"Triumph Of The Toad!"
Written by Len Wein.
Drawn by Herb Trimpe and Joe Staton.
Lettering by John Costanza.
Colours by Glynis Wein.
Did Blondie singer Debbie Harry really know of what she sang when she said dreaming is free?
It'd appear not, as the Toad Men discover there's a high price to pay for trying to get yourself a handful of dreams. Having secured the Hulk and his friends, the Toad Men tell the Hulk that if he doesn't help them capture the Shaper so they can use his dream-weaving powers to conquer the cosmos, they'll kill Crackajack and Jarella.
So the Hulk takes a bomb to a meeting with the Shaper, and its detonation knocks them both out. But when the Hulk and Glorian go to the Toad Men's world to free the Shaper, the Toad Men react with their usual charm by killing Glorian.
The sight of his friend being killed so destabilises the Shaper that he loses control of his illusions, and the Hulk for the first time sees "Jarella" and "Crackajack" as the alien creatures they really are. The loss of his friends sets the Hulk off on a rampage that leaves the Toad World in ruins and the Toad King Torkon in a heap. The battle done, the Shaper sends the Hulk back to Earth while leaving the Toad Men to face their doom on their no-longer functional planet.
It's difficult to know what to make of this tale. It's certainly more imaginative than most but you can't ignore the fact that the Toad Men are inherently silly. Writer Len Wein certainly can't ignore it as he makes them ludicrous and nasty in evil measures, an inadequate race who get all their technology by stealing it from other, better races. It also has to be said that both the Shaper and Glorian come across as being so dim you're almost glad to see Glorian get shot, just to see the back of his inane brand of gentility.
So, a strange story overall that, in its mixing of the dramatic and ludicrous, reminds me of the kind of thing Steve Gerber might have done. In truth, if this was the first Hulk story I'd ever read, I've no doubt I'd be more than intrigued enough by its oddness to want to read more Hulk comics and, while I'm not sure I'd want to see more Hulk stories in this style, I suppose that means it must have done its job.