furious Artist, Buscema describes how he heard from Bill Mantlo that he had been getting a reputation of a guy who "just bangs the work out". Buscema said that's what Marvel wanted from him, but Mantlo told him that it isn't what Marvel wanted any more. So Buscema had a conversation with Jim Shooter, and based on that he dropped down to just two books - this and ROM - and stopped doing fill-ins and other random stuff editors had been asking of him over the years. And i think the improved quality is obvious. Surely the inker is important, but i definitely think Buscema upped his game here.
On the other hand, Taloc also inked Mignola's Hulk and Alpha Flight, so it may indeed be Taloc that is shining through.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 28, 2013 1:45 PM
Kurt Busiek once said in that Marvel's scheduling problem in the 70s basically ruined the reputations of Buscema, Don Heck and Mooney. The three of them (and Vince Colleta, who already had a reputation for rushed art)were asked to crank out art quickly because of Marvel's schedule problems, and when the schedule problems ended, they gained reputations as rushed artists. Don Heck got a chance to regain some of his reputation at DC, and Buscema got a chance at Marvel, in part due to Walt Simonson's support but Mooney's reputation never recovered.
Posted by: Michael | April 28, 2013 2:09 PM
Even though I think this Hulk style is more Taloc than Sal, I have huge respect for Sal, whose Rom art is what got me hooked on comics, and whose pre-Taloc Hulk art was also pretty darn good in my opinion. I'm bowled over by how well he synced up to Simonson's style on Balder and Thor, too--as a kid, I didn't even know they'd changed artists.
Heck's work on X-Men 64, meanwhile, could just about pass for Neal Adams. An absolute revelation. (Tom Palmer's inks, which I'm generally less fond of than Fnord, surely helped there, but I couldn't imagine them making up all the difference.)
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 28, 2013 3:51 PM
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