INCREDIBLE HULK: REGRESSION (Marvel, 2012; Softcover)
Collects The Incredible Hulk #286-300 and The Incredible Hulk Annual #12 (cover dates August, 1983- October, 1984)
Writer: Bill Mantlo (#286 adapted from a story by Harlan Ellison)
Artists: Sal Buscema (Penciler) with Inkers Kim DeMulder, Chic Stone, Jim Mooney, Joe Sinnott, Carlos Garzon, Gerry Talaoc, Danny Bulanadi. Artwork on Annual #12 by Herb Trimpe.
I had a blast reading this. The M.O.D.O.K./ Abomination/ A.I.M. arc was great, ditto the Circus Of Crime and Dragon Man one. There is so much character development, in the true sense of the term, between Dr. Banner, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Dr. Kate Waynesboro, and the Recordasphere. By true character development I mean events occur which change all involved, not endless conversations about nothing which fans of modern comic books mistake for character development. That is called “padding the page count” and it is the hallmark of clueless lazy writers. Boomerang gets his ass handed to him by the Hulk, which was fun to read.
A subplot which had been slowly developing was Dr. Banner's discovery of an energy burst of significant and unknown power. This burst happened a few times, and was ultimately revealed to be (SPOILER!!!) The Beyonder, all of it leading up to the Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars maxi-series. All of the heroes were drawn into “the stonehenge-like construct” in Central Park and whisked away to Battleworld and then dropped back into Central Park at the beginning of the next issue of their respective titles, in this case #294 and 295. It seems like this was a bother to Mantlo's tightly constructed long-term plans, as it is apparent that he had planned on these issues being a cliffhanger with the Boomerang kidnapping of Dr. Waynesboro. The Hulk issues read like it was mere moments, whereas over in Amazing Spider-Man the heroes were gone long enough that it was mystery reported on the front page of The Daily Bugle.
#296 is presented in an abridged form due to the fact that ROM, Spaceknight was a guest star. ROM is a licensed character, a strange case of the comic book tie-in being more interesting and successful than the toy which spawned it. Unfortunately for the rights holders (and Marvel) writer Bill Mantlo created so much backstory and so many characters owned by Marvel that whoever owns the rights to ROM cannot reprint the series. Likewise, Marvel cannot reprint anything which ROM was a part of, which was quite a bit during the 1980s. It's really a catch 22, and I wish that Disney would just gobble up whoever owns the rights so I can get my ROMnibus, which remains a dream of mine. Only pages 4-13 out of 22 total pages are reprinted here, as the cover and the rest of the issue has ROM in it. There are text recap pages for the rest which refer to ROM as an “alien cyborg” and not by name.
I have enjoyed the Hulk's trials and tribulations with the intellect of Bruce Banner in control. Bill Mantlo has put the Hulk and Banner through their paces while not destroying anything about the series. This is the definition of characters development, folks. The Hulk goes back to his savage self at the hands of (SPOILER!!!) Nightmare, who has been manipulating him for a while to get back at Doctor Strange. This all leads up to a mindless Hulk attacking New York City in #300, with literally every hero in the Marvel Universe taking a shot a stopping him. While it was a double sized issue, I couldn't help but chuckle at how this would have been an event mini-series with a ton of crossover issues and tie-in mini-series and one-shots. I liked comics better back when universe-altering events occurred within a regular series. Number don't lie though, so modern fandom must get off on big dumb endless events and being gouged with endless tie-ins and mini-series. You go, fanboys*.
*Term used in the original pejorative.
Credit where credit is due: Chic Stone is one of the most solid inkers in the business. Everything that he touched received a spit-shine to it. Only Joe Sinnott did such solid inking on a consistent basis. Gerry Talaoc settles in as the regular inker, and I was never a fan of his work. Serviceable is as kind as a description as I can give.
I never bothered with the Hulk back when these issues were originally published. Maybe it was the memory of the television series that turned me off, but more likely it was that I didn't have enough money to buy every single comic back then. These covers, many done by Al Milgrom, never leapt off of the spinner rack at me. Most of them are just plain bland, and I fail to see why Sal Buscema didn't do them himself.
Mantlo was a favorite of mine as a kid, and his writing holds up thirty odd years later. These “proto-Epic” thick trades are a joy. My Hulk marathon will conclude with Crossroads.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I love big trades and I cannot lie.
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.