It’s time to take a look at a collection which brings some of the Hulk’s first comics! I’m about 99% sure that I’ve already read this one, but apparently I never uploaded it to the site. Ah well, the re read gave me a chance to review it. The Hulk comics are typically fun and this one was enjoyable, but like always, you end up feeling really bad for the Hulk by the end. He didn’t ask for this!
Unlike the average collection, this one brings 20 issues. The reason why so many are able to fit in here is because Hulk has to share with Giant Man and later on with Namor. So, each issue is only 10 pages instead of the usual 20, which ends up working out quite well. That means that each issue must end quickly so some arcs go on for quite a while like the Leader story. That villain just didn’t want to go down!
Luckily, the issues never actually feel rushed except for the Hercules story. He meets up with the Hulk in the final issue and the fight is essentially over as soon as it has begun. It’s safe to say that the Hulk had the upper hand despite the boasts of Hercules. I’m not surprised since I always considered the Hulk to be much stronger than the Olympian. Hercules is no Thor and I don’t see him ever being such a powerful contender in Marvel.
The first issue was the big fight with Giant Man so the collection started and ended on a high note. It was fun to see Giant Man take a shot at the Hulk since the fight wouldn’t be so even nowadays. The Hulk has utterly surpassed Giant Man and while I would still say that he was the stronger fighter back in the day, it was closer. Giant Man used to be the power hitter for the Avengers, now he’s just the tech guy.
Most of the issues dealt with the Leader as he worked on capturing the Hulk and eventually succeeded. He then forced the Hulk to go to the Moon and steal something from Uatu. That was easily the best part of the arc as the Hulk took down the “strongest fighter in the galaxy.” That guy was bred for combat and the Hulk still schooled him. The Hulk definitely overpowers most of his foes with ease and that’s how it should be.
There was also a mini arc where the government blasted the Hulk with a time ray and Rick Jones ended up spilling the beans about Bruce Banner being the Hulk. I was a little surprised that there was no retcon or plot twist to force the heroes to forget about this. I’m pretty sure that Talbot gets amnesia in a few issues, but Betty will still know Banner’s ultimate secret. His secret identity certainly didn’t last very long now did it?
The art switches about halfway through the volume as the main team comes back to help out. It’s an interesting twist and there’s more of an emphasis on facial expressions. Betty Ross’ hair also turns gray for some reason. It took a little getting used too, but the second half still holds up quite well. I love the old style of art as the artists really had to work on every panel. It’s certainly not as well refined as the modern day stuff and you can probably see some inconsistencies and characters going off model if you’re paying a lot of attention, but it’s still very solid overall. It may not be quite as good as the rest of Marvel’s titles at the time, but it’s hard to match up to those.
The Hulk is a good main character as always. Once again, the whole story is just really tragic for him. He makes another friend, but the guy is naturally killed off right away so the Hulk is left without an ally. The army never gives him a break and he is constantly being framed by the villains or put into very bad situations. At least the Hulk gets a lot of opportunities to smash and it’s always good to see him take the win. His strength fluctuates a lot, but that’s part of his whole gimmick so it’s all right for the most part. Typically, you can expect The Hulk to come out on top in a fight since he just won’t go down and the villains typically have to use gas to take him down. The Hulk is certainly the best character here.
I’m not a big fan of the Leader and he’s always been a bit of a weak villain if you ask me. He’s smart, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of power to back it up and he just feels outmatched if you ask me. At least he has some cool androids, which give the Hulk a good fight. Giant Man and the rest of the Avengers don’t seem too concerned with the fact that the Hulk is on the loose. I suppose that most of them just don’t think that he’s very dangerous so he’s not a top priority. Still, they should at least try to protect him from the government since those guys never give him any peace.
You may have expected this, but the issues are still very hard for the Hulk. He is constantly being framed and used by both heroes and villains. When he finally does make a friend, the guy is typically killed off in the same issue. You really can’t blame him for wanting to retreat and just be alone sometimes, but the government or another villain inevitably finds him. It turns into a never ending cycle of sadness for the guy and it’s why it is always fun to see him on the Avengers. At least he has some teammates that he can count on in those situations, but it would be quite a while until he joined the team again from this point.
As always, the writing is one of the reasons why the Hulk collection is fun to read. The characters are all direct and address each other with some classy English skills that it reminds you of how the language used to be. Even the older slang felt more refined and the villains would say things like “With my wit, I shall overtake your brutish strength!” when battling the Hulk. It’s just easy to read and the pages really flow into each other.
If there’s one part of the plot that’s always a little iffy, it’s the question of how much the Hulk knows. Sometimes, the Hulk is completely mindless and other times he will be able to form quite a few sentences. There was an arc where the Hulk’s mind was taken over by Bruce Banner, but this was separate from those events. I suppose that you can make the argument that the Hulk gets smarter as he grows weaker so that it’s the opposite of the strength factor. Either way, it’s a fairly mild thing.
Overall, This volume of the Hulk is a fun one to read. It’s a fairly stand alone collection with few guest stars, but the Hulk can easily hold his own title. The comics are much sadder than the others at the time, but it never goes too far. Given how short each issue is, you can definitely blast through the adventures in no time. It would be great for the Hulk to get an ally at some point and hopefully he will soon, but they don’t tend to last very long. With good art and solid writing, this is a collection that any Marvel fan can enjoy and the issues hold up well.