HULK BY JOHN BYRNE & RON GARNEY (Marvel, 2011; Softcover)
Collects Hulk Nos. 1-11 and Hulk Annual 1999 (cover dates April, 1999- February, 2000)
Writers: John Byrne, Erik Larson, Jerry Ordway, Ron Garney, and Fred Hembeck
Artists: Pencilers- Ron Garney, Ron Frenz, Lee Weeks, John Byrne, Dan Jurgens, Sal Buscema, Mark Texeira, Mike Miller, and Fred Hembeck; Inkers- Dan Green, Sal Buscema, John Byrne, Scott Koblish, Mark Texeira, Klaus Janson, and Fred Hembeck.
Colorists: Steve Buccaletto, Tom Smith, and Mark Bernardo
Believe it or not, a series being rebooted with a new #1 was actually a big deal at one time. I couldn't even tell you how many Hulk #1s there have been now. This is less of a reboot and more of a fresh starting point. While it may seem hard to believe to younger fans, there was a time when Marvel as we know it was at the end of it's rope financially, and this was that era. When you are owned by Disney and your movies basically print money for you it seems impossible, but back in the late '90s things were different for the House of Ideas.
John Byrne is the writer for the first seven issues of the series. Byrne has a long running arc which unfolds over the entire book in which Tyrannus manages to seize control of the Hulk's mind, causing destruction, mayhem, and murder. Indeed, Byrne manages to pen a bone-chilling foreshadowing of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks when the Hulk knocks down an airliner. The outcome and vibe of that issue are downright eerie once you realize how accurate and realistic it feels, and that it was published two years prior to the event.
While wrestling with Tyrannus for control of the monster, Banner/Hulk encounters the Man-Thing (or an avatar of it), the Avengers (who come to deal with the Hulk for his crimes), Wolverine (in all of his bone claw-era "glory"), and a battle royal with the Thing. The highlight of the book for me was not any of these battles, but the introduction of Archer Leopold, a moonshiner and recluse who befriends the Hulk. Leopold, a union man, convinces Tyrannus' minions to stick together and form a union, because the many have power over the one. I loved the whole working man sticking together vibe, something that doesn't exist in the real world today. The powers that be have brainwashed the masses into doing the bidding of the company, and have also convinced them to be thankful for getting paid less while defending CEOs who have increased their salaries exponentially in the meantime. The pie used to be sliced more fairly when I was growing up. Corporations were not people in the 1990s.
Annual 1999 is one of those retelling of the origin and early issues of the title stories that you don't see anymore. Byrne wrote that story, and updates several things about the Gargoyle as well as the origin. While I am big stickler for continuity, sometimes you just have to let things slide, lest these characters become dated Cold War relics. Byrne changes a few Cold War/Russia things but otherwise remains faithful to the source material. This is the win-win scenario for continuity buffs and newer readers alike.
Ron Garney's artwork wasn't to my liking at first glance but it quickly grew on me and I now consider myself a fan. There is also some nice Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema artwork here. I found everything about this book to be enjoyable with the exception of the lettering, which was atrocious. While sterilized computer font lettering can be a snore, not every old school letterer is an Artie Simek or a Tom Orzechowski or a Bill Everett. Those guys all did things pleasing to the eye, and I would buy a font of their hand lettering and use it for my blog if I could.
This book is a great package and a fun read. At the end of the day, isn't that what you want out of comic books?
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I like these chunky, 300 plus page trade paperbacks. They make me happier than two thinner books for some reason.
DVD-style Extras included in this book: All are one page.
#1 sunburst variant.
#1 Dynamic Forces variant.
#2 original cover art by Ron Garney and Dan Green.
Linework and Color restoration rating: 5 out of 5. Marvel has a comprehensive library of this stuff from this era, so restoration is seldom done. It's all digitized and ready to go. Sometimes a file gets corrupted or an issue gets lost, but that is not the case in this book.
Paper rating: 5 out of 5. Thick glossy coated stock which looks great for this material.
Binding rating: 4 out of 5. Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. Thick waxlike lamination. I like it.