I’m probably not the best person to review Jason Aaron’s and Marc Silvestri’s The Incredible Hulk #1, because I am not the world’s greatest Hulk fan. Sure, I read Bill Mantlo’s stuff back when I was a kid, and I watched the Bill Bixby / Lou Ferrigno show religiously, because I HAD to. In the dark, pre-cable days of the late 70’s and early 80’s, if you wanted new genre TV you had two choices: The Incredible Hulk or Struck By Lightning. Well, I guess there was also Bosom Buddies, but technically that’s a whole different kind of genre.
Part of the problem was that, for a very long time, every Hulk story was the same: Banner gets agitated, turns into Hulk. Hulk reiterates a desire to “smash”. Hulk swings tank by gun barrel. Hulk jumps somewhere into Marlboro Country. Hulk relaxes and turns back into Banner. Banner avoids death by dehydration or copperhead bite to find more purple pants just in time to repeat it all again next month.
The last time I was excited by The Hulk was during Peter David’s 1988 Ground Zero arc, when Todd McFarlane was an exciting new artist and not comics’ most notorious ball cupper (What? The man collects baseballs). Because for the first time in my memory, someone was doing something different with The Hulk. He was cunning. He was gray. He LOOKED different. The book was exciting, because it felt new.
Problem is that David opened the floodgates on creative teams making Hulk whatever they wanted to serve whatever story they wanted to tell. In twenty-five years we’ve see Hulk as genius. Hulk as emperor. Hulk as medieval gladiator. Hulk as fucking Mafia enforcer (“Ever since Hulk can remember, Hulk wanted to be gangster. If we wanted something, we just SMASH it!”)
Hulk’s been green, gray and red, and at least one or two other people have been The Hulk. It’s like a stealth Clone Saga’s been going on in Hulk titles for a quarter century. For good or ill, there is no single “The Hulk” of which to be a fan, unless your only criteria for liking a story is “a big muscular dude of color”. In which case, I’m guessing that back in the 80s you were watching Bosom Buddies rather than The Incredible Hulk, but I digress.
This is a whole lot of words to spend on an individual issue of a comic book without addressing the book itself, but the preamble feels necessary, if only to make it clear that I don’t know if I can recommend The Incredible Hulk #1, because it is yet ANOTHER vector on the original story: The Hulk and Banner as separate entities.