Crossroads is probably one of the greatest Hulk stories ever told. It is not because of the action that takes place within, but conversely the inaction that makes it so good. The quiet moments are what get you, when Hulk is by himself or simply trying to survive. It is not often that the Hulk is made to seem vulnerable, but this is one story that does so and in doing so, makes him seem all that more strong.
In this story, Bruce Banner has died in order to finally be rid of the Hulk. But in doing so, Banner has left the Hulk a totally savage beast without Banner’s conscience to rein him in. And thus being left in such a state, Doctor Strange sees no recourse but to exile him to the crossroads – an interdimensional part of space with gateways leading to other worlds and dimensions.
It is here that the Hulk fights his greatest battles. One would think that those battles would be monsters and demons, and yes, he fights them but it is loneliness, thirst, starvation and even his own thoughts which are the biggest threats. They are things he has never had to deal with before and now faced directly with them; the Hulk is a truly despondent beast.
There are some memorable situations that the Hulk comes into contact with such as the girl who cried flowers and his run-in with Klaatu, Xeron the Starslayer and Cybor the living masthead of a ship. The interactions between Hulk and the Puffball Collective are tender and violent at times, yet are put into an all-new context when the Hulk is eventually betrayed. Guardian, Goblin and Glow are three of the most inventive characters in the whole book, looking out for the Hulk when he is barely even able to do so himself.
The best issue, the most poignant issue was Annual #13 in the collection. Hulk is starving and goes through a portal to a world where nothing survives without the help of a symbiote. It is with a symbiote named Sym where Hulk finally finds some peace in his life and a friend with whom to share it with. But with all the things in the Hulk’s life, his friendship and his peace was destined to only end in tragedy. The issue ends with nothing being destroyed, no battles, no rage and no fights. It ends in death and with the Hulk crying silently.
Bill Mantlo, who wrote many fine stories over the course of his career, created a masterpiece at this point of time in the Hulk’s existence. Over the course of the series he broke the Hulk down to a pitiful creature, and then built him right back up into the moniker of the title – incredible. Mantlo made you feel for the Hulk like you never did before. You felt sad for him, you rooted for him, you railed and rallied for him and you traveled through all those portals with him, hoping he would find what he needed. The Hulks travails were your own and the story just took you along with it. Great stuff!
Sal Buscema, to me, is probably the greatest Hulk artist of all time. Adam Kubert is good, as is Mike Deodato and Dale Keown. But Buscema infuses the Hulk with humanity like no other. You can see the pain in his eyes; feel the weariness of his body on the page. I personally don’t think that Buscema gets enough credit as a penciller, but I for one think he is right up there with the greats.
So, if you are looking for a great Hulk story, or really just a great story – then this is the book for you. You surely won’t be disappointed.
5 out of 5.