‘Lost in the Longbox’ Ep. 26: ‘The Incredible Hulk’ #350

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The Incredible Hulk #350
(Marvel Comics, 1988)

Writer – Peter David
Penciler – Jeff Purvi
Inker – Terry Austin
Letterer – Joe Rosen
Colorist – Petra Scotese

Greetings from the Wasteland,

In 1988 I was 10 years old. By that point I had seen some of the great fights in the world of comic books and film. King Kong vs. Godzilla, Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones vs. the Third Reich. But none of these would rival the constantly revolving fight in the Marvel universe. The title bout which would decide finally, who is the strongest…Grey vs. Spiky.

Now remember, Marvel was in the midst of transition. They were trying out new looks for old characters, reboots that sometimes worked, sometimes didn’t, and overall never lasted. But those mutations are the first ones I saw happening in real time, and those are the ones that I remember best and most fondly.

The Thing had recently gone through a massive change, after the second Secret War he had mutated to become Spiky Thing. His looks weren’t the only thing to change either. At that time Reed and Sue Richards had fled the Fantastic Four, so the team was made up of The Thing, Crystal, Johnny Storm, and Ms. Marvel. (Also Lady Thing) He had taken on a leadership role and the mutation caused his strength to increase.

On the other hand, we have the Incredible Hulk, who had at this point gone from wild green berserker to not-quite-as-wild, snappy dresser and Vegas tough Joe Chill, or as everyone else called him, Grey Hulk. Joe was not as strong than “old salad head” (A Grimm-ism from this issue) and had an aversion to the sun because it further weakened him.

But, how…how is the massive Marvel U. to get these two together and angry at each other? I’ve got it! When you have a problem, call the Doctor! Doom that is.

This book is a continuation of Fantastic Four #320, in which Doom drags Joe Chill to New York to get revenge on the Thing by telling Hulk that he cannot beat the newly mutated Grimm. True to Marvel creative team allegiances, The Thing wipes the floor with the Hulk. But, just as King Kong stood victorious over Godzilla in the American film, the Japanese version had a different outcome.

Incredible Hulk 350’s cover is one of my all-time favorites. It shows the two behemoths facing off in front of Doom, as if at the start of a boxing match with Doom as referee. The Hulk’s features are apish, with a long plenum and tiny nose, and the Thing is spiky and rocky all over. It’s wonderful.

Of course in this issue the Hulk finds a way to wear the Thing down even as he admits that punch for punch he could never beat him. It’s a good show of the new grey Hulk as a thinker rather than a fighter…willing to use his head rather than his fists. (Don’t worry, there’s enough punching and monster-throwing to please even the staunchest fan.) At the end Doom implies a payment by service of the Hulk, but true to his nature he tells Doom “call and maybe I’ll come.” It’s a different sort of Hulk we see here, less likely to tread the line between good and evil, more likely to fall on the side of “what’s good for Hulk.”

As far as story goes this is up there with some of the best Hulk/Thing fights, with all of the brutal tactics you would expect of the strongest heroes in the Marvel U. This comic is a perfect longbox pull if you should happen upon it, and if, perchance, you happen to be at the shop on their “big seventh anniversary” and are able to score at 50% off…well, more power to you. (And me) Incredible Hulk #350 may have decided the battle, but the war goes on, and thanks to Stan Lee for that.

 

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Brad-profilepic

Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.

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