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Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Crossroads
Marvel Comics

Comic Books

‘Incredible Hulk: Crossroads’ puts the ‘Epic’ in ‘Epic Collection’

A stunningly effective edition in this publishing effort with a singular story told across its nearly 500 page length.

After a violent outburst, the Hulk is banished from Earth by Dr. Strange to an alien world where he can no longer do harm, only to wreak havoc against the denizens of that world. You’d be forgiven for thinking I was referring to Planet Hulk, but this is actually the premise of the Crossroads epic by Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema.

While Marvel’s Epic Collection line has often tried to package their back catalog into volumes that tell singular stories, rarely has it been as effectively done as in The Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Crossroads. Collecting Incredible Hulk #297-313, Incredible Hulk Annual #13 and Alpha Flight #29, this volume focuses solely on the storyline that lends its title.

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The story begins with the Hulk being manipulated by the supernatural villain, Nightmare (he does what you think he would), to attack Dr. Strange. While Dr. Strange recognizes the manipulation, he is unable to stop the Hulk’s attack, causing the psyche of Bruce Banner to effectively sacrifice himself to remove Nightmare’s control. The effect is that the Hulk no longer has any of Banner’s persona, reduced to a savage rage incapable of speech. When Strange searches Hulk’s mind, he finds nothing to latch onto, and after an all-out assault by this unrestrained Hulk, Strange exiles him to the titular Crossroads, an inter-dimensional pathway that connects to a number of worlds selected by Strange, all of which are incapable of being harmed by Hulk for one reason or another.

From there, Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema lead readers through an odyssey as Hulk fights to get back home, first with nothing but the raw ferocity of an animal, but later with baser human emotions, and eventually companions. Mantlo’s captions take on the perspective of an omniscient narrator, but are used effectively with Buscema’s artwork, not overcrowding the storytelling Buscema does with the layouts. At one point, as Hulk rages from world to world looking for escape, Buscema narrows the panels vertically, making each image tighten like a fist. Mantlo and Buscema along with inker Gerry Talaloc and colorist Bob Sharen craft the story as a slow reveal, with each issue seeing Hulk visit a new world or worlds as Hulk regains elements of his persona, culminating in a heartbreaking finale.

Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Crossroads
Marvel Comics

The setting means that Crossroads largely eschews the typical roster of Hulk villains — Leader and Abomination are nowhere to be found — and instead focuses on the denizens of the Crossroads and the Banner/Hulk relationship, making for a story that is largely self-contained. There are some minor exceptions — early issues make frequent references to events occurring in Rom: Spaceknight (also by Mantlo and Buscema), but even these intrusions rarely interrupt the flow of the story. Indeed, though there are some telltale signs that the story was initially published as individual issues (Mantlo usually takes the first page or two to reacquaint readers with what has happened previously), Incredible Hulk: Crossroads still reads quite well as a singular story.

As with other Epic Collections, Incredible Hulk: Crossroads includes the cover images for the issues themselves, notable here because many are done by Mike Mignola (Hellboy) who also takes over on the interior artwork for the final issues, and whose cover for issue #312 graces the cover of the volume.

In short, pick this one up.

Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Crossroads
‘Incredible Hulk: Crossroads’ puts the ‘Epic’ in ‘Epic Collection’
The Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Crossroads
Telling a story both intimate and fantastic, Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Crossroads is a stunningly effective edition in this publishing effort with a singular story by Bill Mantlo, Sal Buscema, and others told across its nearly 500 page length.
Reader Rating1 Votes
8.4
Mantlo and Buscema craft a wild adventure story that lays bare the soul of Bruce Banner and rebuilds the character.
The way the story blends intimacy and isolation with the fantastic makes it a joy to read, full of the emotion and absurdity that make superhero comics great.
9.5
Great
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