By which I mean the current Hulk #1, not the previous three or four Hulk #1s.

§ November 26th, 2021 § Filed under hulk, this week's comics § 1 Comment

[spoilers for Hulk #1]


So my first Hulk comic was Incredible Hulk #293, cover-dated March 1984 but released in late 1983. I’d been mostly a DC Comics kid, but I’d been sampling various Marvels here and there for a while, enjoying just how different they felt from their crosstown rivals.

I was of course familiar with the Hulk…I’d seen the TV show, I read the Origins of Marvel Comics paperback featuring his origin, and I’m pretty sure I’d encountered funnybooks of his before. I certainly read the 1981 Batman/Hulk crossover. I just wasn’t picking up his own monthly title on a regular basis.

Well, for whatever reason I picked up that #293 off the stands, probably because of that image of him whaling on the Fantastic Four and wondering what was going on (SPOILER: dream sequence). I was also in for another surprise, in that the Hulk with which I was the most familiar, the one that in fact is the dominant version of Hulk just about the entire world knows, is the “Hulk Smash!”/”Madder Hulk Gets, Stronger Hulk Gets” character. Not very bright, speaks like a child (or not at all, as per the TV show), alter ego Bruce Banner wandering from town to town in his purple pants…that’s Hulk.

I started reading Incredible Hulk with that #293, and once a month (or two or three times a month, given Marvel’s bonkers release schedules of late) I’ve been getting a Hulk comic ever since. And for the majority of that time, that prevailing popular perception of the Hulk had not been the basis for the stories.

In that first issue I’d read, Bruce Banner had been in control of the Hulk’s body for quite some time. However, gears were beginning to slip a bit as we pushed forward to #300, with Banner losing more and more control until finally, we ended up with a Hulk that was entirely savage with no trace of Bruce Banner at all. Plus, there began to be a heavier focus on the psychology of Banner/Hulk, introduced by Bill Mantlo and picked up by Peter David during his long run.

Over the ensuing decades, we saw lots of permutations of the Hulk, with Ol’ Jadejaws “Smash Puny Humans” edition only appearing incidentally. And the focus was heavily on the psychology of the Hulk and Banner and how they related to each other. And after this latest iteration, Immortal Hulk, which dove deep, deep, deep into the workings of the Hulk — or rather, multiple Hulks — it was hard to see where else they could go with the concept. Especially since the series was so highly regarded, and for good reason (though ultimately going down in history with an asterisk next to its name due to some issues with the primary artist).

For one thing, I’m kinda surprised/kinda not surprised that Marvel immediately jumped back on the Hulk train so soon after wrapping up such a high profile series. Surprised in that the quality of the series casts a long shadow that any new series is going to have to try to escape in order to get its own thing going. Not surprised because it’s Marvel, restarting series with new #1s over and over again is kinda their brand.

But here it is, a new Hulk #1 for me to read after almost 40 years of reading the darn things. And yes, they seem to have found yet another permutation of the Hulk/Banner relationship…one that seems to present a more antagonistic Banner, literally pictured as piloting the Hulk’s physical body from whatever mental seating he has within. The Hulk has been outfitted with rocket-ship-y doodads and thingamajigs, apparently for Banner/Hulk to depart the Earth, fueled by the caged-in-mental-realm Interior Hulk’s rage.

I gotta say, didn’t see that coming. While I do appreciate that it retains the bones of the classic “madder Hulk gets etc.” idea, I especially like the idea of Banner being more explicitly a menace, as opposed to the “puny” “milksop” victim he’s usually portrayed as. The thesis statement of the book appears to be “the Hulk is there to protect us from Banner,” so I expect to see variations on that theme over the course of series. It reminds me a little of that bit at the end of Peter David’s (first) run, where a darker, yet more put together Banner surprised Rick Jones in his room at night, and as he leaves, he turns and Rick sees a glint of gamma green in Banner’s eye. Just the slightest hint of danger that’s now fully in Banner’s grasp.

So, yes, this comic’s got my attention. I don’t know about “Hulk as spaceship,” but I do like a more motivated-by-self-interest Banner portrayed as being possibly more of a problem than the Hulk himself. It’s still going to be compared, favorably or disfavorably, to the Immortal Hulk that wrapped up just before it, but hopefully it’ll be good enough for fans to approach as Its Own Thing.

Anyway, look, after all this time…it’s not like I wasn’t going to read it, right?

One Response to “By which I mean the current Hulk #1, not the previous three or four Hulk #1s.”

  • John Lancaster says:

    My first issue was #183 – and who doesn’t love ZZZAX – I’ve purchased every monthly issue since then. Every annual, offshoot, mini series, etc., ad nauseam. Even filled in all of the back issues of Tales to Astonish, and the six Kirby issues. This is where I stopped. Nothing against these creators or the story they’re telling. I had made the decision long before they were announced. I’m at that stage where I’m trying to get less stuff (and for me, that’s getting down to one storage unit instead of two) and I decided I had enough Hulk and thought I’d go out on a high note. It feels weird not reading a new Hulk after almost 50 years, but I’ll get over it. I can use that extra time and money to finally finish Baron Weirwulf’s Haunted Library.

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