Issue(s): Hulk #324
This issue starts with the Hulk transforming, but the bonds that Banner was in are specially designed to expand with him.
However, the transformations between Hulk and Banner continue with increasing frequency...
...and become weirder, with Banner manifesting in the center of the Hulk's body.
Banner remains in a suicidal or self-sacrificing state of mind, and it's thought that the Banner part of him is vulnerable.
The weird Banner/Hulk mush-mash is definitely strange, but i think it's not quite as gross as it could have been. I think that's because the coloring was applied very broadly, leaving a big mess of pink in the middle of Hulk's body instead of just subtly touching the parts that are sticking out.
In any event, SHIELD manages to herd the Hulk to the nutrient bath tank where Doc Samson has set things up to reverse the process that separated the Hulk from Banner at the beginning of Byrne's run. But while that's been going on, General Ross has been getting ready to sabotage things so that he can instead kill the Hulk, and Rick Jones shows up to fight him and winds up getting knocked into the bath as well.
What emerges from the bath is therefore the original, smaller, grey Hulk.
Doc Samson wonders what happened to the Hulk's extra mass, and we'll find out soon. In the meantime, the Hulk transforms back into Banner, who hopefully says that perhaps they've just seen the end of the Hulk altogether. In fact, though, we'll find that the grey form will be the Hulk's new one for quite a long time. It's a significant transformation.
I do think Al Milgrom was running on ideas from John Byrne's truncated run. Turning the Hulk grey is something he telegraphed in Hulk #318 and the move is very similar to his regression of the Thing to his original form in Fantastic Four #238 (and the difference was observed even earlier, in Marvel Two-In-One #50). In both cases, the evolution of the characters was due to changes in art styles (and, for the Hulk, coloring issues) and didn't really require an in-story explanation. But unlike the Thing (or, at least, more obviously than the Thing), the Hulk went through personality changes along with the art changes, and bringing the Hulk back to his grey form also brings him back to the gruff semi-villainous creature from those early issues (including his early Avengers appearances). And that persona would be less limiting to write and will also prove to be quite popular.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Hulk hasn't really been in his Hulk Smash status quo since way back in Hulk #272, when Banner's mind gained control of the Hulk's body, and that was after an adventure in space beginning in Hulk #269. Since then he's been Banner-Hulk, then mindless Hulk, then trapped in the Crossroads, and returned only to quickly get split into separate Hulk and Banner entities. And with this issue he's turned grey, and after a long while like that he'll be turned into the merged "Professor" Hulk, which lasts until the late 90s. So any stories featuring the classic Hulk either have to be placed prior to Hulk #269, which is what was done for Questprobe #1 (passive voice = me following the MCP), or in one of three questionable transitional gaps during the period between Hulk #269 and this issue. Those gaps are 1) the period right after Secret Wars, when Banner was losing control of the Hulk thanks to Nightmare (and this is where the Thor #385 fill in was placed), 2) the brief period where the Hulk was hopping home from Canada after being pulled out of the Crossroads (which is where i put Avengers: Emperor Doom), or 3) the period between last issue and this one where the Hulk has been re-merged but before he turns grey. Based on the observations from the top of this entry, this third gap seems especially unlikely, but that is the only place where the Hulk's appearance in Comet Man #3 (Apr 87) works, thanks to the fact that the Hulk speaks in his gruff thuggish voice instead of the purely dumb Hulk persona, and a footnote that refers to "current issues" of the Hulk, and additional dependencies related to the appearance of the Fantastic Four in that series. I took the long road getting to that point because i think it's interesting to note how long it's been and will continue to be since the Hulk was in his "normal" state, but the key point is that there's a gap between last issue and this one.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Hulk: Transformations TPB
Inbound References (3): showBetty Ross, Clay Quartermain, Doc Samson, General 'Thunderbolt' Ross, Hulk, Rick Jones
This grade just shows that one man's trash is another's treasure, Mr. Ford. I love this issue and for me, that illu of the Grey Hulk with his 'slate grey' skin is iconic for my childhood. I got this at a 711 when I was 7 years old and didn't understand why the Hulk was grey, but, deducing this was some kind of older incarnation based on the passing references to "the return" and "the original", asked an Uncle who looked it over and then told me (and, in retrospect this is a very charming save) that the Hulk was turned Green so that he "would show up on TV better". True story!
Posted by: George Gordon | March 1, 2014 12:59 AM
Samson is such a quack and never seemed to know what he was doing.
He's the Dr. Nick of the gamma-iradiated set.
Posted by: Bob | June 30, 2015 9:12 PM
Issues #321-323 were my gateway comics into full-time collecting. I'd been a fan of the Hulk since I was two (back in 1977 with the TV show), and this issue was such a trip with Banner coming thru the Hulk's skin. I fully admit to NOT taking a like to the color change from green to gray. But loved the next few issues with Rick becoming a long-haired green Hulk.
Posted by: James | April 17, 2018 9:05 PM
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