Marvel Adventures Hulk volume 4: Tales to Astonish


By Peter David, Juan Santacruz, Raul Fernandez & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2981-3

In 2003 the ever-expanding House of Ideas instituted the Marvel Age line: an imprint updating classic original tales and characters for a new and younger readership.

The enterprise was tweaked in 2005, evolving into Marvel Adventures with core titles morphing into Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four and Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man. The tone was very much that of the company’s burgeoning TV cartoon franchises, in delivery if not name. Supplemental series included Super Heroes, The Avengers, Iron Man and Hulk. These ran until 2010 when they were cancelled and replaced by new volumes of Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes and Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man.

Most of the re-imagined tales have been collected in cheerfully inviting digest-sized compilations such as this one which features the final four mini-epics from the Green Giant’s own short-lived series. In the original mainstream continuity 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.

Alternating between occasional hero and mindless monster, he rampaged across the Marvel Universe for years, finally finding his size 700 feet to become one of young Marvel’s most resilient stars.

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…

Culled from Marvel Adventures Hulk #13-16 (covering September to December 2008) this quirky quartet of tales features Banner and the Hulk in essentially the same roles older fans will remember: a brilliant scientist and hunted man who turns into a fury-fuelled green gargantuan when provoked. The major difference of this version – other than the updating to modern times – is that here former juvenile delinquent Rick Jones was his lab-assistant when the gamma blast hit Banner and joins in his fugitive flight across America bringing a lab monkey (dubbed “Monkey”) which he stole before escaping from the army units of general Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross

For months the tortured trio have been making their way across the country staying below the radar, seeking a cure for Bruce’s condition and somehow always stumbling across rampaging villains and conflicted heroes who don’t know whether to help the Hulk or fight him…

If you’re of a compulsive disposition continuity-wise, these breezily bombastic blockbusters all take place on Marvel’s Earth-20051 but you should also be aware of one other thing: outrageous humour – from broad slapstick to surreal whimsy to bitingly sharp continuity in-jokes – plays a big part in the proceedings…

Written throughout by Peter David, winningly illustrated by Juan Santacruz & Raul Fernandez, with colours from Angel Marin and letters by Dave Sharpe, events kick off with ‘Are You My Mummy?’ as Bruce, Rick and Monkey sneak into New York City only to find the populace have been turned into shambling zombies wrapped in rotting bandages – even the Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, X-Men and Mighty Avengers

When the enwrapped heroes attack Bruce “Hulks out” and battles his way to Central Park, leaving Rick to be chased into a museum. Here the terrified teen discovers mutant maniac the Living Pharaoh is behind the catastrophe, but after Monkey swipes the villain’s control wand the mutant uncontrollably shifts into cosmic powerhouse the Living Monolith.

This only gives the frustrated Hulk a better, bigger target to smash…

The fugitives are in town to surreptitiously use the Gamma-tech and atomic devices of Bruce’s old mentor Professor Trimpe in their quest for a cure, but as they break into his lab in ‘Small Doubts’ they are disturbed by janitor Sam Sterns and, in the melee that follows, the machinery goes wild and Banner goes green and the trio are sucked through a wormhole into a subatomic world.

Before long they’re battling to save its benighted, downtrodden masses from the emotion-warping tyrant Psycho-Man

Eventually catapulted back to their own size and situation, they’re just in time to rescue the United Nations’ delegates and diplomats from ‘Following the Leader’. The release of all that gamma energy had turned floor-sweeper Sterns into an evil, giant-headed super-genius able to grow androids in instants and mind-control humans (especially politicians) who knew he could rule the world more efficiently that self-serving humans…

Thankfully Trimpe’s all-purpose accelerator in conjunction with Hulk’s unreasoning anger and pummelling fists are enough to handle the crisis and, after dumping megalomaniac and his plastic minions into the Microverse, Rick, Bruce and Monkey can finally try to sort out that cure…

Tragically that’s not to be as a sudden anti-nuclear protest upsets the applecart. Although the distraction allows our heroes to sneak into the lab, they are caught by sadistic spy Emil Blonsky. Impersonating a security guard, the killer had planned on swiping some plutonium, but now he’s prepared to settle on simply blowing up the nuclear plant…

In the resulting struggle Trimpe’s machines trigger again and Bruce is mutated to ‘The 7th Level’ into an ever more monstrous Hulk.

Blonsky fares even worse, metamorphosed into a ghastly gamma-spawned Abomination able to pound the Hulk to pulp and still determined to turn the entire state into a radioactive hole in the ground…

Fast-paced, enthralling and deliciously witty, these riotous super-sagas are augmented by a pulse-pounding cover gallery by Sean Gordon Murphy, David Nakamura & Guru eFX, Santacruz & Vicente Cifuentes, Tom Grummett, Gary Martin & Moose Bauman.

Never the success the company hoped, Marvel Adventures was superseded in 2012 by specific comics tied to Disney XD TV shows designated “Marvel Universe cartoons”, but these kid-friendly comics collections are still an intriguing, astonishingly entertaining and more culturally accessible means of introducing long-established stars and concepts to newcomers and represent a fantastic reservoir of fresh and entertaining Fights ‘n’ Tights fun for all lovers of the genre.
© 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.