There are two things you need to know before reading "The Incredible Hulk: Return of the Monster." The first is that the Hulk has been blamed for the televised murder of a little boy, which means that Bruce Banner and his alter ego are now at the top of the Most Wanted list. The second is that "Return of the Monster," which collects issues #34-39 of "Incredible Hulk" is just the start of this epic story line courtesy of writer Bruce Jones, Penciler John Romita Jr., and Inker Tom Palmer.
The idea of Bruce Banner on the run is nothing new, as everybody who remembers the television series that had Banner doing the "Fugitive" routine on a weekly basis well knows. But people have been ripping off Homer's "Odyssey" for thousands of years and what matters here are the stories being told more than their originality. In addition to being hunted by the law Banner has also been targeted by a mysterious group that has its own reasons for wanting to get their hands on the Hulk. Banner has no place to go and when he starts off on this long road his only friend is "Mr. Blue," who sends cryptic but helpful messages to "Mr. Green" on his laptop computer.
Do not take the title of this one literally, because the Hulk makes few but strategic appearances in these six stories. Banner's appearance is radically different because since everybody is looking for a fellow with a beard, Bruce shaves off everything (yes, this affects the Hulk's look as well, as we see on the cover of issue #58, a homage to Norman Rockwell by artist Kaare Andrews). The most off beat of the stories is #35, "Silent Running," which is told without spoken dialogue, while #39 "Tag...You're Dead!" plays off of both of James Whales' Frankenstein movies for Universal.
Although Doc Sampson makes an appearance in several issues, but the chief supporting characters are Slater and Sandra Verdugo, a pair of top rate assassins who are used to working solo and who are engaged in a constant battle of one-upmanship that has its moments. The key thing is that the subplots are as interesting as the main thread following Bruce as he flees across the country from everybody who is chasing him. Clearly, Jones finds Banner more interesting than ol' Greenskin, and given what he has come up with for this storyline so far it is hard to argue with him. The key thing is that Jones is taking his time in telling this tale, and you just know he is setting things up and building to something big. This is just the beginning of the story, which is continued in the next volume, "Boiling Point."
on 29 July 2008
I have to say right off the bat that I'm not a big fan of The Hulk.
In a medium characterised by obscenely muscled titans smashing things, another obscenely muscled titan smashing things... and being green, is hardly enough to peake my curiosity.
Bruce Banner, on the other hand, has far more narrative and psychological mileage.
Essentially a human time bomb, on the run from a lot of very influential people who want him either dead or confined to a lab for life. A guilt racked fugitive who lives in perpetual terror that the big green monster inside him might go smashy smashy and make people dead at the slightest provocation.
The character of the Hulk has never been as compelling as the threat of the Hulk and it's this angle that Jones and Romita have intelligently pursued in this graphic novel. The fact that the Hulk occupies barely half a dozen panels in the whole book does not at all detract from the superbly crafted suspense or genuine drama that is so rare in comics.
For all its atmospherics and suspense there are several impressive action sequences and a plot that never quite lets the reader catch up with it.
For those who, like myself, wouldnt normally pick up a Hulk title, Return of the Monster is a good read to shatter your preconceptions.