The Transparent Fox:
Issue(s): Hulk #340
The Hulk, Clay Quartermain, and Rick Jones are stuck in a freak snowstorm near Dallas, and the Hulk decides he can't stand being cooped up in the van anymore, so he goes out for a constitutional leap.
The snowstorm is due to events from the X-Men's portion of Fall of the Mutants, so the X-Men are also in the area.
And that's lucky, because the Hulk's leaping winds up accidentally damaging a commercial jet...
...and the X-Men are able to rescue the passengers. In the process, Rogue tosses a falling engine into a seemingly unpopulated area, and it lands on the Hulk, angering him.
The Hulk's reckless and oblivious action is possibly a strike against Amadeus Cho's later claim that the Hulk has never caused any deaths, since it's only the fortuitous intervention of the X-Men that save a planeload of people from dying, as well as additional deaths caused by a fire when the Hulk gets into a fight with the National Guard.
While the rest of the X-Men are helping civilians, Wolverine finds the source of the fire, and wonders out loud "I wonder who the jerk is who's responsible for this." That causes the Hulk to attack.
What follows is one of the nicest bits of character writing i've seen for Wolverine. It's the same theme as in Uncanny X-Men #212, where Wolverine declines to get into a berserker fight with Sabretooth so that he can bring the Morlock healer back to the X-Men's Mutant Massacre refugees. And that's a great scene too. But here, the situation is flipped. Wolverine starts off trying to back out of the fight, although it's extremely difficult for him ("in a voice, hoarse as if with passion").
The Hulk, on the other hand, gets to be a giant goading bully, pushing Wolverine until his ability to hold himself in check is overcome.
From the Hulk's point of view, this is just desserts. He remembers their first encounter as him just wanting to be left alone, but Wolverine kept attacking him.
Later, the Hulk shows he's not just hanging onto the resentment of that one encounter with Wolverine. He imagines that "You've all spent years laughing at me, taking advantage of me. I was the dumb green giant... but now I start giving it all back." (emphasis mine). I really love that, and if Peter David spent the next year or two on the book having the Hulk hunt down Marvel super-heroes, i wouldn't have minded a bit (compared to, say Quicksilver's, heel turn in last year's Avengers annuals).
It's actually pretty amazing that the Hulk and Wolverine haven't had an encounter since Wolverine's debut until now (not counting events like Contest of Champions or the Secret Wars, where there was never any mention of a relationship between the two). Wolverine did say in Uncanny X-Men #124 that he was looking forward to a rematch, but he's had some growth as a character since then. Granted, the Hulk has been in a non-standard state for a long time; any encounter between the Hulk and Wolverine would have to have been with a Bruce Banner-dominant Hulk, or a mindless Hulk, etc.., and of course here it's the Grey Hulk. Which is great because it allows the Hulk to articulate all the rage that he's been holding onto and also allows him to represent the primitive id inside the reformed or trying-to-civilized Wolverine.
The messy, feral nature of the fight, in the freak snowstorm, is depicted well by Todd McFarlane's art style. McFarlane is inking himself for the first time on this book.
When i was a kid i just loved the fact that these two monsters were fighting each other. I was aware of the additional level of the Hulk getting under Wolverine's skin, but it's that psychological side that keeps this feeling like a great book today as opposed to just feeling a mindless violent slugfest that (with the aforementioned Wolverine/Sabretooth fight) kicks off a whole genre of violent fights as we move into the 90s, most of which don't have this additional layer of character development.
The big news, foreshadowed a bit last issue, is that the Hulk actually has a healing factor...
...due to the fact that he's basically a walking pile of cancer cells.
Wolverine suggests that this has always been the case, and that previous incidents where the Hulk was shown to be nigh-invulnerable were actually his healing factor working so fast that it appears his skin is impenetrable. I guess the idea is that now that the Hulk, in his grey form, is a little weaker, we get to actually see the healing happening. I don't know if that's necessarily always the case - i think the Hulk also gets physically tougher as he gets stronger in his green form - but we will see the Hulk's healing factor persist in Peter David's run even after the character turns green again.
Clay and Rick eventually show up to stop the fight. "When two dogs fight, you're supposed to turn a hose on 'em", Wolverine says earlier after he's succumbed to the bloodlust and can't stop himself; Clay's "hose" is an energy weapon from the SHIELD van.
Wolverine's hang-dog pose and very open and honest dialogue may be a bit much, but on a whole this is some of the top work done on Wolverine to date, rivaling some of Chris Claremont's.
The popularity of this issue would have introduced X-Fans to the cool stuff that was going on in the Hulk. Like some other "kewl fight" issues from around this time, this was a book that at one point i saw in a Price Guide was edging up to the $50 mark, and surely that trend would continue forever and since i was lucky enough to buy it in realtime, i'd never have to work a day in my life. Well, that didn't quite work out, but this remains a great issue for me, coupling smart writing with McFarlane's edgy art and a clash between two of Marvel's meanest good guys.
Interspersed with all of this is Betty Banner alone somewhere contemplating a snow globe, possibly from their truncated honeymoon vacation in Hulk #320.
We also see the Leader, now with Half-Life as a minion, who is on his own quest for the Gamma bombs.
Next issue: a crossover with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen!
Quality Rating: A
Chronological Placement Considerations: The X-Men appear here between Uncanny X-Men #224-225. Madelyne Pryor isn't shown in this comic but she must be on the Blackbird with the other X-Men.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showBetty Ross, Clay Quartermain, Dazzler, General Hamilton, Half-Life (Hulk villain), Havok, Hulk, Leader, Longshot, Madelyne Pryor, Psylocke, Rick Jones, Rogue, Wolverine
Yikes @ Rogue's hair!
Of all of the guest appearances he would do over the years, this one was probably my fave. I suppose it was building for awhile but it seems like 1988 was the year the Wolverine craze really took off. By the end of this year he would be in three regular titles plus another mini-series.
Posted by: Robert | May 9, 2014 1:37 PM
The problem with Todd's art at this stage is that he tries way to hard to be Art Adams. There's so much cross hatching and line art that it's very hard to distinguish objects. The storytelling is good, though.
Posted by: jsfan | May 9, 2014 1:50 PM
I've heard it suggested that this helps to explain the Hulk's broken leg after Secret Wars. When Banner was in the driver's seat, he didn't get angry and the leg didn't heal but when the Savage Hulk reasserted himself, the wound healed instantly.
Posted by: Michael | May 9, 2014 8:47 PM
and the cover....at the time the cover just blew me away.
Posted by: Martin Dent | May 14, 2014 12:18 PM
A much deserved A. One of the best comics I've read in a while.
Posted by: gfsdf gfbd | October 5, 2014 1:17 AM
All the events in this issue feel so organic and inevitable, which is a real credit to David's writing at this time. The story makes use of prior continuity effectively without being heavy-handed about it. Both Wolverine and Hulk get to demonstrate their powers effectively against each other without the other character looking weak or inefficient, establishing that both characters are powerful in their own way, yet have some weaknesses as well.
Not a fan of how McFarlene's art evolves (or de-evolves?) after he leaves this book, but his character portrayals and storytelling here don't distract from David's story and characterization, and in many cases, help enhance it as well.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | July 2, 2015 2:26 PM
Love this issue...but how does McFarlane go from this rendition of Wolverine to the dog boy we see in his solo Spider-Man book?
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | January 6, 2017 2:52 AM
Here's where HULK became my favorite Marvel title. I remember feeling the sky was the limit. Who knew how great these stories could be now? Todd's in my favorite phase of his style. Characterisation is served well by the whole team- a good lettering and coloring job to complete the book's atmosphere and delivery. X-MEN was killer at this point, too, so this was probably my favorite issue in this last year of that first golden era where collecting extensively was a reliable primary joy in my life.
Posted by: Cecil Disharoon | February 11, 2018 12:54 AM
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