Another book from the Drug Store’s Big Bin of Slightly-Older Comics, this was another issue of INCREDIBLE HULK bought by my younger brother, Ken, but which eventually wound up with me. At the time, the Hulk had begun to appear on television, having starred in a pair of TV movies (with a series in the offing, not that we knew that at the time) and that sparked his interest in the character. I was mostly kinda cold to the Hulk as a solo character–he wasn’t a genuine super hero, he was more of a monster in the Frankenstein mold–but that didn’t stop me from reading the book as well.
This issue was one of the last, if not the last, regular issues penciled by Herb Trimpe, who’d been working on the series since the late 1960s. Here, he was inked by Joe Staton, an artist I knew better from his penciling gigs over at DC, where his cartoony style was very appealing. I’d never thought of Staton as an inker, but it must be said that he gives Trimpe’s work in this issue a fullness that was sometimes lacking. It was a good combo. The writer (and editor) was Len Wein, who had a special place in his heart for the Hulk, as the green-skinned goliath was his favorite Marvel hero.
The issue opens with some typical Marvel action. We find Bruce Banner on a boat, returning to the States from wherever his last adventure took place. Bruce was told to stay below decks, but he comes up to get some air, and inadvertently finds a trio of crewmen illegally dumping toxic waste into the ocean. Of course, the tree polluters immediately attack Banner, and live to regret it, if only for a moment. because he becomes the Hulk and goes berserk enough that he sinks the entire ship. presumably, the crew all got out alive, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Meanwhile, at Hulkbuster base, Leonard Samson has been brought in to try to perfect the Gammatron, a device which can turn the Hulk back into Banner. Banner is needed to help restore Glenn Talbot, whose mind has been shut down after he was brainwashed by the Gremlin some time earlier. Unfortunately, Samson is sloppy as a technician and the device explodes, bathing him once more in gamma radiation, and turning him back into the mighty-muscled Doc Samson (he had undergone this transformation many issues earlier, but wound up ultimately losing his gamma-spawned powers.)
In any event, Samson is happy to have his gamma powers back. And so, when the Hulk makes landfall, Samson goes out to try to capture him. Samson is a bit giddy with his restored powers–he approaches capturing the hulk almost like a game. And this continues to piss the Hulk off, making him angrier–and as a result, stronger. Doc Samson is counting on his intellect to keep him one step ahead of the Hulk, but he’s a bit arrogant in this respect, and headed for a fall.
Time out here for the letters page, which in this instance ran a letter from Will Blyberg, who would go on to have a solid career as an inker in the comic book industry, including at Marvel.
What was I saying about a fall? Doc Samson lures the Hulk to the top of the World Trade Center, then the tallest structure in New York City and decades prior to the terrorist attack that felled it. The Hulk has had enough by this point, and his strength readily outmatches that of Samson. So the Hulk winds up punching him off the top of the WTC and he doesn’t stop traveling until he hits 122nd Street, where he plows into a baseball diamond where a bunch of kids are playing ball. Battered and chagrined, Samson pulls himself up to his feet and declares that the next time they meet, the victory will belong to him. And that’s where the issue ends.