6.01.2008

Mighty Marvel Marathon: The Incredible Hulk Part 7

by Jon Quixote
It’s the 7th (and penultimate) chapter of the marathon. We’re going to cover 7 years of Hulk comics. We’re covering 63 Hulk comics – a number divisible by 7. What could be luckier?

I’ve done everything I could think of to break this slump of decidedly un-awesome Hulks. I’ve stopped shaving and started praying. I’ve thrown salt over my shoulder. I went out and had sex with the dumpiest, ugliest person I could find (okay it was me, and it was still pretty good).

Marvel Comics and writers of The Incredible Hulk, I demand… retroactively… that you stop messing up this book and start giving me some awesome. Mekka-lekka hi mekka-lekka hiney ho.

The Incredible Hulk 431
I’m enjoying Liam Sharp’s pencils, as well as the coloring and inking on this book. The art team, together with Peter David are still working with an intelligent Hulk, but the stories have more of a horror vibe, and the pages have a lot of black on them. A fight with the new Glob in the Everglades. A fight with the Abomination in the New York sewers. It’s not really great, but it’s a refreshing change from the glossy, sterile sci-fi superheroics that have dominated the title for a while.

The Incredible Hulk 432
Aaand, Sharp’s last issue. I’m starting to feel like the Hulk here. Everytime I start to like someone, they go away.

Hmm…

Gosh, Peter David sure is writing some awesome Hulk comics right about now!

The Incredible Hulk 435
Hulk plays baseball! But c'mon, a freaky misshapen ball of muscle suddenly shows up at the ballpark and starts hitting homers at a record pace? What kind of scuzzy idiot league would let that sort of thing just slip by?

The Incredible Hulk 436
Betty flashes the army in an effort to distract them with a massive case of déjà vu.

The Incredible Hulk 437
Ok, so over the last few issues, there’s been a new supporting character. He’s Largo. He’s a cop in the town the Banners have settled in. He’s big, middle-aged, African American, shrouded in mystery and somewhat superpowered. He’s also very interesting.

So his mystery is revealed. He was (gamma something) by the Leader with the end result of being decapitated with his head grafted onto an android body. There are others like him and he’s their leader. They call themselves the “Headshop.” There’s Dead Head, Headgear, Headmistress… well, you get the idea. And yeah, really stupid. The book seems to know it’s stupid, Betty thinks it’s stupid (although she joins them as Headgiver). So why is it in here? It’s clearly a dumb idea, the creative team knows it’s a dumb idea, it’s a dumb revelation for an otherwise cool character’s mystery, and nobody in their right mind could think it’s funny enough to justify all the dumbness. It just totally ruins what’s otherwise been a pretty good arc.

The Incredible Hulk 440
A glimpse of what’s going on with the Avengers over in their title in 1996.
Oh boy, is that ever gonna be a fun read once I get to the Avengers disc.

The Incredible Hulk 444
Incomprehensible.

The Incredible Hulk 448
So the Hulk is different now, because of Onslaught (if I recall correctly, his Banner persona went to the Heroes Reborn world). So he’s savage, but more intelligent than usual, doesn’t remember anything about his previous life, and is now hanging with Rick Jones’s granddaughter who’s back from the future and has a laser staff.

Yes. Officially, we’re in Cousin Oliver territory. Next up: Hulk adopts a spunky black youth. One that doesn’t die of AIDS.

The Incredible Hulk 449
Hey Marvel: I’d totally buy a Complete Thunderbolts DVD. Just, y’know, in case you were wondering. And if it’s not enough for one DVD, and you wanted to merge it with, say, Complete Power Man and Iron Fist, I’d totally… do things for you.
“Cousin Oliver” stuff aside, this is a good, simple issue.

The Incredible Hulk 450
I own this comic. I don’t keep a lot of singles, but I know exactly where it is in one of my few longboxes. It’s in my parents’ house – I probably re-read it within the last 5, 6 years when I was stuck there, bored. And I was really into the whole “Heroes Reborn” thing. I didn’t like it, but I was about 20 when it happened and it got be back into comics.
I can’t remember a damned thing that happens in this issue. It’s seriously like first time. I can remember the issue with Abomination being tortured by Modok and crying, probably 25 years since I read it last. This one, I’m like “wait, the Hulk was fighting some crazy dude in LA?”
Anyway, that’s pretty much my “endorsement” of this one.

The Incredible Hulk -001
The Flashback event, where every Marvel comic did an issue that took place before the events of Fantastic Four #1.

Here, we find out that Bruce Banner killed his murderous father. It’s not a great idea, but it’s an interesting read and a refreshing change of pace. It also remains a cool idea for an ‘event’.

The Incredible Hulk 457
Hulk is transformed into War, Horseman of Apocalypse. I’d probably think it was cool, if he wasn’t dressed like a fat guy I once saw on a bondage-themed episode ofKink.

The Incredible Hulk 466
Betty dies. Pretty much out of the blue. Yawn.
Still, for the record, without even touching the villains:
Bruce has died many times, come back (obviously).
Talbot died. Came back.
Ross died. Came back.
Marlo died. Came back.
And now Betty died. I’m pretty sure she comes back eventually.
But I guess it should settle the “Is the Hulk a superhero?” question. Now that his love interest has died a brutal homicidal death, he’s definitely in the club.

The Incredible Hulk 468
It’s the end of the Peter David era.
Quick thoughts: I can see why many fans at the time really ate it up, but I don’t really mean that in a good way. Grey Hulk was very much a Hulk meets Wolverine version of the Hulk. He was gruff. He was violent. He was womanizing. SuperHulk read a lot like an Image character: It was basically Savage Dragon. It was rarely terrible, and sometimes it was more than a little engaging, but it was forgettable and it never really felt like I was reading something Classic Hulk. In fact, it rarely felt like I was reading Hulk at all.
So other than the scripting being a little more sophisticated, I didn’t much care for it. I think David leaves The Incredible Hulk a more convoluted and frustrating title than the one he took over.

The Incredible Hulk 001, Volume 2
Byrne teams up with Ron Garney on this relaunch. Why a relaunch? Stop asking questions, smart guy and buy the new #1.
Byrne maybe has some unfinished business on this title. I didn’t much care for his abbreviated run earlier, but he’s off to a decent start here with Bruce wondering if the Hulk is terrorizing the small town he’s hiding in. I'm also happy that we're getting something resembling classic Hulk.

The Incredible Hulk 006
Betty is back to life. But she refuses to sleep with Bruce. There can only be one explanation: She’s actually a plant molded into human form by an evil genius who uses psychic energy to make her believe she is Betty Banner.
John Byrne! You and your clichés.

The Incredible Hulk 007
Oh, the whole “Bruce Banner accidentally stumbles across a colony of plants turned into dead people, one of which is his deceased wife” thing? Makes the most sense of just about the entire Byrne run so far. I think there might be some communication problems with the artist.

The Incredible Hulk 009
Mr. Ordway. Mr. Garney. In issue number 009 of The Incredible Hulk Volume 2, you show the Green Hulk drinking moonshine. But it was previously established that the Green Hulk hates drinking alcohol. How would you explain this inconsistency?

The Incredible Hulk 012
Paul Jenkins takes over. And he gets right into the whole “Multiple Personalities” thing again. For the record, we now have:
Bruce Banner
Savage Hulk
Grey Hulk
Super Hulk
Banner Hulk
And now… Devil Hulk.
And of course, in accordance with Hulk Writers By-Law #45-6, we are introduced to this new personality in an issue where there is a physical fight between the elements inside Banner’s mind.

The Incredible Hulk 014
Hulk Dogs!! But it’s just not the same without a vicious Hulk Poodle.

The Incredible Hulk 019
Whoops. Did I say there were 6 different Hulks inside Banner’s Brain thanks to Jenkins? Actually, there are HUNDREDS. Man, I really hope that he’s making fun of the whole idea. ‘Cause otherwise I’m going to have to.

The Incredible Hulk 022
So the Hulk is being shared now, by all the different elements of the personality. In a way, it’s a good idea. It gives all the fans their favorites – there can be a Grey Hulk story, a SuperHulk story, a Banner story, whatever the writer wants, to make everybody happy.
But in another, more accurate way, it’s pretty dumb. Because multiple personality Hulk is, and always will be, a silly, convoluted idea.

Eric Powell of The Goon fame is doing the inking and Jenkins is writing a Goon type story. The Grey Hulk deals with some gangsters who work for a dead mobster. I enjoy it in an exhausted, indifferent way, knowing another issue where the multiple-personalities are the subject, or so big and stupid a part of the story that they might as well be, is probably just around the corner. Soak up the kinda-lighthearted, throwaway stories while you can, Jonny.

The Incredible Hulk 025
Jenkins wrote it. JRjr drew it. It’s a big grudge match between Savage Hulk and Abomination. It’s cool. And it’s so, so overdue.
I hope it sticks around for a while. Doing some mental math, going back to when John Byrne took over back in late 85 and did a “Banner & Hulk” split storyline, we’re now over 15 years of Hulk storylines where Savage Hulk, the classic version of Hulk – Bruce Banner, cursed to transform into a childlike misunderstood monster, and to wander the Earth, hunted – the version that appears in the movies and the television show and the zeitgeist, has been anything but a sporadic treat for Hulk readers.

5 comments:

Vocal Minority said...

Wow.

I really didn't realise just how long it was in-between when the Hulk is the Hulk we recognise. Like, the Banner-get-angry-become-Hulk type.

Interesting sidenote: you're almost at Bruce Jones!

Brandon said...

Outside of the Bruce Jones run and the Ultimate titles, Hulk comics just don't interest me. Lots of Hulk Smash, little of Brandon Happy.

Dan said...

"The book seems to know it’s stupid"

And right there describes why I'm not into Peter David books. I feel like all his books since the late 90s are done with a "look how punny and self aware" motivation. Frustrating.

Starting with the Onslaught stuff and sporadically going through the death of Betty are the only pre-Jones Hulk issues I've ever read. I understood the Onslaught stuff at the time because I was digging the bigger story, but everything after that was a bit mind-boggling.

And, if I remember correctly, wasn't one of Peter David's last issues done as if Banner was telling David the story? I wish the comment box had an eyerolling smilie.

Jon Quixote said...

I don't remember a Banner telling the story issue. David's last issue is a "10 years in the future" story, with Rick Jones narrating what's happened since then. It was actually a nice send-off, with a bit of a "What If..?" feel (in a good way).

Dan said...

That's the one! Rick Jones, not Banner. But yeah, he was telling it to Peter David.