Hulk Visionaries: Peter David Volume 6A comic review article by: Tom Waters
eter David’s long and prestigious run as resident writer on The Incredible Hulk is one of those rare creative pairings that I can appreciate as an adult just as much as I did when I was a kid. While returning to some childhood classics can be a risky endeavor, I’m pleased to announce that David’s plot points, wise-ass dialogue, and deep psychological underpinnings not only hold the same value as the Hulk did for me as a kid, but my appreciation for David’s time with the big green/gray galoot has gotten better. It’s taken twenty years for me to find new reasons (and a better knowledge base) to enjoy his tour of duty on the Hulk, and I’m glad I went back.
Hulk Visionaries: Peter David Volume 6 finds Banner (and the Gray Hulk who rose from the blast of a second Gamma bomb) re-uniting with Betty Ross after a change of scenery in Las Vegas. Banner and the Hulk two have been co-existing under day-and-night rules--with Banner having the body during the day and the Gray Hulk coming out at night.
However, that arrangement all changes--and from a psychological point--as Bruce does battle with some very deep and supernatural multiple personality issues. It turns out that the Green Hulk never left. In fact, Banner, Mr. Fix-It, and the original “salad head” are all fighting for dominance in the same body.
All hell breaks loose when the three melt down together and wage a Fight Club-style battle royal on the streets of New York in front of Rick Jones, his girlfriend Marlo (a mutual “acquaintance” from the Mr. Fixit/ Vegas era), and Betty Ross. Doc Samson intervenes and attempts to resolve Banner’s deep-seated problems once and for all by springing the newly rehabilitated Ringmaster and then forcing Banner onto the couch for some long-awaited group therapy. They arrive at a solution, and it’s not to everyone’s satisfaction: Bruce Banner in the body of a green Hulk.
It’s a credit to Peter David that he’d introduce such a complex concept to the series. This tiny wrinkle requires a lot of explaining, and he did it so well that it’s made the cut for the rest of the Hulk library moving forward. The Green Hulk isn’t simply a beast that exemplifies Banner’s rage, he’s a part of his personality that couldn’t express anger in the past. By the same token, the Gray Hulk is the part of Banner’s personality that was incapable of expressing passion or sexuality.
It’s heady stuff for a time in comics that concerned itself more with X-Men team-ups and corny one-offs. At any rate, Betty is far from pleased with this slight wrinkle. We all know that the composite Banner isn’t going to last for long, but the pub scene with a hulking green Banner pounding down beers with Samson and company is priceless--and it provides a great payoff after multiple issues that delve into the psychological battle going on in the good doctor’s head.
The volume closes out with a cliffhanger involving this strange Hybrid Hulk’s kidnapping/possible recruitment into the Pantheon.
The run collected in this volume works on a lot of levels--and while I never read this particular arc in my youth, it brought new enjoyment to the single issues that I did read when I was a child. David is a natural with this subject material, and it’s no wonder that his time spent writing the Hulk remains a fan-favorite run and that he seems to keep returning to work on the character.
The 1990s pop psychology segments are slightly dated (along with Doc Samson’s padded shoulders and feathered ponytail), but the rest of the book holds up surprisingly well. Dale Keown and Bill Jaaska’s pencils are a cut above the majority of the artwork from that time, and they make a significant and positive contribution to the story.
Tom Waters lives and writes in Lancaster, NY. He is the author of seven books (mostly rants, some poetry), a weekly columnist for Night Life magazine, a podcast radio host and a celebrity interviewer and bar reviewer for the Buffalo News. For more information, click over to: www.tomfoolery4.wordpress.com.