Although I love Sal Buscema's work on Incredible Hulk I am nailing my colours to the mast and stating that Herb Trimpe is my favourite Hulk artist. I believe that the strip did not blossom until Herb took it over from the legendary Marie Severin and it became one of the most consistently enjoyable books Marvel published as the Silver Age slipped into the Bronze. It didn't hurt to have some stellar writers on the book such as Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart and Len Wein, however, it was Herb Trimpe's superb artistry and ability to tell a story that provided the consistency that propelled the book to greatness. There were many standout issues but I want to focus on a two-parter (#164 and #165, June and July 1973) that introduced Captain Omen. At this point Steve Englehart was writing the book, a writer who could do no wrong as far as I was concerned, and Sal Trapani was on inks.
|Incredible Hulk #164 June 1973 Cover by Herb Trimpe|
|Incredible Hulk #165 July 1973 Cover by Herb Trimpe|
Hulk's foe in this tale is Captain Omen, a leader of an undersea colony housed in a giant submarine, who enslaves the Hulk while our green skinned hero is attempting to swim home from the Arctic.
|Captain Nethaniel Omen: Herb Trimpe and Sal Trapani, words: Steve Englehart|
Nathaniel Omen had ambitions to rule the world but realised that this was a near impossibility so he was determined to lay claim to the ocean floor instead. He built a giant submarine which he named Infra-World and populated it with people crazy enough to follow him. During the course of their lengthy voyage the Infra-Worlders learned to control the Toad-Whales, immense creatures that roam the very deepest parts of the ocean.
|Toad-Whale: Trimpe and Trapani|
Omen had a son named Filius, who along with the younger generations of the crew is adapted to live in the highly pressurised environment at the ocean bottom. Omen also has a secret weapon in the form of a monster, the handy Hulk grappler, Aquon. Who can fail to enjoy the line "Half-man, half-fish and all hate!" Aquon was supposed to act as Omen's enforcer on board Infra-World but he inevitably was required to battle the Hulk.
|Aquon: Trimpe and Trapani, words by Englehart|
I do not wish to spoil the tale for those yet to read this magnificent story but I will say that the Hulk ends up living to fight another day. If you want to read it, and I cannot recommend it highly enough, please buy or borrow Essential Hulk Volume 4 or wait for the inevitable Masterwork. I am very fortunate to have a whole stack of the original Trimpe comics from my youth, as I bought anything with Hulk on the cover during this period, you couldn't go wrong could you?