Tag Archives: Hulk

Today’s Super Comic — The Incredible Hulk #271 (1982)

My year of daily positive comic book reviews is almost up! The final ten reviews begin here! (Not top ten; the randomness continues.)

In the comics, the original Guardians of the Galaxy had an entirely different lineup from the movie cast, and the film’s characters all had separate comic book introductions. Rocket Racoon debuted in The Incredible Hulk, in an issue that’s so delightfully ridiculous.

Hulk finds himself transported to an alien world, where he’s greeted by a talking racoon and walrus. The racoon totes a laser gun, and the caption introduces him as “Rocket Racoon, guardian of the Keystone Quadrant” (still working his way up to guarding a whole galaxy).

And if his name reminds you of a certain Beatles song, that’s apparently by design. The issue title, after all, is “Now Somewhere in the Black Holes of Sirius Major There Lived a Young Boy Name of…Rocket Raccoon!” Plus, the plot entails a Gideon’s Bible, and Rocket has to save his girlfriend Lylla.

In addition to the Beatles references, we’ve got killer clowns, deadly rabbits, and Keystone Quadrant Kops. The main villain is a mole.

The issue shows how comics work wonderfully as a vehicle for unbridled imagination. Sure, this isn’t sophisticated literature, but consider it from the perspective of a kid reading it in 1982. It’s creative fuel for a young reader. In retrospect, the issue reminds us that not all comics need to grow up. Providing goofy fun for kids is always a worthy cause.

By the way, contrary to his cinematic counterpart, here Rocket self-identifies as a racoon.

Writer: Bill Mantlo

Penciler: Sal Buscema

Inker: Jim Novak

Cover: Al Milgrom

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 8 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Incredible Hulk #140 (1971)

A recurring theme in the early Hulk comics was home. The Hulk (and Bruce Banner, too, of course) was constantly in search of a place to belong, but he kept finding he didn’t belong wherever he happened to be. He’d almost find happiness on occasion, as either Hulk or Banner, and then it would be snatched away somehow or another. So he kept moving on in a never-ending odyssey—the hero’s journey home, even though he hadn’t exactly figured out what “home” was.

Perhaps the best iteration of this early format was in Incredible Hulk #140, in a story conceived by the great Harlan Ellison and scripted by one of the era’s the prolific Marvel writers, Roy Thomas.

The Hulk is stranded in a subatomic world, where he inadvertently saves a kingdom of green-skinned people, immediately earning their adoration. Bruce Banner’s brain takes over Hulk’s body, and he becomes engaged to the queen of this world. He’s respected and admired, and he has much to offer. He’s not a monster here.

So you know it’s all going to get ripped away from him.

The ending has a perfectly tragic touch. As the Hulk reverts to his usual brainless self, he’s vaguely aware of the happiness he had, and he bounds off in search of that place—unaware that it’s within a mote of dust clinging to his clothes.

Story: Harlan Ellison

Scripter: Roy Thomas

Penciler: Herb Trimpe

Inker: Sam Grainger

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Hulk: Heart of the Atom (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comics — The Ultimates #1-13 (2002-03)

ultimates_vol_1_1The original Ultimates series basically asked, “What would the Avengers be like in the real world?”

They’d be really messed up people, apparently, and hardly straightforward heroes.

Written by Mark Millar, it’s a more cynical take on the team than I’d normally like, but as a change of pace, it’s excellent and full of interesting ideas. The reinterpretation of Thor is particularly amusing—it’s ambiguous whether he’s actually the son of Odin or just a delusional hippie who happens to have powers. Also, when the team battles the Hulk in New York City, collateral damage is shown to be a real concern; super-action has consequences. And at one point, Nick Fury suggests Samuel L. Jackson should play him in a movie, several years before Jackson cameoed in the first Iron Man.

Artist Bryan Hitch creates exactly the right visual tone for this down-to-earth series. The art is detailed, and people look like people rather than cartoons.

The series is easily the second-best usage of Marvel’s Ultimate Comics imprint (after Ultimate Spider-Man, of course). Let’s just be thankful these aren’t the Avengers of the proper Marvel Universe or even the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Writer: Mark Millar

Penciler: Bryan Hitch

Inker: Paul Neary

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; The Ultimates: Ultimate Collection (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 15 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Incredible Hulk #371 (1990)

incredible_hulk_vol_1_371It’s a Defenders reunion special in the pages of The Incredible Hulk. Doctor Strange and Namor the Sub-Mariner work together to defeat a possessed Hulk, and Bruce Banner assists from the inside.

The action combines magic, psychology, and good old-fashioned fisticuffs, and the book never forgets its sense of humor (writer Peter David gets bonus points for working in both a Doctor Who and a Star Trek reference early in the issue). And it advances the Hulk’s ongoing storylines, leading to an unexpected cliffhanger that sets up a rather unconventional romantic obstacle for a comic book character.

A fun time all around.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Dale Keown

Inker: Bob McLeod

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in The Incredible Hulk Visionaries – Peter David, vol. 5 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Incredible Hulk #348 (1988)

Incredible_Hulk_Vol_1_348The Hulk was gray for a while in the late ‘80s, but the change wasn’t purely cosmetic. His transformations were no longer triggered by anger, but by daylight and nightfall. Hulk and Banner were still two distinct, opposing personalities, but the Hulk stopped being a mindless monster. Though still far from a scientist, the Hulk now possessed rational thought and craftiness, and he could hold down a job as a Las Vegas enforcer known as “Mr. Fixit.”

But among all those changes, the core essence of the character remained. The Hulk wants two things above all else—to keep being the Hulk, and to be left alone. And now he has the means to build a life for himself without having to be on the run all the time, and he can devise ways to keep Banner under control because he knows when the transformations are coming. It feels like progress (for the Hulk if not for Banner), but nothing can be too easy, of course.

In #348, an old enemy, the Absorbing Man, comes to town, hired to put down this new Mr. Fixit guy. And of course he strikes in daytime. So the Hulk has to fight off this reminder of his old life while the sun continuously threatens to bring Banner back. He has to bury himself under layers of clothing or keep to the shade, all while trying to defeat this intrusion into his new life. Like any good comic book fight, this one has stakes beyond just winning the battle.

Peter David had a lengthy run writing the Hulk, and he kept things remarkably fresh and creative throughout, all while staying true to the concept.

Writer: Peter David

Penciler: Jeff Purves

Inker: Mike & Val Gustovich

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in The Incredible Hulk Visionaries –Peter David vol. 2 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Defenders #1-5 (2005)

Defenders indefensibleOkay, one more funny book…

The same creative team that brought humor to the Justice League (see yesterday’s review) performed an encore of sorts with Marvel’s Defenders.

The Defenders debuted back in the 1970s, teaming up powerful loners Doctor Strange, Namor the Sub-Mariner, the Hulk, and later the Silver Surfer. It ran for a respectable length but didn’t last. Might have fared better if anyone had realized the group’s tremendous comedic potential.

Doctor Strange is absurdly melodramatic. Namor is impossibly arrogant. The Silver Surfer is ridiculously philosophical. And the Hulk is the Hulk. Why did this take decades to figure out?

Anyway, Giffen, DeMatteis, and Maguire have loads of fun letting these characters be the most cartoonish versions of themselves and letting them bicker accordingly, but they don’t neglect the important rule they followed during their Justice League International tenure—we can have our fun, but the threats still need to be serious. In this case, the dreaded Dormammu and his sister, Umar, attain god-like power and rewrite reality. So just a little something for the fellas to sort out.

Well, not the Silver Surfer. He declines Doctor Strange’s invitation so that he may commune with others who “ride the board.”

The Silver Surfer hangs out with surfer dudes. Defenders nailed it.

Writers: Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis

Penciler: Kevin Maguire

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; collected in Defenders: Indefensible (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Fantastic Four #25 (1964)

Fantastic Four 25A classic slugfest, and the greatest Thing vs. Hulk battle ever put to four colors as the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby collaboration really begins to hit its stride.

The Hulk is rampaging. The Human Torch and the Invisible Girl don’t have the raw strength to hold their own against him. Mr. Fantastic is out of commission with a mysterious flu. The Avengers haven’t arrived on the scene yet. That leaves the Thing as the only person in the city with any prayer of taking down the Hulk. As strong as the Thing is, though, he’s seriously out of his weight class here.

But that doesn’t stop him from giving the Hulk everything he’s got.

It’s the superhero as the underdog, a tale of perseverance (something I’m always a sucker for). Back when superheroes seldom lost, this issue showed how there are multiple ways for the good guy to “win.”

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Jack Kirby

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Essential Fantastic Four vol. 2 (TPB)

Appropriate For: 8 and up