My brother Ken continued to be enamored with the Incredible Hulk, especially now that the first TV movie had aired, and so he continued to pick up issues of various Hulk comic books whenever the opportunity presented itself to him. As with the other books he bought during this time, this one eventually wound up in my possession. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Hulk–I thought the character and his story possibilities were pretty limited, at least in the role of a protagonist. And there wasn’t anything especially aspirational about him for me. While I might have liked to have been able to Hulk-out to deal with bullies and the like, I didn’t love the notion that doing so would transform me into a simpleton. (To say nothing of the wear and tear on clothes.)
Writer/Editor Len Wein felt differently about the Hulk than I did. The Hulk was his favorite Marvel character, and he wrote the series with depth and emotional sophistication, while at the same time steering into the absurdity of the concept. Case in point, the story picks up here from the previous issue, where the Hulk has befriended an amnesiac scientist who has adopted the identity of the fictitious Robinson Crusoe. All you could do was roll with it. But Cap’n Barracuda and his band of cutthroats want the gizmo teh scientist had been working on, and so they invade the otherwise-quiet island, putting them into conflict with the Hulk. Bad move for them, right?
So it would seem for the first few pages. But as the Hulk tears his way through te stunned pirates, Cap’n Barracuda swiftly locates Crusoe’s device, and it able to turn it on the Hulk, with devastating results. The Green Goliath goes down–and Barracuda and his men quit the island while the getting is good, taking the device, Crusoe himself, and Crusoe’s dog with them. Meanwhile, back at Gamma Base, we cut to a subplot featuring Doc Samson and General Ross. Ross tells Samson that reports are that the Hulk has disappeared, as has a mystery amnesiac that Samson has been looking after (boy, there are a lot of amnesiacs in this comic book…)
Back at the island, the Hulk makes a swift recovery, coming to in time to see Cap’n Barracuda and his men board their submarine several yards off shore. Determined to rescue Crusoe and get his revenge on “One-Eye”, the Hulk follows, swimming out to eh submarine just before it goes below. This isn’t enough to dissuade the Hulk, however, who simply holds his breath and hangs on for dear life. Eventually, Barracuda’s vessel surfaces in a hidden cavern, at a base once operated by the Hulk’s old sparring partner Captain Omen. But the Hulk surfaces right behind them.
Barracuda decides to test the device on Crusoe himself, and first tells the man his own backstory. He had once been Dr. Purvis, who was working on a gamma ray machine to stimulate cell growth and promote healing. He and his team had gone to the island to test it safely–but something went wrong, and the device instead devolved all of the members of the team save Crusoe himself. The loneliness and guilt made Purvis crack, and he adopted the identity of Robinson Crusoe. Barracuda, however, wants to use the devolving machine as an aid to piracy–and he tests it on Crusoe, devolving him back into a primitive.
The Hulk has watched all of this transpire, and been uncharacteristically calm and crafty about it. He goes to liberate Crusoe from his cell–dispatching a taunting pirate along the way–and there’s a nice moment where the Hulk sensitively tries to connect with whatever is left of his friend within the mind of the primitive before him. The Hulk promises to return Crusoe and his dog to the island–but not before venting his rage on Barracuda and his pirates, who come in response to the alarm.
But Barracuda still has the gamma device, which he uses to zap the Hulk, turning him back into an unconscious Bruce Banner. But he’s failed to reckon with Crusoe, who jumps him and pummels him mercilessly. Guided by some primitive instinct, Crusoe activates his devolver machine, which turns the whole of Barracuda’s crew into raging beasts. As chaos erupts all around them, Crusoe gently carries Banner and his dog to an escape craft, and sends them on their way before the base explodes around him, its power plant having been critically damaged by the Hulk earlier. The issue ends with the capsule containing Banner and the dog bobbing gently on the waves, headed for who knows what new adventure.