Over five years ago I encountered an interesting Hulk story written by Jason Aaron with art by Steve Dillon. It was the middle of a story arc and confusing as hell, but I stuck with it to discover a long game approach that paid off. I never went back to where the story started, until yesterday, and I was equally surprised and satisfied with what I found.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
When Jason Aaron takes on the Hulk, the results are incredible! Bruce Banner and his monstrous alter ego are together no more! They have become separate beings – and the Hulk is assigned to take Banner down! But the brilliant scientist sure won’t give up without a fight. As the Hulk makes an alliance that changes his destiny forever, Banner unleashes his army of gamma-fueled monsters! It’s the fight everyone’s been waiting for: Hulk vs. Banner! But when the dust settles, why must the Hulk stay angry? Whatever the reason, he’s picking fights against drug cartels, sea monsters, Russian Super-Soldiers and a lost city of Sasquatches -oh, and the Punisher, Kraven the Hunter, Wolverine and the Thing! Are Hulk and Banner destined for a date with Doom?
Why does this matter?
The book collects Incredible Hulk #1 to #7, #7.1, #8 to #15 and content from “Fear Itself.” The collection runs in at 376 pages. As the title suggests, it’s a complete collection and “complete” is an appropriate word to describe it since it collects a story from start to finish. Whether you’re an avid Hulk fan or not, anyone can pick this book up and get a story with a beginning middle and end. Plus it has art from a variety of great artists like Marc Silvestri, Steve Dillon, Whilce Portacio, and Jefte Palo. The most important writer at Marvel right now, Jason Aaron, is also the writer of this collection. Need we say more?
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Hulk the savior.
This collection drops you right into the story and Hulk is a heck of a lot different. He’s not angry; actually, he’s kind of complacent, and he’s living underground killing monsters simply to feed Moloids. He knows this won’t last for long and he quickly is proven right when robots come knocking, seeking his help. They have a Bruce Banner problem and need Hulk’s help to kill him. Say what?! So begins a well-crafted story with plenty of twists, turns, and monster fighting madness. Jason Aaron has written an exciting and fun story that seems to have a plot twist around every corner. Just as you’re questioning his decision to make Bruce Banner a homicidal maniac you find out maybe he’s this way for a reason. When you think you know what’s going on with the sex-obsessed woman, Amanda Von Doom, things turn again. It’s never a boring story.
The plot shifts dramatically halfway through, too. Just as we think we understand what is going on with Hulk everything is flipped on its head. The second half of this collection is even more topsy-turvy than the first, with each chapter drawn by a different artist and thrusting Hulk into a different setting. It’s not until the last two chapters do we find out there was a plan all along and it comes together beautifully. The first half of this collection does well to break down Bruce Banner and Hulk and the second half builds him back up. It’s a fun story that is self-contained, but also explores the give and take between Banner and Hulk.
Aaron also does some good work setting up the Mad Squad run by Amanda Von Doom. Other members include Mr. Gor (a hunchbacked henchman with a history fighting monsters) and B.R.A.I.N. (a machine created by a secret cult of Bavaria scientists who only wants to kill) and it’s a fun and dynamic team. It’s unfortunate they don’t get more time on the page, but what Aaron has built here is worth a look. I found myself hoping to see them pop up again soon since they’re so unique and their personalities are so interesting.
There’s a great collection of pretty pictures here too. Silvestri is, of course, fantastic in his highly detailed and sketchy style. Hulk has never looked more forlorn. Portacio, who also worked on Silvestri’s issues, caps off the first half of the book and does an admirable job keeping in style with Silvestri. If you like monster fighting fun you can’t go wrong with either artist.
The second half of the book ends with Dillon and then finally Palo. Their styles are quite different from each other, but they both focus on mini-arcs within the arcs so the change in style isn’t too jarring. Dillon has a slower pace, but also a way of capturing the human side of the characters. Palo has a striking line that gets pretty metal.
Don’t make Hulk angry guys.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Mr. Gor isn’t drawn very consistently in this collection, especially in the first half. There are pages his hump is obvious, maybe too much so, while in other cases it’s not even there. It’s a weird inconsistency that actually confused me as far as who the character was next to Amanda Von Doom.
Fans of Bruce Banner might cry foul when it comes to the first half of this collection. He’s a maniac and a complete loose cannon. Sure, Aaron is saying this is who he is without the Hulk, but it’s a bit much at times, especially when he’s torturing animals and basically lost his mind. The second half redeems him, but it’s still a caricature of a villain.
Is It Good?
Once I realized this was the full story of a comic I read back in 2012 you can’t believe how happy I was. I finally got the entire story Jason Aaron devised and I grew a new appreciation for his ability to write a great long-game tale. Readers should know you don’t need to read a thing before or after this Hulk tale since it has it all and it’s so self-contained.