The newest offering from Marvel’s Epic Collection line of reprints provides an superb addition to the Hulk’s long and storied history, showcasing runs from Bronze-Age mainstays Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin and Herb Trimpe. While their contributions to comics may not be as celebrated as the Lee/Kirby days that preceded them, their ability to push the fundamental epitomes crafted by Marvel’s founding fathers into new territory helped make the characters treasured by comic fans today. Thomas and Goodwin’s successive runs on the Hulk from the early 1970s is the testament to their skill and dexterity.
The Hulk represented in these issues (#138-156 and Avengers #88) build on the structure and model established by Lee and Kirby, while giving the character more to do than brood and smash (although they give ample opportunities for those necessary actions). Roy Thomas earned accolades in his career for the quality of his dialogue, with his background as an English teacher apparent in the way his characters move the narrative forward efficiently. Yes, these are comics from the early ’70s, so dramatic poses are turned up to 11 and feel very much of their time.
What I find so enjoyable about this run (and the Goodwin issues to follow) is how well suited the plot pacing is fitted to this era and its trappings. Case in point, in issue #141, with a ruminating Bruce Banner torn over vague memories of a woman named Jarella, only to encounter Samson and his attempt secure the Hulk to save Betty Ross. It’s the type of story we have seen numerous times when it comes to the Green Giant, but the finesse with which Thomas tells the tale is a crash course in how to write compelling comics.
I’ve always found the Hulk at his best when paired with other Marvel mainstays, and there are ample crossovers present in these issues. One of my favorite issues was issue #150, written by Goodwin and featuring Polaris and Havoc from the X-Men. Alex Summers had left the X-Men after a fight with Iceman, and the Hulk stumbles across Lorna Dane as she works to bring him back to the fold. Again, nothing striking about the plot, but it’s the seamless way Goodwin brings the Hulk’s central conflict into other parts of the Marvel Universe that is genuinely endearing. The real standout here is the Bronze Age artwork from Herb Trimpe. When compared to what was common in comics just a few years prior, the leap forward in crafting dynamic characters is apparent.
Gary Friedrich writes issue #153, finding the Hulk on trial and features a who’s-who of Marvel characters. Mat Murdock defends Banner, as the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and Spider-Man work to complete a ray that will stop Bruce from transforming into the Hulk. It’s a race against the clock, with dramatic court scenes, action and ample melodrama. It’s a tour-de-force from this era.
Like many Epic Collections, this trade paperback includes a few original inked pages. The pages are crisp and colorful and look better than they did on the original newsprint. While few of these issues are quintessential to understanding the character, this trade collects an excellent set of issues that helped bring Lee’s character into the contemporary sphere. With great scripting from Goodwin and Thomas, as well as excellent art from Trimpe, it’s well worth the price of admission to see this level of talent collected in one place.
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!