Marvel Masterworks: The Incredible Hulk Volume 3
Pros: Solid follow up that delivers some good action
Cons: Feels rushed at times and even quite repetitive
The Hulk sits alone in a desert and ponders on why the world fears and hunts him. At that moment he’s captured by his enemy, the underworld ruler Tyrannus. It appears that Tyrannus is badly losing a turf war to the Mole Man, and he needs the Hulk to help him; the green skinned goliath agrees to help and the battle soon begins. -summary
Similar to Stan Lee’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man. It appears Lee knew immediately the formula to get the Hulk going. It quickly becomes clear to me on what made the Hulk into one of Marvel’s most popular characters. This batch of issues are rarely dull as the Hulk is not only plunged into one slugfest after the other, but the reader will begin to feel for this tortured soul as he quickly learns there’s just no place for him among mankind. Marvel Masterworks: The Incredible Hulk Volume 3 collects Tales to Astonish issues 80 – 101 and The Incredible Hulk 102. It’s worth noting that during The Hulk’s Tales to Astonish run he at one point shared the title with Namor the Sub-Mariner; Namor’s stories are collected in his own TPB.
Stan Lee kicks things off well enough with the Hulk’s continuing character development as he searches for some form of acceptance; by this time he had already been kicked out of the Avengers and he literally had only one friend in Rick Jones, and this was mainly because he knew that Bruce Banner was the Hulk. Eventually the series becomes more complicated when the Hulk’s identity is revealed, and the woman whom loves Banner by the name of Betty Ross, constantly pleads with her father General Ross not to kill him. There are plenty of subplots tossed into this, along with a developing love triangle taking place with Major Glenn Talbot, whom wants Banner dead in order to claim Betty for himself.
The stories are well balanced with drama and action which is a good thing. The action segments follow Hulk taking on the US Army and even militaristic terrorist groups; but things pick up quite a bit as the mercenary Boomerang targets the Hulk as an enemy, due to the green goliath interfering and ruining a job for him. Lee wrote these confrontations well giving Boomerang something of a chance against him. For those unfamiliar with this feud, and mainly know Boomerang as a nemesis for Spider-Man, this battle really isn’t that lopsided as one may expect. These issues feature a classic confrontation with the Silver Surfer, the first appearance and a brutal slugfest with the Abomination, and finally one of the more savage fights between Hulk and Sub-Mariner which easily goes down as one of my top personal favorites.
The flaws in these issues mainly come from how familiar some of this already feels due to the earlier volumes. However, this really shouldn’t be an issue since this is what the Hulk is about; tragedy, loneliness, and simply being misunderstood makes these stories and Lee finds different ways to explore these things. If I do have a complaint, then it’s the Abomination battle. That conflict had potential to become one of the greatest all out brawls of all time, yet it felt way too short and should have gotten the length that other stories had gotten.
Marie Severin becomes the main artist, but others such as Jack Kirby, Bill Everett, John Buscema, and Gil Kane join in with some good to great action panels. There’s plenty of fun here with some devastating looking blows and explosions. This is how a powerhouse character should be portrayed, and this is the main reason why I always and very quickly fell for the Hulk before Thor. The character designs at times can be the only real flaw due to inconsistency, with the Hulk not looking as menacing as he should, plus Boomerang being drawn with quite possibly the worst costume I have ever seen.
Overall, this is a solid batch of issues and it probably wouldn’t hurt to start here. Stan Lee wrote a pretty good Hulk run but I think there were others to come after him that pulled it off much better. In any case, I think the Hulk titles are among the easier old Silver Age series to run through, and if you’re looking for some cool action at times then you have it here.