The Great Comic Book Cull Of 2010/2011 Part 45: Marvel Comics – The Incredible Hulk!

Here’s what you need to know about the Hulk:

  • He’s really a scientist named Bruce Banner. When he loses his temper, he becomes a gamma-spawned gene freak that can bench press a F-16. Kind of like Charlie Sheen.
  • He’s usually written as the strongest being on earth. He gets even stronger when he’s angry. Sometimes. Kind of like Charlie Sheen.
  • I’m don’t really give a shit about him. I’ve never found him particularly compelling over a long stretch of time, and I think more bad Hulk stories have been written than good ones. I also hate the randomness of the character. He’s essentially a chaos agent, and I find that boring to read about for the most part. Kind of like Charlie Sheen.
  • There are a few stories I like. Here they are.

Hulk – The Peter David Years (Hulk Visionaries Vol. 1-7)

Peter David’s run is the run that people point to when talking about the “great” Hulk stories of the past, and it’s easy to see why. Peter David is one of those rare comic writers whose style seems to be timeless. He’s just as relevant today as he was in the late ’80’s/early ’90’s when these stories were written, and he’s currently producing some of the best work of his career in X-Factor. So I was a little surprised to find that when I reread these that they got off to a skakey start. In my opinion, it took David a few years to really get his bearing on the title. It wasn’t that they were bad stories. In fact, they were perfectly fine, run-of-the-mill Hulk stories. But I don’t care about run-of the-mill Hulk stories. And so it wasn’t until David really started to explore the concept of multiple personalities that I started to give a damn. These are the stories I love: The grey Hulk becoming a Vegas mob bodyguard, Doc Sampson attempting to merge all of the various Hulk personas, The new and improved Bruce Hulk, etc. There are so many classic Hulk moments that David is responsible for that I’m still not sure why he’s not back on the title for good.

David’s run also attracted more than a few of of the hottest artists of the past couple of decades, but it’s Todd McFarlane, Dale Keown, and Gary Frank that got the most attention. Out of the three, it’s Gary Frank’s work that stands the test of time the best, though Keown’s still has impact. Although I can’t say that I have the love for this run the way that I love Miller’s Daredevil, or Byrne’s Fantastic Four, the second half of it still stands up pretty well today.

Vol. 1-4: Cull. Vol. 5-7: Keep

Hulk – The End

Long after their run on the Hulk ended, David and Keown were persuaded to kick the can one last time, and to tell the very last Hulk story. And in my opinion, one of the very best. The story starts after humanity has fallen. All the cities have collapsed, all of the humans have died. All, except for one.

This really is the perfect “ending” to the Hulk mythos, and might be the only way his story could be told. At it’s heart, the Hulk story is one of two things: Tragedy, and courage, and this brilliant little one-shot captures both in spades. Recommended.

KEEP

The Hulk – Planet Hulk

The Hulk has been in somewhat of a resurgence as of late, and it all started here. This story came out of nowhere 4 years ago, and relaunched the character so successfully, that his book now is one of Marvel’s top sellers. Here’s how it goes: Some of Marvel’s top heroes are tired of the Hulk’s constant destruction, and decide to trick him into going to outer space. While there, they tell him they’re sending him off world. Permanently. He doesn’t go where he’s supposed to, and ends up on Sakar, a planet full of gladiators, horrible monsters, and a corrupt empire. So basically, Ottawa. Hulk, being Hulk, quickly becomes the top dog, and leads a revolution, and falls in love. Needless to say, his happiness is very shortlived.

This is one of my all-time favourite Hulk stories. Why? Because the moping is kept to a minimum. Bruce Banner is barely a footnote here, and while I understand that he’s an integral part of the character, the constant whining gets tiresome. This Hulk is bad ass, and has no mercy. Not only that, but writer Greg Pak puts together an interesting supporting cast, a brand new planet, and a tight, yet epic plot, in only 12 issues. Hulk as Barbarian Warlord is a concept so simple, yet so damn effective, that it’s hard to believe that it hadn’t been done before.

KEEP

Hulk – World War Hulk, World War Hulk Frontline, and World War Hulk: X-Men

As I said, Planet Hulk didn’t end well. Now the Hulk is pissed, and he wants revenge. He comes back to Earth, in hopes of getting back at the heroes that he blames for what happened to him. This should have worked, but in reality Marvel wasn’t willing to take this story to it’s tragic, logical conclusion, and so the ending comes across as a bit of a cop out. Still entertaining, but not in the same league as the story that spawned it. And while I enjoyed the main story enough to keep it, the same can’t be said for the tie-in books.

World War Hulk: Keep, Frontline, X-Men: Cull

Next up: Inhumans!

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The Great Comic Book Cull of 2010/2011 Part Five: DC Comics – Batwoman to Black Adam

I’ve gotten a few comments commenting on how little I’m culling, as opposed to keeping. I actually culled quite a bit of Batman, probably half a shelf worth, but right now I’m finding that most of the stuff I’m reading still holds up as worth keeping. I’m trying to downsize my collection, not eliminate it, much to my wife’s dismay.

BatwomanElegy

This the collection of a short run that Greg Rucka & J.H. Williams had on Detective Comics last year, focusing on my favourite lesbian that dresses up like a bat. Sorry, Jody Foster, you’re just going to have to keep reaching for the stars.

J.H. Williams has become one of the most unique and interesting artists in comic books today, and it’s a thrill to see him on a smaller profile book like this. Even if Greg Rucka’s script wasn’t good (it is), I’d keep this just for the art. One of the the best DC books of recent years, and I’m hoping that the new upcoming Batwoman series can keep the momentum going.

KEEP.

Birds Of Prey 11 Assorted Trades.

One of the most successful DC “female” comics.  The concept is this: Barbara Gordon (Quick history: She used to be Commisioner Gordon’s daughter. Then his niece. Then his stepdaughter. Then his daughter again. She also used to be a librarian. Then a congresswoman. Then a librarian again. Somehow in the middle of all this she found time to occasionally be Batgirl, but then Joker shot her and showed her dad/stepdad/uncle naked pictures of her. She’s also now a parapalegic, which I think was the extra cherry on that particular day’s shit sundae. Now she’s called Oracle and works as an IT analyst/information broker for the superhero set.) decides to start sending her own agents out on specific missions she designates. Initially this is limited to Black Canary, but eventually other heroes (Huntress, Lady Blackhawk, etc) join in.

Chuck Dixon was the first writer on this series (orginally a series of minis), and the first two arcs of his run are collected in trade. These trades are decent, and worth keeping if only for Gary Frank’s pencil work, but the misogyny is running high in places. They take every opportunity to showcase Black Canary in skimpy, revealing outfits, and much is made of her horrible taste in men, and how she has very little control of herself around smarmy, overbearing assholes. That being said, it’s a good start to what would become a cult fave among superhero fans. Things went along at a decent pace for about 60 issues, until Gail Simone came along. She almost instantly revitalized the series, to the extent that for a while this was my favourite DC book.

The next 40 issues are a clinic in how to rebuild a character. Simone takes Black Canary from being a B level also-ran, to an A level world-class hero in just a few years. By the end of Simone’s run, Canary is one of the world’s greatest martial artists, and was soon made chairman of the Justice League. Also, this is one of my favourite martial art comic books, and there is more kung-fu asskickery in one trade of this series than a thousand Jackie Chan movies.  

This series isn’t perfect though. The art is inconsistent, especially in later trades, and you can tell that certain editorial decisions (like marrying Black Canary off) don’t sit well with Simone. She left the book soon after, and it didn’t take long for DC to cancel it. Thankfully that’s been rectified, and Gail Simone and Ed Benes are back on the book that they made famous.

KEEP

Black Adam The Dark Age.

One of the best recent examples of character building that I can remember is DC’s 52 series. They took several forgotten or underused characters, and spent an entire year rebuilding those characters, and giving them new purpose. It stuck for the most part, and several of them have gone on to their own series. Black Adam is a prime example of how well this worked, and between 52 and it’s follow up World War 3, Adam had been set up as one of DC’s great villains. This mini dealt with the aftermath of those series, and shows Adam trying to regain both his power and his lost love. Peter Tomasi is one of DC’s stronger contemporary writers, and he crafts an emotional, and effective tale. Black Adam is such a sympathetic character that you can’t help but cheer for him, even when he’s beating the crap out of your favourite heroes. Kudos also to the great Doug Mahnke for his ever improving artwork here.

KEEP

Next up: Booster Gold. Yes, that’s his superhero name. Hey, I just review ’em, I don’t write ’em.