Incredible Hulk: Boiling Point


By Bruce Jones, Lee Weeks, Tom Palmer & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-0905-1

Bruce Banner was a military scientist accidentally caught in a gamma bomb blast of his own devising. As a result he would unexpectedly transform into a giant green monster of unstoppable strength and fury when distressed or surprised. As both occasional hero and mindless monster he rampaged across the Marvel Universe for years, finally finding his size 700 feet and a format that worked, becoming one of young Marvel’s most resilient features.

A hugely popular character both in comics and greater global media beyond the printed page, he has often undergone radical changes in scope and direction to keep his stories fresh and his exploits explosively compelling…

One of the most impressive runs of was by noted thriller and horror writer Bruce Jones (see especially his impressive Hitchcock pastiche Somerset Holmes or sci fi sagas Arena and Silverheels) who injected some long-neglected suspense and a sense of building menace back into the saga, by referencing both classic 1960s cult TV series The Fugitive and the Jade Juggernaut’s own small screen hit from the 1970s…

This slim tome (re-presenting issues #40-44 of the second Incredible Hulk comicbook volume from July to October 2002) combines his moody, humanistic writing with the understatedly workmanlike yet potently effective illustration of Lee Weeks & Tom Palmer to stunning effect in this beguiling middle-sequence of a shocking extended saga of shadowy conspiracies and government malfeasance.

Previously: perpetually running from the authorities and himself, Banner had finally lost all hope in the aftermath of one of the Hulk’s bouts of mindless destruction which devastated Chicago and resulted in the death of a little boy, Ricky Myers. However, as the dejected scientist fled across America, one faltering step ahead of the authorities and his own battered conscience, he became aware of an incredible conspiracy and realised all was not as it seemed.

For one thing, a warring team of professional assassins were hunting him for an as-yet unknown client…

Both Slater and his rival/partner Sandra Verdugo had been co-opted by a cabal of Men in Black with an unspecified interest in ramping up anti-Hulk hysteria. They also wanted Banner taken alive and had gifted their agents with the power of resurrection…

Their exhausted target meanwhile had found a way to keep his rampaging Other under control and away from the world, even though his pursuers had often pushed him to the very brink…

The relentless pursuit resumes in rural Miser, Colorado where a tense hostage situation suddenly becomes a major crisis. It’s bad enough that a pink-slip has turned one overstressed wage-slave into a gun-toting nut-job holding a group of terrified citizens in the town’s only convenience store. It’s a potential problem that shell-shocked big city ex-cop and former SWAT-negotiator Sally Riker is a suicidal burnout with PTSD. It’s a terrifying prospect that one cop is down and bleeding out, with only an eerily calm drifter keeping the deranged gunman talking.

However, ‘Boiling Point’ is only reached when a taskforce of Feds inexplicably invade the town… As they brusquely take charge, in side the Ready-Mart, the strangely-placid stranger uses his pre-arranged safe-word code to tell Sally that they’re all impostors…

‘Poker Face’ opens with imposing FBI Agent Pratt briefing his shadow team to trigger Banner’s change to the Hulk, whilst “allowing” Sally to enter the store to negotiate all the captives’ release. With all his ducks in place, Pratt thinks he can end any witness problems with a Waco-style “accidental” exchange of gunfire, but has not taken into account Riker’s paranoia or Banner’s instincts…

When the Hulk at last manifests in ‘All Fall Down’, Pratt breaks out the futuristic weaponry he’s been hiding; primed to get a gamma-ray blood-sample before taking the beast captive…

With Miser razed by the Green Gargantuan and Pratt’s team killed by their murderous boss, the exultant agent then heads off to meet his mysterious masters, with a heavily tranquilised Banner in tow. The triumphant operative is confident his crimes will never be reported, but has not counted on Sally Riker’s survival skills and hunger for vengeance and answers…

Before too long she freed the Hulk and Pratt is faced with the cost of his sins as Sally, Banner and the Beast teach him the danger of unleashing ‘The Beast Within’

These tension-packed tales focus primarily on Banner and judiciously limit the use of the Jade Juggernaut to the point that the monster almost becomes a ghost: terrifying, dreaded but largely unseen. This Hulk is an oppressive force of calculated salvation and last resort rather than mere reader-friendly graphic destruction and gratuitous gratification.

Like all great monsters he lurks in the shadows, waiting for his moment…

One of the most underrated and impressive Hulk yarns of all, this book is the middle of three self-contained volumes which utterly reinvigorated the character of both Banner and his Altered Ego, cleverly refocusing the series for the 21st century. If you’re new to the series or looking for an excuse to jump back on, this book – and its companions – are for you…
© 2002, 2003 Marvel Characters Inc. All rights reserved.