Thursday, 17 May 2012

Books: Hulk: The End


Hulk: The End
Written by Peter David
Art by Dale Keown and George Perez

Available now from Islington Libraries
You can reserve this item for free here:


I mean... *cough!* ... sorry. I'll start again:

Everyone agrees that the best thing about Joss Whedon's Avengers movie is that big green guy that does all the smashing. But where does the discerning comic book reader go from there for more doses of Hulktastic-style-fun? For me when I think about the Hulk the first thing that comes to mind isn't the comic books - but the much-loved Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno TV show with that classic piano theme song, guaranteed Hulk transformations (if you have the time then I very much recommend you have a read of this list of all the 131 reasons Dr. David Banner was driven to Hulk out including: "Having his cure destroyed," "Somehow running into a bear trap" and "Receiving a lethal injection, and then having the person say, "Oh. I just gave you a lethal injection. Sorry, David."") oh yeah - and one of my favourite catchphrases from back when I was a kid: "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." (Oh man I used to love saying that so so much).

The other thing I think of when I think of Hulk is Film Crit Hulk ("HULK HAVE DEEP AND ABIDING LOVE OF CINEMA. HULK RECOGNIZE INHERENT VALUES OF POPULAR, NARRATIVE, AND EXPERIMENTAL STYLES"): imagine David Foster Wallace if he was really really into films and had been dosed with gamma rays. Seriously - if you take nothing else away from reading this -go check him out. He writes real pretty and smart and - from the sounds of it - is the nicest guy on the internet.

What I don't think about so much are comic books [1]. Which is a little strange seeing how that's where he's from and been making his way since 1962 (which is when the first issue of The Incredible Hulk came out). Where then is the Watchhulk? The Dark Hulk Returns? From Hulk? H for Hulk? The Talk of One Bad Hulk? (ha - I could do this all day). Well - like most long running Marvel superheroes the main point is to tell a long never-ending story that you have to buy month in and month out in order to make sense of it - which doesn't leave much room for telling self-contained little stories for the general reader. Which is were Hulk: The End steps in [2].

Containing two seperate stories - Future Imperfect (from 1992) and Hulk: The End (from 2002) - both of which have been listed as THE BEST HULK STORIES EVER (see: here, herehere here, here and here) this book is the place to go for people looking for their one-stop Hulk fix (oh: and both from Peter David who I last encountered when I attempted the Dark Tower comics). Unlike all the other Hulk stories (like World War Hulk or Planet Hulk or Red Hulk or whatever) you don't have to know any of the background in order to understand what's going on (there's a few little things here and there - like the fact that in Future Imperfect the Hulk has Banner's personality - but it's the kinda stuff that you can work out for yourself [3] or just ignore).

Future Imperfect isn't exactly Shakespeare [4] - but is big goofy science-fiction time travelling fun in a KickPuncher kinda way and even if the dialogue is pretty damn cornball (personal favourite: "Booby Traps!" "And we were the boobies who were trapped.") there's enough effort expanded to include some made-up future slang and lots of good excuses for fighting and punching as well as one particularly fine dramatic: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"And the artwork has an 80s kinda sheen to it that matches the mood perfectly. Like watching a horror film on VHS.

The second story - The End - is even better. Orginally based on a prose story (that's like a comic book with no pictures - because - hey that's what the world needs - a Hulk story with no pictures) but then adapted in order to tie into a Marvel series that - to be frank - sounds like it's just to my apocalyptic tastes ("The End: The Chronicles of the final days of Earth's Mightiest Heroes and Villians. Marvel Comics and the creators who defined the characters tell the stories that were never meant to be told!"). What's great about it is how it doesn't really read like a typical superhero story at all - and in fact most of it is just a semi-naked old guy walking around what's little left of civilization (clue: not much) and thinking about things. I mean - the Hulk has always been a strange sort of superhero anyway (does he even really fit that category in the first place? He never really seems to save that many people and he doesn't even have a fancy costume - apart from the accidental purple pants...) but here he seems to be more than just a big green smashy thing carrying a kinda deeper and heavier metaphorical/metaphysical weight than you may be first expecting. I mean still - it's not exactly Shakespeare - but it's kinda sub-early-Alan-Moore (almost). And (I mean this in a good way) it has a nice meandering quality that made me think (the first time I read it) that it a bit like a good short story.

[1] Or those two Hulk films - but let's not get into that here. Other than to say that - as much as Ang Lee's Hulk is a sucky movie (and - let's face it: it is very much a sucky movie) it does have two very good bits in: that bit where he's riding the jet plane and that bit when Nick Nolte sits down opposite Eric Bana and does that wavey thing with his arms (which is basically Nick Nolte's entire career boiled into one perfect moment).

[2] For my money: the other best comic book version of the Hulk is in Mark Millar's Ultimates where he's rejigged to be both more super nerdy and puny in his Banner guise (think less Mark Ruffalo and more Christopher 'McLovin' Mintz-Plasse) and more suped up and powerful in his Hulk persona - and in fact - is probably the main model for version seen in The Avengers film (as are all the other characters - most notable Nick Fury who - well - looks like this. So - basically - let me join my voice with all the others on the internet who've been saying: if you liked The Avengers film you're probably gonna love The Ultimates.

[3] Altho I actually have no idea how it happened. Some sort of brain splicing mutant science psychic thingie perhaps?

[4] But that's a good idea! All Superhero version of The Tempest with the Hulk as Caliban? Who's in? 

Links: Page 45 Review, Comic Book Resources Interview with Peter David.

Further reading: Wolverine: Old Man Logan, Marvel Zombies, The Punisher: Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher, The Ultimates, Marvel 1602.

All comments welcome.

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