For over two years, Jeph Loeb’s writing was a driving force for the Incredible Hulk’s corner of the Marvel Universe. This review covers the entire run, including work written by others.
Writing: Jeph Loeb, Greg Pak, Jeff Parker, Harrison Wilcox, Scott Reed
Art: Ed McGuinness, Ariel Olivetti, Paul Pelletier, Michael Ryan, Art Adams and others
Editing: Mark Paniccia, Nathan Cosby, Jordan D. White
Issues covered in recommended reading order:
Note that there is no “perfect” reading order. As some issues take place simultaneously, they provide spoilers for each other. This sequence minimizes those spoilers, but they cannot be completely eliminated.
- Hulk #1-6
- King-Size Hulk
- Hulk #7-12
- Incredible Hulk #600
- Hulk #13
- Incredible Hulk #601-605
- Hulk #14-18
- Fall of the Hulks: Alpha
- Fall of the Hulks: Gamma
- Incredible Hulk #606
- Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk #1
- Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk #2
- Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk #3
- Hulk #19
- Savage She-Hulks #1
- Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk #4
- Hulk #20
- Incredible Hulk #607
- Savage She-Hulks #2
- Hulk #21
- Incredible Hulk #608
- Savage She-Hulks #3
- World War Hulks one-shot
- Hulked Out Heroes #1, 2
- World War Hulks: Spider-Man vs. Thor #1, 2
- World War Hulks: Captain America vs. Wolverine #1, 2
- Hulk #22
- Incredible Hulk #609-611
- Hulk #23, 24
Fall of the Hulks:
World War Hulks:
In the wake of World War Hulk, a new, ruthless Red Hulk appears. With him come new threats and new agendas, as well as more new characters for the Hulk family.
Incredible Hulk 601-605, with Greg Pak words and Ariel Olivetti art while Bruce Banner trains Skaar for… something.
The handling of the “Who Is The Red Hulk?” mystery. This was a frustrating run to read as it came out. Interviews with Jeph Loeb indicate that he felt it was all about the adventures of a new Hulk, and he considered the mystery of his identity secondary. However, he still titled his first issue “Who Is The Hulk?” and used that as a major plot thread. The marketing department put all of its focus on that mystery, leaving the rest behind. As a result, I was one of (seemingly many) readers who picked up the issues looking for one thing and getting something else. They are more enjoyable on the second read, but they still have a problem: there is content in Hulk #6 which is inconsistent with the big picture: the Red Hulk is fired by his bosses in no uncertain terms, only to be seen working with them repeatedly and then fired again later. This discrepancy made me believe the Intelligencia were a later alliance, and not the original, which made the mystery’s ultimate resolution appear horribly flawed on the first read. On the second read, I see that piece of information was erroneous and shouldn’t have played out that way in the first place, but that couldn’t have been determined before the final mystery was revealed. End spoilers.
This is an original story for the Hulk, but the idea of adding new colour versions to color-associated heroes had hit not long before this in DC’s Green Lantern series. It also does things no Marvel title has done (particularly in the Red Hulk vs. Thor and Red Hulk vs. the Watcher moments), partly because it seems to directly contradict established Marvel continuity at those moments. I give it 3 out of 6.
The artwork is consistently high regardless of the art team. I personally enjoyed the Olivetti art the most, given the painted look, but there’s not anything wrong with Ed McGuinness, Paul Pelletier, Art Adams, Frank Cho, Ian Churchill, or any of the other pencillers who contributed significantly to this. (There were a couple of pages by a fill-in artist that were weak, but it appears that artist was asked to contribute simply to hit a ship date anyway.) I give it 5 out of 6.
The story, as I mentioned, reads better the second time through with more accurate expectations. Still, there are issues with the internal logic, particularly in those all-important first six issues. Unlike when I first read the reveal of the Red Hulk’s identity (as some people from the Bureau 42 chatroom would be aware), I now believe that this always had been the intent, but those early inconsistencies threw me off the trail. There also seemed to be too much focus on demonstrating the power of this new Hulk, with ridiculously overblown match-ups against Thor and the Watcher which didn’t sit right with me. After that, it held together well enough, particularly given the level of clues and red herrings involved. Things really start picking up with Fall of the Hulks: Alpha by Jeff Parker and Paul Pelletier, and it’s fairly well maintained from that point on. I give it 4 out of 6.
The characterization is surprisingly consistent, given the nature of the story and the solution to the mystery. It works especially well when Pak is writing Bruce Banner. I give it 5 out of 6.
The emotional response is as lousy on Hulk #1-6 now as it was on the first read. The Red Hulk’s power relative to others seems out of whack, particularly with the power level of the Watchers established in and around Fantastic Four #400. Similarly, Fall of the Hulks: Alpha is just as strong now as it was the first time, introducing the Intelligencia, which is much like an evil Illuminati. Frankly, the Fall of the Hulks portion was just generally stronger than the rest of these. I give it 4 out of 6.
The flow within the issues tends to be strong, thanks to the strong art teams. As a connected whole, the ship dates meant the content was published nonsequentially, but the above reading order should take care of a lot of that. I give it 5 out of 6.
Overall, this run has made its mark, and has introduced a supporting cast that is likely to be around for the rest of Marvel’s existence in one form or another. On a second read, when the mystery element is less significant, it is more enjoyable, but I wouldn’t rush out of my way to pick it up. I give it 4 out of 6.
In total, this era of the Hulk receives 30 out of 42.
Additional Notes and Comments
This is quite possibly just the first “long form” review of entire comic runs. I’m open to suggestions for more; my plan right now is to break “Math From Scratch” into compressed units of content that will come out in batches 2-3 times a year, with long form comic reviews coming out in between. To that end, I’m open to suggestions, including (but not limited to):
- Amazing Spider-Man – The Stan Lee run, Stern/JR Jr. run
- Captain America – The Roger Stern run
- Fantastic Four – The Lee/Kirby run, the John Byrne run
- Incredible Hulk – The Peter David run
- Iron Man – The David Michelinie run(s)
- Uncanny X-Men – The Chris Claremont run
- …other suggestions people mention in the comments below.