The Incredible Hulk Top Ten Graphic Novels
I discovered the Hulk comic book at the same time I did the television show in the 70's, and to this day when I watch Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno do their thing, I'm 9 years old again! Back in the day, The Incredible Hulk comic was never one of my favorites. I mean, how many times can you make Hulk smashing things up interesting? So I picked up the odd issue, but that was enough. Then, as time went on, I started to appreciate the book. Good writers came along, and played with Stan Lee's basic Jekyll/Hyde idea, explored split personalities, Hulk as victim, Hulk unleashed etc. In my dismissal of the character I lacked what the writers had...imagination. I made up for lost time though, and now have a very respectable Hulk collection, and its very good stuff.
How good?...let me show you.
As with my other 'Top Ten' comic lenses, I have selected my favorite 10 Hulk graphic novels/ collections, all very good stories and well worth picking up. If you are discovering these for the first time, welcome. If you are a fan, let me know what you think of my choices.
So come along puny humans...
10. Hulk:The End
Writer : Peter David Artists: George Perez, Dale Keown
Y'know I could have probably filled up this list with only Peter David written stuff, his work on Hulk IS that good. Seek out what I don't cover, you won't be disappointed.
With this first collection, you get 2 stories, that while different are thematically linked
Hulk:Future Imperfect came first, released in 1992 by David and Perez. It takes place in a dystopian future where nuclear war has devastated everything, and the land is ruled by an evil dictator named Maestro. A group of rebels decide the best way to defeat the superhuman dictator is to bring the Hulk to them , (using Dr Doom's time machine), to help fight him. The plan was thought up by an ancient Rick Jones, the Hulk's old sidekick, still alive and (barely) kicking.
The Hulk takes down some of Maestro's underlings, and Maestro himself comes to fight Hulk...we then learn that Maestro is an older, psychotic version of the Hulk. The two fight, but Maestro breaks Hulks neck. Eventually Maestro is tricked into Rick Jones 'trophy room' ( he keeps the relics of fallen heroes, such as Captain America's shield, Wolverine's skeleton)) where, although Rick dies, Hulk tricks Maestro into Doom's time machine. He is taken back in time to the exact moment when the Gamma Bomb is detonated that creates the Hulk...and atomizes him!
Hulk:The End is a more sombre affair, by David and Keown, lookig at the very real nature of lonliness and Hulk finally getting what he wanted. Mankind has died out, and the Hulk is the last survivor on Earth; The Hulks metabolism keeps him alive, and has allowed Banner to last 200 years, but his time is coming. When Banner dies, the Hulk is truly, for the first time ever, completely alone. Its amazing that David can get you feeling sorry for such a character as the Hulk, but he does.
The art in both tales is top notch, as is the writing. You can buy these in separate volumes, but I'd recommend this edition.
Hulk Says.... - ..buy puny books!
9. Incredible Hulk: Pardoned
Writer: Bill Mantlo, Mark Gruenwald Artist: Sal Buscema
This collects together Part 1 of a massive story line that ran in Incredible Hulk from issues 269 to 300. It is a defining story line in the Hulks history, and firmly puts down any argument that Bill Mantlo (the writer) was just a hack, of which he was often accused. Its classic Marvel at its best.
This volume collects together issues 269-285, and is as fun a read as you will have. The story line essentially has Bruce Banner finally achieve control of his Hulk persona; he can control the transformations, and as Hulk, thinks like Banner. The beginning of the arc is full of optimism and hope as this new Hulk is seen as a force for good; he rebuilds homes he destroyed, uses his brains and strength to aid science, and receives public acceptance at last, being pardoned for all the offences of the savage Hulk. But has the savage Hulk really been completely banished....there are literally hundreds of guest stars and villains in this run, a who's who of Marvel at the time.
Great read, and Sal Buscema / Joe Sinnott provide classic art.
The Rhino throws a kid, Gray Hulk catches him
Kid;Who are you?
The Hulk (looking at Rhino)
'The spirit of fractures yet to come..'.
8. Incredible Hulk: Regression
Writer: Bill Mantlo Artist: Sal Buscema, Herb Trimpe
I had to include Part 2 of the intelligent Hulk saga, as its all one huge story. This volume collects the second, darker part, Incredible Hulk issues 286-295 and 297-300 and Incredible Hulk Annual 12.
Bruce Banner is still in control of the Hulk, but cracks are starting to show. Split from long time girlfriend Betty Ross, he begins a relationship with his new research assistant, secretly a S.H.I.E.L.D agent sent to spy on him.
The Hulk then leaves (not his choice) with most of Marvels heroes to take part in the Beyonder's Secret Wars, When he returns, Banner's tenuous hold on his savage half begins to seriously slip. Its quite tragic as, after all the good work Banner achieved,his savage alter-ego returns, worse than ever. Every major Marvel Universe character combine to take on the savage Hulk, and its brutal. Unable to defeat him, and unwilling to kill him, Hulk is exiled by Dr Strange to another dimension.
Its great, broad strokes storytelling, and is a story arc every Marvel fan should read, not just Hulk fans.
Even Thor cannot stop Hulk....
There is a nice summary here of the conclusion of the intelligent/ savage Hulk saga...
7. Incredible Hulk, Vol. 1 Marvel Masterworks
Writer: Stan Lee Artists: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko
Back to where it all began! This collects together The Incredible Hulk, Vol 1, issues 1-6, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Its fascinating to see the genesis of the character, as it seems Lee started publishing the comic before he had a real handle on the Hulk. His basic premise was Frankenstein combined with Jekyll and Hyde, but as a good guy (with a little bit of science fiction for good measure)
He started out gray, then quickly became green (in the real world, because the colorist was having problems with gray; in the comics, I think it was stated that gamma rays caused the green hue).
He starts out smart, then seems to dumb down as time goes on (still evolving?/devolving?)
He can only change at night, then by use of a gamma ray gun...
Stan threw everything at this one...but it didn't initially work. The Hulk was cancelled with issue 6, but Stan persevered with the character, having him help found the Avengers, and then find a home in Tales to Astonish.
This edition also throws in some bonus extras, original art, cover reproductions etc.
Hulk Says.... - ....Amazon cheapest one there is!
In the beginning...
6. Incredible Hulk Visionaries - John Byrne
Writer/ Artist: John Byrne
This collects together Incredible Hulk issues 314 to 319 & Hulk Annual 14, plus Marvel Fanfare issue 29, and is John Byrne's short, but very significant run. Bill Mantlo had deconstructed the Hulk from savage, to intelligent, to pure beast, and John Byrne was the man asked to build Hulk back up after the 'Crossroads' run.
It's a great run, and Byrne does a great job of setting the Hulk mythos up for the future. He brings back Doc Samson, who takes on the Hulk himself, physically split the Hulk and Banner, has the Avengers West Coast team take on the Bannerless Hulk, forms a new Hulkbusters team, and, most impressively of all, Bruce Banner finally marries Betty Ross...in a wedding that's a tad unconventional!
John Byrne fell out with Marvel during his Hulk run, which is a shame, as the series was revitalized under his short run
Pick this up, its great fun.
5. Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk
Writer: Greg Pak Artist: Various
..or Bruce Banner of Mars if you prefer. Joking aside, this collection is truly a monster. Collecting Incredible Hulk vol. 2 issues 92-105, plus stories from Amazing Fantasy vol. 2 issue 15, Giant-Size Hulk vol. 2 issue1, and the Planet Hulk Gladiator Guidebook.
The collection starts with Hulk, yet again, being tricked and sent into space to be exiled from Earth, as the Marvel Illuminati (Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Namor, Black Bolt, Dr Strange, Professor X) decide he is too dangerous (echoes of my previously recommended Bill Mantlo title). Unfortunately something goes wrong, and rather than arrive on the idyllic planet they had picked out for him, Hulk lands on Sakaar, a primitive, violent planet. He is still weak from his ordeal, captured by the Red King and forced to fight for entertainment.
The story arc sees the initially reluctant, weakened Hulk make friends, then lead them as they believe he is the leader prophesied in their beliefs...kind of Gladiator in space. The fighting is violent, but there are nice themes also running though - friendship, love, forgiveness etc. This story spotlights Hulk not Banner, and shows us, as Stan Lee, always intended, his inherent goodness...as always though, Hulks happiness cannot last, and we see this at the end.
Hulk Says.... - ....smash prices!
4. The Incredible Hulk vs. The Marvel Universe
Writer: Various Artists: Various
Hulk Smash! Hulk is strongest one there is! The angrier Hulk gets, the stronger he gets! All these finely nuanced character studies are fine, but sometimes, with someone like the Hulk, you just want a good old fashioned slug-fest..andf this collection delivers.
Collecting Fantastic Four issues 25-26, Journey Into Mystery issue 112, Tales To Astonish issue 92-93, Daredevil issue 163, Incredible Hulk issues 300 and 340, Peter Parker: Spider-Man issue 14; and Hulk VS. Fin Fang Foom issue 1, we see Hulk take on The Thing, Silver Surfer, Thor,Daredevil, Wolverine, Spider-Man, and. oh, the entire Marvel Universe!
A nice mix, covering several eras of the character. Its classic Marvel.
It ain't easy being green....
Who is your favorite on-screen Banner/Hulk?
3. Incredible Hulk Visionaries - Peter David, Vol. 1
Writer: Peter David Artists: Todd McFarlane
Peter David is probably the definitive Hulk writer. As much as I love Bill Mantlo and Greg Pak, David spent 12 YEARS writing Hulk, and the quality never dipped. This is where it all began, Incredible Hulk issues 331-339. David starts as he means to go on, which is to look at the psyche of the Hulk. He sees the different Hulks as manifestations of Banners broken psyche - we've seen savage Hulk, we've seen Banner-Hulk, now we have cunning Gray Hulk, a throwback to his very first appearance.Not as strong as savage Hulk, but sneaky and strong. David restores The Leader as Hulk's prime foe, and we get an X-Factor cameo as well.Its a promising new direction..and one that would last well over 100 issues.
I recommend ALL the Peter David Visionaries volumes.
Hulk Says... - ...buy before Banner does!
Dr Strange: "You will stay there until you calm down."
Hulk: "Ok, magic man. Hulk calm, Hulk be good."
The magic restraining Hulk disappears..
Hulk: "Stupid magician, Hulk SMASH!"
2. Essential Rampaging Hulk, Vol. 1 and 2 (Marvel Essentials)
Writer: Doug Moench Artist: Various
Thought I would throw in something slightly different for this choice, a Hulk run that's not well known, and divides fan opinion. The Rampaging Hulk was a black and white magazine published 1977/1978. With issue 10, it changed its format to color, shortened the title to The Hulk!, and lasted 17 issues before being cancelled in 1981. It was an early attempt by Marvel to mix a traditional superhero character with the black and white magazine format; the magazine became Marvel's attempt to cash in on the huge popularity of The Incredible Hulk TV series, starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno.
Volume 1 collects Rampaging Hulk issues 1-9, The Hulk! issues 10-15 and Incredible Hulk #269 (which, controversially, essentially turns all these stories into fictional tales in the mainstream Marvel universe), volume 2 collects Hulk! (magazine) issues 16-27
The stories are different to the main Hulk comic book. More low key, more human, Banner/ Hulk deal with lower level villains, more down to earth foes. It almost has an indie sensibility to it. Anyhoo I like the run, and hope you will too.
1. World War Hulk [Hardcover]
Writer: Greg Pak Artist: John Romita Jr
I just love the epic-ness of this. The Hulk is a big character and needs big stories, and this delivers in spades. Over 300 pages, this collects World War Hulk issues 1-5, and is the comic book equivalent of a widescreen movie - big, bold, brash.
After the tragic ending of Planet Hulk, Hulk has returned to Earth swearing to make those pay who exiled him...and this time, he's brought friends. Hulk takes on all the heavy hitters, and we get to see John Romita Jr go wild with the art, big panels, close-ups, full of energy and violence. Hulk pretty much cuts a swathe through them all (lets just say Iron Man's hulkbuster armor needs a little more work). Its Hulk unleashed, and its not pretty...
Greg Pak clearly decided with this he wanted an all out slugfest, so plot is kept to a minimum (Hulk angry, Hulk smash) but that's ok...and it was kind of fun seeing Iron Man and Reed Richards pounded on (I do like 'em, honest!)
The resolution was a little pat, if I'm honest, but not enough to take away from a fun ride.
Hulk says... - ...war on prices!
Hulk vs Avengers
Not sure about my choices? click on my Amazon links, and see what other reviewers say! Have fun!
Hulk Says... - ...Me Look Good!
'When Hulk get hurt, Hulk get mad!...and when Hulk get mad, Hulk like to THROW THINGS!!'
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