Peter David gave us this absolute gem of a storyline. McFarlane helped with his amazing art in this one… and it would turn out to be his swan song for the Hulk. There’s an interesting behind the scenes story that made the rounds about McFarlane and David’s working relationship. The story goes:
When David began writing the Hulk, Marvel asked if he wanted to have McFarlane, a virtually unknown at the time, draw the book. David agreed. McFarlane didn’t take long to catch the public’s attention with his unusual style – and soon he was a superstar. In the middle of this storyline Marvel asked if Todd wanted the reigns on Amazing Spiderman – and he did – he called Peter to tell him about it. When David heard that Todd was leaving the Hulk he asked McFarlane to stay on until #350 – in fact, it is said that David asked McFarlane to stay on because he had a great storyline and there was to be tons of money to be made… and McFarlane got insulted and vowed never to work with Peter David again.
Now – if you believe it is another story. McFarlane being insulted over someone saying he’ll make a ton of money? I just can’t see that… but let’s get on with this story back when Todd and Peter were making beautiful stories together! This is the first story I bought when I was introduced to the Hulk. See, it’s about this time when the Grey Hulk came back – and he was only transforming at night. Bruce learns about gamma bombs being mass produced and he is determined to see them destroyed. The issue is… Clay Quatermain and Rick Jones are along for the ride – and while they make progress during the day – they don’t at night because of Bruce’s other self. In fact, at first the Hulk could care less and tries to get away – but after a famous tussle with Wolverine (and coincidentally another one of the most reprinted Hulk issues ever) – Hulk becomes more agreeable.
The next issue has the group stopping in a small town that has a little problem with a monstrosity called the Man-Bull – in an issue both eye opening and touching. In the next issue we meet Half Life – who gives the Hulk a fight to be seen – sent by the Leader, who has a plan of his own for one of those bombs… and has wrench to throw into the works – namely two inventions named The Rock and Redeemer (not the same Redeemer Todd uses later in his Spawn issues) and a pretty lady named Betty.
Betty has a surprise for the Hulk – one that she really doesn’t want to share with him… she is pregnant. In one of the greatest issues of the Hulk ever – Betty squares off against the Hulk – trying to hold back the news – but when the Hulk won’t cooperate she breaks down and confesses her secret. She expects the Hulk to lash out – but instead he wraps his arms around her and comforts her.
The finale is the most surprising, excellent, crushing and ballsy ending in Hulk history. For those of you who have read Planet Hulk – you think that ending was surprising and upsetting – think about it not knowing what happened to the title character of the book… you know he isn’t dead – it wasn’t gimmicky or anything Loeb-ish like that – it was startling! You had no idea what was going to happen with the Hulk – and even worse – the next issue didn’t feature the Hulk at all – but served as an epilogue to the storyline – but McFarlane left before this issue hit the stands – he did the layouts and Larsen did the art.
All in all this is the story I suggest to any person wanting a classic Hulk storyline – a story so good you’ll look for more as soon as you finish. In this 7 issue storyline we see the kind of stories we were in store for with PD at the helm – we see McFarlane, issue to issue, become a phenomenon. His unique style takes shape page by page and he shows his worth as an artist. We also get to see one of the best Hulk foes actually do something devastating and that makes us invest in seeing the Hulk take the Leader down! But we won’t see that for many, many issues later. Get the TPB if you can’t afford to get the individual issues – especially since #340 goes for like $40 now. I got my issue for cover price though – and it’s still BEAUTIFUL! Grade: A++