INCREDIBLE HULK: PARDONED (Marvel, 2012; Softcover)
Collects The Incredible Hulk #269-285 (cover dates March, 1982- July, 1983)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artists: Sal Buscema, Mark Gruenwald (#279 only) and Inkers Joe Sinnott, Greg LaRocque, Andy Mushynsky, and Chic Stone
I was never much of a Hulk fan growing up. Sure, I had the 8” Mego doll as a kid and loved the television series when it was originally aired, but he always seemed to be to two-dimensional for my tastes. I rarely bought the title as a kid, but the lure of this “proto-Epic” chunky monkey trade paperbacks that offered a large run between two covers was too much to resist.
The first few issues in this book are about as much fun as chewing chalk, with the mindless Hulk at his two-dimensional best (or worst). Bill Mantlo always did solid and sometimes great work. Rocket Raccoon was introduced in the beginning of the book, which is more interesting than it sounds. He is ridiculous, a one-note Bealtes gag, and I felt like I was in for a long, boring read when reading those issues.
It took Mantlo a few issues to find his groove with the character, but once he did, he was off to the races. Turning the Hulk into a thinking hero with Bruce Banner's brain instead of the raging, petulant child yielded results for me immediately. The Hulk and Sasquatch teaming up against the Wendigo was awesome. The return of the U-Foes shows how deadly and weak this new thinking Hulk could be. I really enjoyed Banner's reluctance at accepting his love of being the Hulk as well as the treatment the Hulk received from his friends and the world at large.
I can't help but think how many events and lame crossovers Marvel would milk out of the events in these stories were they published today. The Avengers teamed up with the Hulk to fight the Leader for a few issues. Now it would be a mini-series tied into a flagpole event collected across a dozen trade paperbacks.
Sal Buscema is a solid artist and good storyteller layout-wise, but he lives and dies by his Inker. The first few issues in this book are self-inked, and his lines are weak and unconvincing. When paired with an inking wizard like Joe Sinnott, though, he is really good.
These are solid, fun stories that hold up fairly well. Modern comic fans picking these issues up for the first time will have to keep two things in mind when reading them: 1. The seemingly repetitive nature of recapping the events of the previous issues within the first few pages of the story, either by flashback or the character thinking “How did I get here?” 2. The occasional spoonfed feeling in terms of powers and character origins. Comics were meant to be read a month apart, and were also designed for every issue to be someone's first. Comic shops were few and far between and trade paperbacks were non-existent for the most part. There was no Internet to research a character if you were unaware of their history. If a younger fan can keep these things in mind while adapting to read the third party narrative captions they will find this book to be enjoyable.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I love big fat trades.
Linework and Color restoration: Excellent work, not quite Masterworks-level but solid enough that if they never get this far then I am good.
Paper stock: The same great matte coated stock found in softcover Masterworks and Classic line trade paperbacks. It's perfect.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback. The binding in these fat books seems more sturdy than it does in the thinner books.
Cardstock cover notes: Thick waxlike lamination.