He’s the best there is at what he  does…  with adorable little whiskers!  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Incredible Hulk #181 awaits!

Incredible Hulk #181 CoverINCREDIBLE HULK #181

Writer: Len Wein
Penciler: Herb Trimpe
Inker: Jack Abel
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: Artie Simek
Editor: Roy Thomas
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 25 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $4100.00

Previously in Incredible HulkSome say that he was originally an evolved mutated wolverine, though his creator denies this.  Some say that his claws were designed to be attached to his gloves, but an artist made a mistake.  Some say that he stole Timber Wolf’s face, and those people are right.  Whatever you think about Canadia’s most famous fictional export, there’s one thing noboby can argue: Gil Kane’s mask redesign was a very good call.  We begin our tale in the forests of Quebec, where The Hulk has come (though not of his own free will) to help cure the cursed Wendigo of his terrible affliction, only to be attacked by a strange, clawed little man.

It’s fascinating to see so many slashes and hacks by the tiny Canucklehead resulting in so little blood from Hulk or Wendigo.  Like, ZERO blood at all, and repeated “SKRAK!” and “CHUT!” noises that imply that there should clearly be some, as he’s breking skin.  Confused by the complexities of three-sided interactions, Hulk decides that the enemy of his enemy is his friend, combining his massive gamma-ray powered muscles with Wolverine’s murderfingers to bring down the were-beast.

Incredible Hulk #181 Retro Review

Herb Trimpe’s art is always fascinating to me, especially his wild, mismatched facial features, making The Hulk clearly monstrous in ways that few other artists every could, and I’ve always been amused by the fact that Herb gave Wendigo a huge ol’ Jimmy Durante schnozz, for some reason.  Regardless of his nose, Wendigo is mystically powerful enough to shrug off being *stabbed in the heart*, which surprises both Greenskin and the future X-Man.  Then, it’s Wolverine’s turn to do the surprising…

Incredible Hulk #181 Retro Review

While the heroes clash, a pair of figures slips out of the woods and sneaks away with Wendigo’s body, preparing to do the mystical ritual that will transfer his curse… to the HULK!  The bloodless carnage rips a swath through the trees, and even the world-weary Wolverine can’t quite believe the power of Bruce Banner’s alter-ego.

Incredible Hulk #181 Retro Review

Marie Cartier’s mystical gas fells The Hulk and The Wolverine, and her associate Georges balks when Hulk reverts to human form, refusing to pass on the curse to an innocent man.  Abandoning their plan, Georges enters the cave where The Wendigo himself rests, while Marie assumes that he’s abandoned her and tries to prepare Banner for the ritual.  The delay was too long, however, allowing the healing factors of the two heroes to bring them around and continue their clash.  Marie rushes off to find her brother/were-monster, only to find that he, too, is up and about.

Or so it seems…

Incredible Hulk #181 Retro Review

In fact, her brother is alive and well and free of transformations, thanks to Georges Baptiste willingly taking on the curse… because of his deep love for Marie.  The would-be sorceress bursts into tears realizing that she might have loved him too, leaving her alone with The Hulk, who tries to comfort her as the issue ends.  It’s a remarkably moving moment, thanks to Wein’s script, but Trimpe’s sad Hulk is a little bit heartbreaking, making me hear the piano solo in my head.  As first appearances go, Incredible Hulk #181 is one of the most early-installment-weirdness-filled, but it’s a nice chapter of Roving Seventies Hulk and it has some serious emotional punch, plus classic Trimpe art earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. 

The fact that Wolverine gets the taste slapped out of his mouth is weirdly satisfying, as well.

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*Sad Piano Riff*

Wein script + Trimpe art always makes for a good times, but remember to tell your friends: The "Mutated Wolverine" origin is an urban legend, per the writer himself.

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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