Mighty Marvel Marathon: The Incredible Hulk Part 6

by Jon Quixote
From John Byrne to Peter David, that’s where this chapter of the Hulk Marathon takes us. Although maybe that's a better idea for a UFC fighting match.

Lots happens to the Hulk in this go-round, but most of it is kinda boring. When you have a blog that feeds off the highs and lows of the comic book experience, what happens when you're hit with 100+ issues of "that was kinda okay, I guess"?

Curse you, Peter David!!

The Incredible Hulk 318
We’re in the middle of the Hulkbuster storyline – Banner and Hulk are separated and Banner is heading the squad to track down the now mindless, now completely destructive and savage Hulk.
I’m not so thrilled by it, though it has its cool moments. I’m not enthralled by Byrne’s take on a Banner-less Hulk. Right now it looks as though Byrne looks as the Hulk as Banner’s rage made manifest, and that everything that was good and decent about the Hulk was the result of Banner’s modulating influence. So far though, the Hulk persona had been more complex than that. I think the take on the Hulk that he is rage, as opposed to rage simply being very important to the character, is kind of shallow and dull. It’s way more interesting to me when the Hulk is the by-product of more than just Banner’s repressed anger, but rather the by-product of a repressed and scarred psyche.
Also I’m not thrilled that Byrne draws Bruce Banner to look like Janet Reno.
We’ll see if either interpretation sticks.

The Incredible Hulk 319
So the mindless Hulk is rampaging through New Mexico and has been doing so for weeks. Doc Samson has been tracking him, and so have the Hulkbusters. In fact, a Samson/Hulkbuster conflict resulted in the actual death of one of the Busters. There was also an allusion to the fact that the mindless Hulk’s rampage has caused the loss of life. Banner has made it his sworn mission to track down the Hulk and destroy him.
“But first, there are more important things to be taken care of,” he says, referring to his impending nuptials.

So, the Hulk is a creature of pure rage and has been destroying New Mexico for weeks, but is also hard to track. Samson and the Hulkbusters are incompetently hunting him to the point where they’re killing each other off. And the most important thing in Bruce Banner’s life? Finding out if there’s any bounce left in Betty’s bedsprings.
This is a sloppy arc that’s doing wonders to make all the characters involved extremely unlikeable.

And I didn’t even get to the part where Thunderbolt shoots Rick Jones at the ceremony.

The Incredible Hulk 321
Al Milgrom has taken over writing duties. And he’s calling Banner on some of his shit here.

The Incredible Hulk 327
I remember this arc. Rick Jones has turned into a Green Hulk. Banner now reverts to a Grey Brutish Hulk. And Thunderbolt Ross has been taken over by Zzzax. How, you ask? Because SHIELD was doing experiments where they were subjecting Ross to Zzzax’s electricity? Why, you ask? Because if popular fiction has taught us one thing, it’s that scientists are dumb.
Anyway, as silly as the whole thing sounds in synopsis, it’s been a nice development that’s run in the direction of the Byrne arc, but with a lot of crazy momentum and with the cast actually acting in character for the most part. So far, I think Al Milgrom is writing the best Bruce Banner of the series. He’s the decent & noble man that he’s often described as, but he doesn’t fly off into panicky fits everytime he gets a mosquito bite or somebody looks at him funny.
Plus, there’s great action sequences. Loads of drama. Rick Jones actually useful & interesting. A major league MILF in distress. A creepy-ass teaser for the next storyline. Fine character moments. And a killer ending.
A fantastic issue. I remembered it, but I didn’t remember or even ever realize just how good it was. The sort of story that turns people into comic book fans. I’m loving what Milgrom and his art team have been doing these last few issues.

The Incredible Hulk 328
And Peter David takes over. Motherfu…
Okay, okay. This is supposed to be a seminal Hulk run here. David runs warm and cool with me, but I’ve read very little of his Hulk stuff. So I’m interested. Unless there’s more “Banner grapples with his own psyche” issues like this one. Then I’m gonna barf.

The Incredible Hulk 331
We’re starting the Todd McFarlane run here. And it’s starting slowly.
There’s a great-scene where a de-GammaRayed Leader forgets the security code to his fortress.
Also, Betty’s pimp has shown up to reclaim her.

The Incredible Hulk 340
It’s this one!
I say this one, because I know the cover and always wanted to read it because of it. My enthusiasm is rewarded by something I really hate: The Hulk getting a tweak or upgrade to a super-duper healing factor! Oh joy, more opportunity for gore plus an invincible protagonist. 2 keys to effective drama. But why stop there? Why not heat vision? Flight. Time Travel. His daddy can beat up your daddy.
So not only is he crazy strong and nigh-invulnerable, but he can also heal so fast that a Wolverine disembowel barely gives him a hiccup.

Yes, very exciting.

The Incredible Hulk 344-345
I really don’t like the art. It feels very… artificial. My initial impression was that I didn’t like the story, but the truth is it’s a cool action plot and there’s a crafty structure and good attention to character and the Leader’s back and David ratchets up the Bad Genious’s great sense of malicious humor (although it’s counterbalanced: David’s invented villains are terrible. Just wretched, awful.). But everything feels so shallow I can’t get into it, even though I really want to.

The Incredible Hulk 347
Vegas, baby!

The Incredible Hulk 352
Hulk is back in Jarella’s world, fighting an evil cult based around Hulk-worship. But that’s not why I’m commenting. The dialogue is terrible. Terrible. Hulk, “Who are these guys?” Wizard, “I believe you’d call them ‘cannon fodder’.” The head of the cult is referred to as the “grand Inky.”

The Incredible Hulk 360
I think a disproportionate amount of the letters are coming from Canada. I’m almost tempted to go back and check, but that would just be insane. If it’s true, I wonder why. Is it a Hulk thing, is there something about our northern isolation and inferiority complex that makes the Hulk a nationalistically attractive character? Or maybe it’s just so goddamned cold up here 11 months of the year that we have plenty of time to write letters.

The Incredible Hulk 363
As part of the “Acts of Vengeance,” Dr. Doom sends the Grey Gargoyle to kill the Hulk. Ostensibly to, well, kill the Hulk, but Doom notes that he owns some of the Gargoyle’s art and should GG die, that’ll do good things to the collection’s value. It reminds me of the old issue of Hero For Hire where Doom shut down his embassy and skipped New York in order to avoid paying Luke Cage’s $200 invoice. That’s a side of Doom that I think most writers needlessly overlook –the fact that he’s a major league skinflint.
Also he totally kills a gerbil. If I recall correctly, “Acts of Vengeance” had villains mixing and matching so that they didn’t go up against their usual foes. Grey Gargoyle gets assigned the Hulk. The Hobgoblin would fight Captain America or something. And Doom apparently drew the lot with Richard Gere’s name on it. Way to hit him where it hurts, Herr Doktor.

The Incredible Hulk 368
Sam Keith takes over art duties for this one issue, turning a decent fight-story between The Hulk and Mr. Hyde into something memorable & atmospheric. A good fit right off the bat. He has an actual run later, right? I hope so. Dale Keown has been doing the regular duties though, and while it hasn’t inspired me to comment on it, it’s nothing that I want to complain about either.

The Incredible Hulk 371
Betty’s a nun now. Oh, I like where this is going.

The Incredible Hulk 378
Bruce has multiple-personality disorder (or did, before they were integrated). The Rhino is diagnosed as manic-depressive. Peter David has a subscription to Psychology Today. I have a problem where my eyes rolled so far back into my head I can see my sinuses.

The Incredible Hulk 388
The Hulk’s stereotype sidekick Jim Wilson is back. And in an effort to give him depth beyond that of a stereotype… they gave him HiV.

And when I say "they", I mean The Powers That Be of course. And probably Betty.

The Incredible Hulk 390
Yes, this is exactly what I want from my Hulk. A super-intelligent, well-financed superhero with chiselled superman features and lots of guns, and who repeats quips from (insert popular movie of the day). Boy, the 90’s were awesome.
Oh, and let’s not forget the healing factor that makes him pretty much invulnerable to everything. But, as a trade off, we get regular scenes where he’s disembowelled. Only to HEAL!

The Incredible Hulk 396
The footnotes are gone. The Hulk and Doc Ock are talking about the last time they fought, but it wasn’t in the 400 Hulk comics I’ve read, was it? When did it happen? Dammit, the footnotes were useful, I say. Without them, the only options are a) Pretend they never met before or b) Refer to a meeting that I, the clueless reader, have no knowledge of. Both suck.

The Incredible Hulk 400
A milestone issue that doesn’t really do anything. But it’s all very shiny.
Super-Hulk is really boring. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s basically immortal the way he recovers from injuries, he’s got a hot wife and they’re reconciled now, he’s got all the resources he can dream of, he’s got a bland ‘tempermental Silver Age Hero’ personality. Is this why people don’t like Superman? At least Superman is, well Superman and all that entails. This is like Hulk being written as Superman – which is to say, a Hulk-free Hulk-comic. Plus, lots of shallow sci-fi. Lots of action. Lots of “kewl”.
I’m sure if you asked Peter David & Marvel Editorial about this period, they’d say that the goal was to build the Hulk’s happiness up so as to tear it down later, but ultimately that doesn’t really change the fact that I’m reading generic-ass wish-fulfillment action comics, and it is bland and it is dull.

Although I do admit that I kinda like The Pantheon and am interested in their goings-on.

The Incredible Hulk 406
Betty and Rick make out. And that brings Betty’s total to… everybody. Well, almost everybody. But for the sake of the Comics Code, it’s probably a good thing that Thunderbolt Ross died when he did.

An awesomely-written guest appearance by Captain America is the highlight. Cap’s kinda dumb, a quitter, and a douchebag, right? If so, they nailed him here.

The Incredible Hulk 412
The Bi-Beast shows up with something called “The Family Jewels.” Doc Samson gets knocked on his ass and starts talking nonsensically about knishes. There is a lot of “humor” in this issue. Those are the best two jokes. That’s right folks. I read it so you don’t have to.

The Incredible Hulk 419
Betty busts out laughing when Rick Jones thinks she’s in love with him because they kissed once. The poor guy. If she stopped it at the kissing stage, she clearly hates his guts.

The Incredible Hulk 420
The Death of Jim Wilson. Now, here's an interesting question: when the PSA gods need a sacrifice, and they decide to offer up a supporting character who's currently useless anyway because he's kind of a stereotype, are they being less racist or more racist than they would be by keeping him around?

Anyway, my favorite part was when Jim begs Hulk for a blood transfusion that might save his life. "Sure," Hulk says. And gives him a phony one. BWAHAHAHA! "Hey Jim, look at that camera over there...."

No, the Hulk can't give Jim a blood-transfusion to save his life. Because Jim might turn into a gamma-monster and we can't risk having one of those running around. Hey, remember all those times that you were a dumb gamma-monster, Hulk, and Jim Wilson risked his life to help you? But I'm sure if the tables were reversed, he'd recognize that the risk of creating another monster is far too great, and agree that the only responsible choice is to mind-fuck you in your last moments.

Public-Service-Announcement attentions and all good-intentions aside, this issue is seriously wrong-minded.

The Incredible Hulk 425
There’s gonna be a big fight, the end of the Pantheon (big reveal: their leader was an asshole). Hulk sends Betty away. But she comes back to help him fight. Takes one step into the battle. Gets killed.

I find Peter David hit and miss, but I think I take back every criticism I ever made about him not being funny. This was goddamned hilarious.

She comes back to life next issue, by the way.

The Incredible Hulk 427
Ah nothing like a full-page sex joke to break up a story about a child-murderer looming over his next victim. Holy crap is this book ever falling apart.

Find out if it gets better next time!


Patrick Gaffney said...

I think you are getting close to the days of Marvels saying they want a new direction every six months. Which includes the very bad run where half of the hulk goes to Heroes Reborn and they keep hulk going with.... well, I don't want to spoil it for you. This is a run that will test your strength Jon. Good luck......You'll need it.

The General said...

The only Hulk issues I've really read were the McFarlane ones right around the Wolverine issue. When I was young, I remember liking the art, but I somehomw doubt I'd enjoy it today.

Isn't one of the bad guys during those issues a man in a chair made or rock or something. Ooooh, dramatic.

Vocal Minority said...

I want more leader.

Liana said...

So are you happy or disappointed that you found Peter David's Hulk to be, um, not the Greatest Thing Ever?

Jon Quixote said...

I'm disappointed. Greatest thing ever would have been awesome to read. I kinda knew I'd have problems with it, because I own a couple of the Super-Hulk issues and thought even then the Hulk seemed more like Doc Savage or something. It's kind of like reading 5 years of Spider-Man where he has Captain Universe's powers, rather than just an arc.

I liked the Grey Hulk storyline though. But while I don't want to spoil my next blog, I just finished the PAD run the other day and I think when all was said and done, he left the Hulk a much more dour, convoluted and schizophrenic title.

Matt said...

The blood transfusion that happened in the Savage Dragon was better. I don't have that much Hulk, I have picked up the Peter David collections and I have liked most of it.

Yas said...

I loved these when I was younger, and to be honest I think I still would.

So screw you Quixote!

William said...

Peter David is super-not-so-great?
Who'da thunk it?

Chris Ware said...

I wonder if they ever reconciled the fact that he wouldn't give a blood transfusion to Jim Wilson to save is life with the fact that that's EXACTLY what he did for Jennifer Walters.

Anonymous said...

There's an early Peter David issue, I think it's #334, where he beats up a town sheriff for being an abusive husband that, silly as it sounds, I always thought was really good. Because, towards the end, even though this guy is a total asshole, you still feel like having the Hulk wallop on him full force is a *bit* over board, and you feel something weird.