Review: Essential Incredible Hulk Vol.4

Of all the superheroes out there, the Hulk is probably the one I like the least.  The concept of the character is decent, Mr. Hyde essentially, but it’s not one that I’ve ever felt could support a series for the last 46 years.  The writer’s involved with the series at various times seem to struggle with the same basic issues, which is why the character has never had a firm status quo.  From month to month he’s grey, or green, or red; smart or stupid; unwilling to hurt a fly or working for the mob in Vegas.  

He’s also too damn powerful to be interesting.  Every fight he has ever been in has amounted to waiting for the Hulk to get angry enough that he becomes invincible.  Thus his battles are never very interesting (and let’s face it all the Hulk is good for is hitting things) and his enemies come off looking completely incompetent (which is doubly awful when his arch foe is the US army).

So by that standard vol. 4 of the Essential Hulk is actually decent.  Of particular not is when Steve Englehart takes over the book and starts a long running sub plot in which Betty Ross finally gives up on Bruce Banner and marries someone else.  Of course this being a comic she swiftly gets widowed, institutionalized due to her grief, brainwashed by everyone’s favorite giant head M.O.D.O.K., and turned into giant, green harpy that shoots “Hellbolts”.  And this was nearly 20 years prior to the women in refridgerators debacle.  

There’s also one of my favoite bits of science gone wrong in a comic, the Infra-world of Captain Omen.  Omen is a mad scientist who decides to claim the ocean floor as a soverign nation.  His plan hinges on breeding a race of men adapted to life at 5,000 fathoms (somehow accomplished through evolution in a single generation) and using them to plant underwater flags across the world.  Omen himself seems to take the underwater pressure fine, simply developing a hunchback.  The Hulk gets involved, inspires Omen’s undersea race to rebel, and then everyone goes to the surface where the swiftly explode due to their incredibly high blood pressure.  Oh and this all occurs in the course of a single issue.  Gotta love 70’s comics.

I’m not sure I can really recommend this collection besides as a decent representation of what the Hulk was like for his first 20 or so years.  During that era it’s probably one of the better runs, but it’s still suffers the same faults as nearly every Hulk comic, there’s not much that can be done with the character.

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