If you’re hungry for Hulk, Marvel Comics has put out quite a few Epic Collections over the last three years and we’ve reviewed most of them. Out this week is Crisis on Counter-Earth which features Incredible Hulk #157-178 which were originally published between November 1972 and August 1974. Just three years after this last issue in this collection was published The Incredible Hulk television show started, which featured a smaller scale and more human-looking Hulk. Coincidence given TV and movies take years to produce? I think not!
Outside of Hulk being a bit slimmer and less…for lack of a better word, hulking, this collection has Hulk head to Counter-Earth where he confronts Bruce Banner, he fights villains like Abomination and Rhino, as well as face-off against Juggernaut, Cobalt Man, and more. This collection also features the first appearance of Wendigo, who is a pillar in the Hulk mythos. The majority of the stories are by Steve Englehart, Roy Thomas, and Gerry Conway, with Archie Goodwin, Steve Gerber, Tony Isabella, and Chris Claremont stepping in too. The entire book is drawn by Herb Trimpe, which gives the visual style a consistent feel.
This Epic Collection is bookended with Hulk going to Counter-Earth, which is likely why the collection bears the name. The first time is more like an accidental visit–complete with Rhino of all villains going with him–while the second time is more of a Twilight Zone adventure. In both cases, Warlock is there to greet him and things get real world. The first encounter actually has Hulk meet face to face with a version of Bruce Banner that never became the Hulk. Both stories are a good example of how Marvel in the ’70s was obsessed with goofy sci-fi plots that had an adventure-of-the-week feel.
Largely though, this book is about who Hulk fights each week. Hulk fights Abomination and Rhino twice and faces off against M.O.D.O.K. but also weird B-movie-style villains you’ve never heard of like Aquon. This version of Hulk takes a major beating throughout the collection and he’s certainly a touch depowered compared to other eras for the character. He’s more of a downtrodden sad sack too, rather than a mindless raging monster. He certainly rages, but there’s an almost romanticism when it comes to his longing to be normal or have a solid relationship.
Trimpe’s art is excellent, with great fights and creative artistry in every issue. This isn’t just superhero comics action, as Trimpe plays around with the sci-fi and horror genres to convey a kind of beauty becoming of a series like this. You can also see Kirby’s influence throughout the book, from crazy detailing in 3D style technology to characters turning back and screaming in your face as they point at disaster ahead. It’s interesting to see Kirby’s influence while Trimpe brings his own style in.
Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Crisis on Counter-Earth is a good example of how Hulk started to become more complex yet still maintained a supernatural creature-of-the-week vibe. Counter-Earth in particular is an interesting concept that may pop up in MCU material at some point since the idea is so unique and rich.
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