Comic Review – Essential Hulk Vol. 1

Here’s another comic book review. This one is also
a review of one of Marvel’s Essential collections.

General Information

Title: The Essential Hulk Vol. 1

Author: Stan Lee

Illustrator(s): Jack Kirby, John Buscema, Bill
Everett, John Romita,
Steve Ditko, Gil Kane, and “almost the whole Bullpen”
in various issues

Original Publication Date: 1999 reprint of material
first published
from 1962-1967.

ISBN: 0-7851-0712-6

Cover Price: $14.95 US, $21.95 Can

Issues Reprinted: The Incredible Hulk #1-6 and the
Hulk portions of
Tales To Astonish #60-91.


Dr. Bruce Banner was exposed to a massive dose of
gamma rays, which
cause him to periodically transform into a massive,
dim-witted powerhouse.

High Point

Tales To Astonish #83. It uses the Hulk well, and
more importantly,
focuses enough on the people around the Hulk to
prevent the reader
from getting bored with such gripping dialogue as
“Hulk smash!” and
“Nobody can stop Hulk!”

Low Point

The inconsistent and changing rules. At first, Banner
became the Hulk
at nightfall. Then he dosed himself with more gamma
rays and that
stopped. Instead, he changed when he irradiated
himself, but that
didn’t always work properly. Then he suddenly
realized that he
changed into the Hulk when he got mad. For a while,
the Hulk also
changed when he got mad, causing him to change in the
middle of a
couple of battles. Then it changed so that the Hulk
reverted to
Banner when he calmed down, but that wasn’t handled
(The Hulk even slept peacefully in the lair of
Tyrannus. How much
calmer can he get?) Despite whatever lip service they

The Scores

To my knowledge, the Hulk was the first character who
wasn’t a clear
hero to get his own comic book. That was a fairly
concept. However, most of the storylines in this
collection are about
people trying to convince the Hulk to work for them
while General Ross
tries to destroy him. It gets tiring quickly. The
last ten or so
Tales To Astonish finally tried to break out of that
mold, but it was
too little too late. I give it 3 out of 6.

Different issues had different artists, so judging the
artwork is a bit tricky. Some artists, like
Jack Kirby and
Bill Everett, did some great work. Gil Kane did some
truly miserable
faces, although the rest of his work was acceptable.
The fact that
some of the origins didn’t keep well, causing some
poor reproductions
in a few issues didn’t help. When the artwork is
good, it’s good, but
the bad stuff is pretty bad. The good is more common,
though. I give
it 4 out of 6.

The story was repetitive, and as I said
earlier, the rules
that the Hulk follows were dynamic and inconsistent.
I like the
serial nature of the Tales To Astonish segments, but
there’s only so
many times you can really be excited about a spy from
Asia who wants
to steal Bruce Banner’s work. I give it 3 out of 6.

The characterization was somewhat lacking.
It would seem
that Stan Lee hadn’t figured out what Ang Lee had
figured out when he
took over the movie project; the most interesting
thing about the Hulk
is Bruce Banner’s reaction to sharing a body with the
beast. Banner
would be absent for several issues at a time, in one
case appearing
only long enough to reprogram the rocket he was riding
so it would
miss New York. There was no development of the Hulk
or his
alter-ego. The only character that was even somewhat
interesting was
Major Talbot, since he was often forced to choose
between serving his
country and helping himself and Betty Ross.
Unfortunately, this
conflict wasn’t around enough to really be effective.
I give the
characterization 2 out of 6.

As for the emotional response, there were
very few occasions
that really got me going. It wasn’t until Tales To
Astonish #77 that
things got interesting, with Rick Jones’ serious
debate about whether
or not to reveal the double identity of the Hulk.
That issue, and the
few that followed, really worked, but most of them
fell somewhat
flat. I give it 3 out of 6.

The flow of this collection, which is used to
assess how
smoothly the story moves from panel to panel, and
whether or not the
depicted conversation can fit into the time given to
the depicted
action, was excellent. There were only three panels
in the 528 page
collection that seemed truly off. I give it 5 out of

Overall, this is an interesting read for Hulk
fans, but not
much to anyone else. With characters like the
Watcher, the Stranger,
the Boomerang, and Mongu the Gladiator from Outer
Space, it definitely
reads like a comic aimed at young children in the
1960s. I give it 3
out of 6.

In total, The Essential Hulk Vol. 1 receives
23 out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

The Essential Hulk Vol. 2 is also available.
Also, some
stories in this volume refer to events from the first
few issues of
The Avengers, which are reproduced in The
Essential Avengers
Vol. 1