Warning: I’m going to talk about the Incredible Hulk again, so get comfy.
In the month of June possibly to celebrate the release of the new Incredible Hulk film, possibly to fill the late gap of Loeb’s Hulk, we got a bunch of big heafty issues with some backup stories and reprints. Mind you, Iron Man got two new books that turned out to be pretty good jumping on points for those intreigued by the movie or so it worked over at our store. Two titles, an ongoing to ease readers into the current comic events and a glossy prestigue mini-series and all the Hulk got was a rock. It’s like the Marvel offices had the same prejudices of the movie going public had; “Well, the last movie was lame so let’s just hope people don’t hate the new one and hope for the best’. And before you say it, I know: Skaar, Son of Hulk new on the stands as well and they did get a comic with familiar Green Hulk in it under the wire for June, but neither of these are great intro comics for those who thought Edward Norton was keen. In fact, I’d probably cozy up to the book a bit more if it was just called ‘Skaar, Conan in Space’ or ‘Grek Pak’s Interglatactic Tales of Skaar’ because the honest truth is if the Hulk ain’t in the book, it is not a Hulk book. ‘Red’ Hulk doesn’t count because I have NO IDEA what’s going on with that story outside sort of an ‘All Star Batman’ feel of taking on the tropes of Hulkness: smashing and gamma monsters. Ehn.
Mind you, Marvel did the same thing with Ang Lee’s movie as their 25-cent issue released at the time of the movie didn’t really have the Hulk in it either, but that’s another story.
Right, so the ’specials’: King Size Hulk and Hulk: Raging Thunder. You can technically count Giant-Sized Incredible Hulk, with the Gary Frank cover, but that’s semantics. This is what Marvel brought to the table and, having read each of them, I can’t say I’m impressed. But yet, I can’t <i>not</i> like them (well, except for the Giant Size, because it was a snooze fest) and let me tell you why.
Both the King Size Hulk and Hulk: Raging Thunder have really light new content. The stories are short and sweet (in Raging Thunder’s case maybe a little too short?) and both of them seem really out of place. Did we really need to know what the Wendigo have been up to? How much ass does Frank Cho need to draw on a regular basis? (Answer: a LOT. The man cashes a lot of checks on his finesse with female curves!) These stories from King-Size Hulk, while interesting, are interludes to a larger story at work that was delayed for one reason or another. If these were written to fill in the ‘gaps’ of the main book… again, Wendigo? How much time as the red Hulk had between the end of World War Hulk and now to go pick a fight with a pack of cannibal beasts? Why is She-Hulk still over here instead of getting disbarred and turning disillusioned bounty hunter in her own book? Mind you, if the stories were set to entice people into the main story of ‘Red’ Hulk, then it’s actually pretty good. The Wendigo story felt dangerous enough and hinted a bit at some of the storyline going on right now and the Red Hulk vs. She-Hulk fight was full of pulp and action; the two combined are pretty much what’s going on in the main title.
So we get the two short tales and then… THREE REPRINTS. First off, King Size Hulk came with the first appearance of Wolverine which is actually kind of cool. If you don’t have it, never read it, it’s a neat thing to get for your enjoyment, a little history for your money, plus it had the Hulk in it, which sort of qualifies it for a piggyback in the special. Sure, you could put a reprint of Hulk #181 in a Wolverine special (of which he has a truckload this summer), but this is a way to give a little showtime to the Hulk while getting in that ‘Wolverine Bump’, kind of ‘cool by association’. Believe it or not, there are some people on this Earth that didn’t know that Wolverine first appeared in a non-mutant title and fought the Hulk right out of the bat, so history lessons for everyone.
And then… there was the other reprint: Avengers #83. Is the Hulk in this book? NO. Is She-Hulk maybe in this book? NO. Does this book have anything to do with anything Hulk related or what’s going on in any current comic continuity? NO. So why is it in this King Size Hulk? Because Carla loves the Lady Liberators. Really, that’s all I could think of because I really really love this issue. I should be mad at such a waste of a reprint in a Hulk special but it’s like finding a really cute kitten in a three car pile up. Sure, there’s damage and wreckage and someone should get the licence of the driver that caused it all but ohhhhh, lookit de kitty! Seriously guys, I feel like apologising for having this third nipple of a reprint thrown into King-Size Hulk because even though I have the actual issue, I have the Avengers DVD-ROM with this issue, I have the Essential Avengers volume with this issue, I was so happy to have yet ANOTHER COPY to show to customers and friends alike. Oh Valykrie and the Enchantress!
The second special actually has similar problem to a lesser extent. It’s a rather left-field little tale about Thundra, warrior woman of a female-dominated planet, coming to Earth to fight the Hulk and get some DNA from him so that they could have a baby that would be strong enough to lead when Thundra has to step down from being the Warrior Princess. Or something. Yeah, and there’s a lot of fighting and metaphorical juxtapositon between Thundra and the Hulk and yes, there’s a Femizon/Gamma hybrid girl being all awesome and cool at the end of it all, but… really? Who’s been crying out for a Thundra vs. Hulk face off? I mean, did Marvel finally get all my letters?!
Again, this is another issue I should be really mad at. A weak story that will be forgotten to the annuls of time with the creation of a useless character that some poor fool will dredge back up when his own plots are failing in order to gain a cookie from the Fanboy Faction for his citation of this lost issue and, yes, a reprint of Thundra’s first appearance in the Fantastic Four, the Hulkless Fantastic Four #129. Really, this should have been called Thundra: Gamma Rage or something because it’s not a Hulk story. The Hulk is a means to an end for the Femizons who lead the story with their goal of getting preggers (by the way, it’s through a kiss so everyone look disappointed). The reprint has nothing to do with the Hulk and once again, he gets the shaft in his own $3.99 special released when his movie hits theaters.
Setting aside my love of Thundra (and her mistaken counterpart from those Deadpool issues, Titania), what’s the real story of Jeph Loeb’s Hulk? It’s about the Red Hulk which we all know isn’t Banner now. Skaar, Son of Hulk showed the Green Goliath in the recap but that’s it. For a movie that did so much to make you like Bruce Banner thanks to the fantastic performance of Edward Norton and that really hit the core of the old and VERY POPULAR TV show, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like it in comic book form outside of back issues and reprint trades. It’s a lament I’ve had for a long time but hey. At least I have reprints.