Incredible Hulks: Planet Savage


By Greg Pak, Dale Eaglesham, Tom Grummett, Drew Hennessy, Cory Hamscher, Rick Magyar & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5159-3

Once upon a time, Bruce Banner was simply a military scientist accidentally caught in a gamma bomb blast of his own devising. Thereafter, stress or other factors caused him to unpredictably transform into a gigantic green monster of unstoppable strength and fury. As both occasional hero and mindless monster he rampaged across the Marvel Universe for decades, becoming one of the world’s most popular comicbook features and multi-media titans.

As such, he has often undergone radical changes in scope and format to keep his stories fresh and his exploits explosively compelling…

In recent years the number of Gamma-mutated monsters rampaging across the Marvel landscape has proliferated to inconceivable proportions. There are now assorted Hulks, She-Hulks, Abominations and all kinds of alien affiliates and ancillary atomic berserkers roaming the planet, so be prepared to experience a little confusion if you’re coming to this particular character cold. Nevertheless these always-epic yarns are generally worth the effort so persist if you can.

During the all-encompassing ‘Planet Hulk’ storyline of 2006-2007, the Jade Juggernaut was exiled to space and crashed on distant, brutally primitive world Sakarr, where he was enslaved as a gladiator before rising to briefly become messiah-king of the entire place after defeating the terrifying Red King.

He married an incredibly powerful once-enemy with ancient, ancestral tectonic gifts dubbed Caiera the Oldstrong, unknowingly spawned a son, and lost his new wife when the ship that brought him to Sakaar exploded…

Bereft and enraged he made his way back to Earth, oblivious of what he’d left behind and inflicted a punishing World War Hulk on the heroes and homeworld which betrayed him. Eventually that blew over too – but not without horrific and lingering consequences. Now Banner has notionally taken charge of a cadre of his fellow gamma gargantuans…

This collection gathers The Incredible Hulks #623-629 – a tome of two halves covering April to July 2011 – written in its entirety by film director, screenwriter and comics-nerd Greg Pak; opening with the eponymous ‘Planet Savage’ illustrated by Dale Eaglesham & Drew Hennessy.

In a hidden lab a worried cohort of monsters and outcasts (She-Hulk, Red She-Hulk, A-Bomb, Skaar: Son of Hulk, Korg of Krona, No-Name of the Brood, Sakaarian Elloe Kaifi and mostly human scientist Kate Waynesboro) battle to save the transformed Banner-Hulk from succumbing to injuries incurred battling demons and almighty Grecian Skyfather Zeus.

No sooner has he barely passed that crisis than the original green giant – who currently possesses Banner’s intellect – is off answering a distress call from the fantastic antediluvian nature preserve dubbed the Savage Land.

After trying to restrain the recuperating hero, a cadre of comrades reluctantly join him, painfully aware that the only thing keeping their friend alive is the Hulk’s inner core of rage: if Bruce rests or even calms down, both will assuredly die…

The clarion call they’re answering comes from modern-day Tarzan and self-appointed wild-life guardian Ka-Zar. Something very nasty has gorily eradicated a small enclave of Sakaarian refugees and the jungle lord is in dire need of a little back-up.

Sadly, not all of the otherworldly asylum-seekers are victims or innocent and before long the Hulk’s heavy-hitters are battling to the death against an army of mutated horrors controlled by a former ally.

Most horrifically, Banner’s compromised state has made him easy prey for an insectoid infestation that could end his rampages forever…

Following the conclusion of that gorily bombastic battle the tone twists to wry and witty Spy-Fi in a light-hearted, tradecraft-tinted tale ‘The Spy Who Smashed Me’, limned by Tom Grummett, Cory Hamscher & Rick Magyar.

The sensational skulduggery starts as Bruce’s ex-wife Betty Ross vanishes. That’s a pretty big deal since she is also the Red She-Hulk…

After still-recuperating hubby asks Amadeus Cho (8th smartest brain on Earth and 2nd most aggravating kid in the world) for assistance in locating her, they jointly discover that Betty’s power-levels are fluctuating to the point that she’s on the brink of a most unwelcome and soon-to-be-permanent final transformation…

Man and boy track her to Italy where Bruce goes undercover in a very stylish tuxedo made of unstable molecules, but ‘When in Rome’ Betty is no mood to quit partying and refuses to come back to the med-lab. Perhaps it has something to do with mesmerising immortal arch-enemy Tyrannus who’s ensorcelled her into helping him steal the legendary Pandora’s Box from the Museo della Mitologia Antica

Almost immediately the undercover part of the mission heads south and the artefact – still packing the destructive equivalent of “All the World’s Evils” – triggers global panic-alerts, prompting NATO to grudgingly accept the Hulk’s “offer” of assistance in ‘Live and Let Smash’.

Working with sultry Museum Director and antiquities expert Dr. Sofia di Cosimo, Hulk heads straight for Tyrannus’ subterranean realm to stop the former Roman Emperor from opening the most dangerous container on Earth…

And that’s when an unsuspected third faction busts in; snatching the doctor, the dictator and the hotly disputed relic, unleashing mythological madness and forcing Red and Green Gamma Gladiators to work together in a manic effort to halt a mystical meltdown and apocalyptic return of ancient atrocities in the spectacular showdown ‘License to Smash’

If you’re still capable of being shaken and stirred this collection also includes a cover and variant gallery by Eaglesham & Hennessey, Jock, Doug Braithwaite & Sonia Oback, Frank Cho & Jason Keith, Eaglesham &Peter Steigerwald and Michael Del Mundo, plus a ‘Pencil Gallery’ featuring covers and full pages by Eaglesham.

An intoxicating rollercoaster of action and sheer fun with plot pared back to a bare minimum, there’s much to recommend in this blistering, romp, especially if you’re a fan of magnificent mindless graphic mayhem – and what follower of the Hulk isn’t?

© 2011 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Essential Hulk volume 5


By Len Wein, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Chris Claremont, Herb Trimpe, Sal Buscema, Jack Abel, Joe Staton & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-7851-3065-9

By the close of the 1960s the Incredible Hulk had settled into a comfortable niche – and satisfyingly effective formula as radioactively afflicted Bruce Banner sought cures for his gamma-transformative curse, alternately aided or hunted by US General (and father of the scientist’s one true love) ThaddeusThunderboltRoss and a variety of guest-star heroes and villains.

Illustrator Herb Trimpe had made the character his own; the “house” Jack Kirby-based art-style quickly evolving into often startlingly abstract mannerism, augmented by an unmatched facility for drawing technology – especially honking great ordnance and vehicles – all of which looks especially great in the crisp black and white of these magically affordable Essentials volumes.

Most importantly, no one could possibly deny the sheer cathartic reader-release rush of a great big “Hulk Smash!” moment…

This chronologically complete monochrome mammoth contains Incredible Hulk #171-200, plus Hulk King Size Annual #5 (spanning January1974-November 1976) and opens with excessive bombast but no appreciable fanfare as ‘Revenge!’ (by Gerry Conway – from a Steve Englehart plot with art by Trimpe & Jack Abel) finds the Green Goliath a stowaway on a plane back to military Mecca Hulkbuster Base carrying new Project: Greenskin commanding officer Colonel John D. Armbruster who has taken over from the politically sidelined Thunderbolt Ross.

The camp is eerily deserted and the reason soon becomes clear as bludgeoning brutes Abomination and The Rhino attack. Having subdued the entire garrison, they plan on detonating the base’s gamma-bomb self-destruct device but are utterly unprepared for the Hulk’s irascible intervention…

Roy Thomas plotted Tony Isabella’s script for #172 wherein the Hulk – captured by the ungrateful soldiers he saved – is hurled into another dimension, allowing a mystic menace to inadvertently escape. ‘And Canst Thou Slay… The Juggernaut?’ reveals that even that magically augmented menace cannot resist our favourite monster’s might and features a telling cameo by the X-Men, after which Thomas scripts all-Trimpe art-fest ‘Anybody Out There Remember… The Cobalt Man?’, wherein another old X-adversary – Ralph Roberts – picks up the Jade Giant at sea before sailing his research vessel into a nuclear test explosion…

Dying of radiation exposure the deranged technologist then determines to demonstrate atomic bombs are bad to a callous, uncaring world by detonating one over Sydney in Doomsday… Down Under’ (Conway, Thomas, Trimpe & Abel). The second clash with the azure-armoured Cobalt Man results in a blistering battle in the stratosphere, a cataclysmic explosion and Hulk crashing to earth far, far away as a ‘Man-Brute in the Hidden Land!’ (#175, Thomas, Trimpe & Abel)…

Here a typically short-tempered encounter with the Uncanny Inhumans and devastating duel with silent super-monarch Black Bolt, after the usual collateral carnage, ends with the gamma gladiator hurtling to the far side of the sun in a rocket-ship for a date with allegory if not destiny.

During the early 1970s a throwaway Fantastic Four character dubbed Him was turned into a modern interpretation of the Christ myth and placed on a world far more like our own than the Earth of Marvel’s universe.

That troubled globe was codified as Counter-Earth and upon it the messianic Adam Warlock battled a Satan-analogue known as the Man-Beast. Hulk had briefly visited once before and now he crashed there again to complete the allegorical epic beginning with ‘Crisis on Counter-Earth!’ by Conway, Trimpe & Abel.

Since the Hulk’s departure Man-Beast and his animalistic minions (all spawned by godlike genetic meddler The High Evolutionary) had become America’s President and Cabinet. Moving decisively they had finally captured Warlock and led humanity to the brink of extinction, leaving the would-be messiah’s disciples in utter confusion.

Now with the nation in foment the Hulk’s shattering return gives Warlock’s faithful flock an opportunity to save their saviour in ‘Peril of the Plural Planet!’ but the foray badly misfires and Warlock is captured. Publicly crucified at the behest of the people, humanity’s last hope perishes…

Meanwhile on true-Earth Ross and Armbruster discover trusted comrade (and Ross’ son-in-law) Major Glenn Talbot has escaped from a top security Soviet prison and is making his triumphant way back to the USA…

The quasi-religious experience concludes with ‘Triumph on Terra-Two’ (Conway, Isabella, Trimpe & Abel) as the dead prophet resurrects whilst Hulk is waging his last battle against Man-Beast in time to deliver a cosmic coup de grace before ascending from Counter-Earth to the beckoning stars…

Incredible Hulk #179 signalled a much-need thematic reboot as Len Wein signed on as writer/editor with strong ideas on how to put some dramatic impact back into the feature. It begins with ‘Re-enter: The Missing Link’, as the Jade Juggernaut loses patience during his return trip and bursts out of his borrowed spaceship just as America’s military defences shoot it down.

He crashes to earth in the mining district of Appalachia and, reverting to befuddled Bruce Banner, is adopted by the dirt-poor Bradford family. They have a habit of taking in strays and have already welcomed a strange, huge yet gentle being they’ve named Lincoln.

As time passes Banner recognises the creature as a former Hulk foe known as the Missing Link. The colossal brute is neither evil nor violent (unless provoked) but is lethally radioactive, and the fugitive physicist faces the dilemma of having to break up a perfect happy family before they all die.

The Link of course, refuses to cooperate or go quietly…

Next comes the most momentous story in Hulk history which starts with ‘And the Wind Howls… Wendigo!’ (#180, October 1974, Wein, Trimpe & Abel), wherein the blockbusting brute bounces across the Canadian Border and encounters a witch attempting to cure her lover of a curse which has transformed him into a rampaging cannibalistic monster.

Unfortunately that cure meant Hulk had to become a Wendigo in his stead…

It was while the Great Green and Weird White monsters were fighting that mutant megastar Wolverine first appeared – in the very last panel – and that’s what leads into the savage fist, fang and claw fest that follows.

‘And Now… The Wolverine!’ captivatingly concluded the saga as the Maple nation’s top-secret super-agent is unleashed upon both the Emerald Goliath and man-eating Wendigo in an 18-page romp stuffed with triumph, tragedy and lots of slashing and hitting. The rest is history…

Back south of the border, Major Talbot has been reunited with his wife and family and is eagerly expecting a meeting with President Ford as ‘Between Hammer and Anvil!’ (with Trimpe taking sole charge of the art chores) finds the ever-lonely Hulk meeting and losing a true friend in jolly hobo Crackerjack Jackson.

The über-action portion of the tale comes from two escaped convicts who despise each other but are forced to endure togetherness because of an alien chain which shackles them whilst imparting overwhelming power. It’s not, nearly enough, however, enough to stop a fighting-mad, heartbroken Hulk…

Electrical vampire and life-stealer ZZZAX returns in ‘Fury at 50,000 Volts!’, wrecking a new life Banner surreptitiously carves for himself in Chicago, after which ‘Shadow on the Land!’ finds the wandering man-mountain battling alien invader Warlord Kaa who has taken possession of the Hulk’s shadow. This close encounter leads to Banner’s capture by Armbruster just in time for the President’s visit and a shocking ‘Deathknell!’ as the truth about Talbot is revealed when the trustworthy major attempts to assassinate the Commander-in-Chief.

During the attendant death and chaos Hulk busts out and General Ross regains his credibility by recapturing him, but the Soviet infiltration of the base is far from over as a traitor dons super-armour to continue the attacks in ‘The Day of the Devastator!’

This time when the Jade Juggernaut smashes their common foe, the American army are suitably grateful…

Sometime later SHIELD intelligence discovers the real Talbot is still a prisoner in Siberia and that Hulkbuster Base’s current problems have been caused by a Soviet mutant genius they’ve all battled before…

‘There’s a Gremlin in the Works!’ (Incredible Hulk #187, with Joe Staton joining the team as inker) features the return of the son of the Green Goliath’s very first foe The Gargoyle – see Essential Hulk volume 1 – a vicious mastermind with plans far beyond merely serving the Soviet state.

The little maniac is holding Talbot at his Bitterfrost fortress and quite prepared for Ross and SHIELD agent Clay Quartermain to stage a rescue bid, but all the cyborg super-soldiers and giant mutant monster dogs in the world are not enough when mission stowaway Bruce Banner gets scared and goes green…

The fiend’s personality-altering technology is exposed in ‘Mind Over Mayhem!’ but as the heroes escape with Talbot’s comatose body Hulk seemingly dies in Bitterfrost’s explosive death-throes. Nothing could be further from the truth and #189 sees the monster battle the Mole Man to secure a miracle-remedy for a sightless little Russian girl in ‘None Are So Blind…!’

Veteran Hulk illustrator Marie Severin inks Trimpe on ‘The Man Who Came Down on a Rainbow!’ as alien benefactor Glorian whisks the solitary man-monster to a veritable promised land in the stars, only to have the idyll shattered by invading Toad Men hungry for the secret power fuelling paradise…

After murdering Glorian, ‘The Triumph of the Toad!’ (Trimpe & Staton) is short-lived and catastrophically self-destructive after the enraged Hulk and the Shaper of Worlds extract a measure of justice for their fallen friend…

Cast back to Earth, the Green Giant lands in Scotland in time to get between feuding hotheads with violently opposing attitudes to ‘The Lurker beneath Loch Fear!’ after which Banner heads back to America where Ross and Quartermain have recruited a famous psychologist to fix the catatonic Glenn Talbot.

‘The Doctor’s Name is… Samson!’ finds the one time Gamma-powered superhero falling victim to another scientific gaffe and accidentally reborn as the green-haired strongman, yet still unable to cure his patient. For that he needs Banner, but when his wish comes true, Leonard Samson just isn’t tough enough to hold onto him…

After years on the strip Trimpe moved on to other things and Incredible Hulk #194 saw the pencilling debut of Sal Buscema in ‘The Day of the Locust!’ (with Wein & Staton still doing what they did best).

Lost in the American heartland the Hulk stumbles upon young lovers pursued by an overly possessive dad determined to end the affair. This angry parent however is a former X-Men enemy who can enlarge insects to immense size so the kids are more than grateful for the assistance of a Jolly Green Cupid…

With Samson and the army one step behind him, the Hulk befriends a small boy running away from home in ‘Warfare in Wonderland!’ Eager for any advantage Ross tricks the Abomination into attacking the Jade Giant but is unprepared for the gamma gladiators to team up rather than tussle in #196’s ‘The Abomination Proclamation!’

The villain’s innate viciousness soon alienates his temporary ally however and after winning another spectacular fight Hulk blasts off on a runaway rocket and crashes down in the Everglades where the invidious Collector has made his latest lair…

The phenomena fanatic is on a monster kick and, having scooped up Banner and a mute young man who is in actuality The Glob, feels ‘…And Man-Thing Makes Three!’ to be the perfect set. He has grossly underestimated the deeply buried humanity of his living trinkets and soon must face a mass-escape and the loss of all his living exhibits after ‘The Shangri-La Syndrome!’ hits home…

Hulk Annual #5 (November 1976) was the first all new King-Size compendium since 1968 and featured a huge monster mash reviving a half dozen iconic threats and menaces from the company’s pre-superhero phase. Written by Chris Claremont, with art by Sal B & Jack Abel, ‘And Six Shall Crush the Hulk!’ offers little in the way of plot but stacks of sensational action as a procession of resurrected aliens attack one after another, beginning with ‘Where There’s Smoke, There’s Diablo!’, ‘And Taboo Shall Triumph!’ and ‘It Is Groot, the Monster from Planet X!!’, after which ‘For I am Goom!!’ and ‘Beware the Blip!’ pile on the pressure until an evil mastermind is revealed as grudge-bearing Defenders foe Xemnu in ‘A Titan Shall Slay Him!’

Naturally even exhausted the Hulk is too much for the spiteful schemer…

Building up to a spectacular anniversary, Incredible Hulk #199 saw Samson and Ross employ all America’s most advanced assets in ‘…And SHIELD Shall Follow!’ (Wein, Sal B & Staton) to capture the critically necessary Jade Giant, but in the end it is the psychologist’s sheer guts and determination which won the day, allowing the big issue #200 resolution as Hulk is shrunk to infinitesimal size and injected into Talbot’s brain to battle materialised memories and a viciously sentient tumour as ‘An Intruder in the Mind!’

The struggle to restore the mind of Banner’s rival for Betty Ross-Talbot’s undying affections is not without complications, however, and at the moment of his greatest triumph and sacrifice the Hulk suffers a major setback and begins uncontrollably shrinking beyond the ability of Samson and his team to rescue him…

To Be Continued…

This superbly cathartic tome also includes Hammer and Anvil pages taken from the Marvel Universe Handbook plus an alternative cover to Incredible Hulk #174.

The Incredible Hulk is one of the most well-known comic characters on Earth, and these stories, as much as the movies, cartoons, TV shows, games, toys and action figures are the reason why. For an uncomplicated, earnestly vicarious experience of Might actually being Right, you can’t do better than these yarns, so why not Go Green – even if it’s only in monochrome and in your own delirious head?
© 1974, 1975, 1976, 2008 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Hulk: Red Hulk volume 1


By Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2882-3

Bruce Banner was a military scientist who was accidentally caught in a gamma bomb blast of his own devising. As a result stress or other factors would cause him to transform into a giant green monster of unstoppable strength and fury. As both occasional hero and mindless monster he rampaged across the Marvel Universe for decades, finally finding his size 700 feet and a format that worked, becoming one of young Marvel’s most beloved features.

A phenomenally popular character both in comics and more global accessible media like TV and movies, he has often undergone radical changes in scope and style to keep his stories fresh and his exploits explosively compelling…

In the early part of the 21st century the number of gamma-mutated monsters rampaging across the Marvel landscape proliferated to inconceivable proportions and the days of Bruce Banner getting mean and going green are long gone, so anybody taking their cues from the small or big screen incarnations would be wise to assume a level of unavoidable bewilderment.

There are a few other assorted ancillary atomic berserkers roaming the planet, so be prepared to experience a little confusion if you’re coming to this particular character cold. Nevertheless these always-epic stories are generally worth the effort so persist if you can.

At the time of this collection – gathering the contents of Hulk volume 2 #1-6 from March-August 2008, plus a gamma-tinged bonus tale from Wolverine volume 3 #50 (and March 2007) – the Banner iteration of the Jade Giant is presumed dead and a smattering of new gamma gargantua are only just beginning to appear…

This will be eventually revealed as the first public phase of an extended plot by the world’s wickedest brain trust to conquer everything (as would be later seen in the epic Fall of the Hulks) but here action and enigma take precedence in the form of a bizarre murder mystery as She-Hulk, gamma-augmented psychologist LeonardDocSamson, veteran Hulk-Buster General ThaddeusThunderboltRoss, SHIELD agent Maria Hill and her new boss/Director TonyIron ManStark work a crime scene in Dimitri, Russia.

The assembled experts are standing over the corpse of Emil Blonsky – formerly the vicious indestructible monster known as the Abomination. He was beaten near to death by something which can only have been the dearly-departed Hulk but finished off with a gun of implausibly large calibre and power…

The assembled experts are baffled and suspicious. Since when has the Hulk ever been calm enough to use a gun? Other things don’t add up either – most notably the Hulk-sized footprints which were somehow so hot that they turned the ground to glass…

Before they get too far into their CSI task, however, Russia’s metahuman unit The Winter Guard show up and claim jurisdiction in a manner which can only lead to a fight and international incident…

The still-unexplained gamma-assassination took out an entire village as collateral damage and the battle between the American intruders and People’s Patriots Dark Star, Ursa Major, Crimson Dynamo and Red Guardian looks set to do even more harm until a shellshocked little girl shambles from the wreckage, muttering one word over and over. The chastened warriors stop and Darkstar translates. The broken waif is saying “red”…

Sometime later in Alaska, Banner’s greatest friend Rick Jones wakes up amidst a scene of devastation only a Hulk could have made, whilst in Gamma Base, Nevada, Samson and Ross enter a top secret dungeon to ask a prisoner ‘Who Is The Hulk?’

Just like the rest of the American investigators, they both know Blonsky’s killer can’t be Banner. The world at large may believe he’s dead but all the Hulk experts know he’s still alive and well, locked in the inescapable cell where they shoved him…

The mystery of the new Hulk resumes in ‘The Smoking Gun’ as aboard SHIELD Director Stark’s new Helicarrier, Hill reveals the gun used to kill Abomination was stolen from their own armoury deep within the flying super-fortress. She has no chance to expound further as She-Hulk is savagely attacked and beaten – by a colossal crimson monster that resembles the Hulk – so swiftly that even battle-seasoned Iron Man cannot react in time…

With the monumental vessel crippled and about to smash into New York City, the heroes’ attentions are divided between hunting the monster and preventing an appalling disaster, leaving Red Hulk to pick off the champions at his leisure…

In Nevada, hitchhiking Rick Jones has reached the supposedly decommissioned Gamma Base, only to be attacked by a massive scarlet horror. The assault triggers a strange change and the young man suddenly transforms into a huge and hideous blue abomination calling itself A-Bomb

With more than one gamma suspect at large, ‘Creatures on the Loose’ opens in the smouldering remains of the downed Helicarrier as Stark reviews security footage from Gamma Base and realises that the captive Banner has had unmonitored conversations with Ross and Samson. Suspicions aroused, he takes the recordings to an expert even as at the Nevada site Red Hulk and A-Bomb engage in a furious no-holds barred battle.

So cataclysmic is the clash that it shatters the mile of ground above Banner’s cell and triggers the San Andreas Fault…

With a fight this ferociously apocalyptic, the impassive alien observer known as The Watcher naturally materialises to record the event but even he is not immune to the Crimson Barbarian’s unrelenting fury. However the beast’s attempted celestia-cide is interrupted by the resurgent return of the original Jade Juggernaut in ‘Red Light, Green Light’.

It is clearly what the devious scarlet newcomer has been wanting all along and their hyper-destructive duel carries them all the way to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge…

With catastrophe imminent ‘Rolling Thunder’ introduces another recently resurrected champion as Asgardian storm lord Thor dives headlong into the fray seconds after the Red Hulk seemingly drowns his viridian counterpart. As their subsequent staggering struggle takes the combatants from Earth to the Moon, A-Bomb and green Hulk struggle out of the choppy waters in time to join a band of heroes (Iron Man, She-Hulk, Human Torch, The Thing, Sub-Mariner and Ares, God of War) in preventing the roiling San Andreas Fault tipping the city and a good part of the Golden State into the Pacific Ocean…

The semi-mindless Green Goliath soon falls into fighting with his allies and hurtles away – somehow able to track to his scarlet-skinned alternate – and arrives as the beast returns to Earth after trouncing the Thunderer. Loathing each other on sight they clash again with the ‘Blood Red’ barbarian finally falling before the pounding fists of the unstoppable original Hulk. As the weary victor wanders away, however, the mastermind behind the Red Hulk finally reveals himself…

To Be Continued…

Also included in this collection is a collation of cartoon comedy vignettes (‘Hulk Art Class’, ‘Hulk Splash’ and ‘Hulk Zoo’) by Audrey Loeb & Chris Giarrusso) and a brief but visually bombastic retelling of the Jade Juggernaut’s first clash with manic mutant mainstay Wolverine in ‘Puny Little Man’ by Jeph Loeb, McGuinness & Vines from Wolverine volume 3 #50, and an assortment of covers and variants by McGuinness, Vines & Jason Keith, Michael Turner, Dale Keown, Daniel Acuña, Marko Djurdjevic, David Finch, Olivier Coipel and Arthur Adams.

If staggering, blockbusting Fights ‘n’ Tights turmoil is your fancy, a Hulk of any colour is always going to be at the top of every punch-drunk thrill-seeker’s hit list…
© 2008, 2009 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Savage Hulk: The Man Within


By Alan Davis, Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, Mark Farmer, Sam Grainger & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-630-4

In 1969, after six years of quirky, deliciously off-kilter adventures, The X-Men comicbook folded. It was a relatively early casualty of the latest periodic, repetitive changing-of-reading-tastes, which saw the buying public once again shun superhero stories in favour of genres like war, westerns and, most especially, supernatural horror yarns…

Of course after the fantasy fad receded again the team emerged resurgent and unstoppable in 1975’s Giant-Size X-Men #1 and have since become an unshakable fixture of contemporary comics and cinema culture. Nevertheless when they first folded, a goodly number of us strange funnybook fans couldn’t believe the loss of such outré and irreplaceable characters.

Despite their reappearance in recycled reprints a certain magic had gone from the world back then and this most modern confection by Alan Davis seeks to redress that loss, albeit 45 human years later…

That final 1960s X-Men exploit was a weird “sort-of” team-up and, as it pivotally informs the all-original 4-part tale by Davis, inker Mark Farmer and colourist Matt Hollingsworth which comprises the majority of this scintillating compilation chronicle, the editors at Marvel have thoughtfully included it – in all its raw glory – at the back of the book.

I’m reviewing it first because that’d just the way I am…

‘The Mutants and the Monster!’ by Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema & Sam Grainger (X-Men volume 1#66, cover-dated March 1970), was actually the epilogue to an epic clash between the mutants and voracious alien invaders.

The campaign had shockingly brought back long-believed dead Professor Charles Xavier, who then nearly killed himself for real by uniting every mind on Earth in a psychic thrust of unparallelled force to repel the already repellent Z’Nox.

The tragic aftermath was seen here: a debilitating coma caused by the exertion left the telepath near death, able only to convey a feeble psionic message which sent the team hunting for Bruce Banner in Nevada.

Apparently, the two cerebral heavyweights had previously and secretly collaborated on a gamma-powered device which might now be able to save and restore the fallen Xavier…

However the harried young heroes, in their hasty attempt to save their mentor, forgot one crucial fact: when you hunt Banner what you usually end up with is an immensely irate Incredible Hulk

The resulting destructive debacle wrecked a lot of landscape but throughout the extended brouhaha, the Hulk seemed to be subconsciously leading the titanic teens to his hidden desert lab where the prototype Gamma Stimulator was stashed.

Despite colossal carnage and inevitable US Army interference the gadget was recovered and the Professor saved…

Flipping now to the front of the book, the main event reveals a previously undisclosed follow-up encounter published as Savage Hulk #1-4 (August to November 2014) ‘The Man within’ and opens with TV coverage of the Nevada battle being carefully scrutinised by Gamma-spawned evil super-genius The Leader. The sinister savant soon gleans a connection between the mutant warriors and their previously unsuspected boss Charles Xavier…

The Hulk meanwhile is fending of another furious attack by the military even as back in Westchester County the recuperating Xavier examines the life-saving device and realises Banner had completed it to cure himself of his emerald alter ego. The mutant mentor soon discovers why it didn’t work on the tragic titanic transformer. It needed a telepathic trigger…

Convinced he can return the favour and finally cure Banner, guilty, grateful Professor X accompanies Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast, Iceman, Havok and magnetic warrior Lorna Dane back to Nevada and Banner’s clandestine laboratory. They are all blithely unaware that The Leader has already staked the place out…

The frenzied fugitive at the heart of the matter meanwhile has been found by a well-meaning elderly couple whose offer of assistance leads to unbridled terror as the timid down-and-out suddenly shapeshifts into a mountain of angry green muscle…

Nearby the X-Men have been ambushed by the murderous, monstrous Abomination, who is also hunting for the Hulk and their titanic tussle soon intrudes on the Jade Giant’s agonised antics…

The three-way war immediately escalates after the army closes in, all guns blazing, but the merely human military are swiftly driven back by the mutants, leaving the Hulk to totally trash his gamma-powered nemesis single handed.

In the quiet aftermath, Marvel Girl uses her own still-developing telepathy to quell the victorious Hulk’s rage and re-manifest the deeply traumatised Bruce. Soon the physicist is conferring with Xavier and preparing to be rid of his ominous other for all time, but as their salvation device is set in motion none are aware that deadly threat is nearby, awaiting the perfect moment to strike…

Shock follows shock as the procedure goes awry with the hulk’s gamma-energy migrating to Marvel Girl, creating a bellicose green giantess reeling with incomprehensible psionic power.

…And that’s when The Leader makes his move at the head of an army of mechanoids and a legion of the Hulk’s old foes…

Only Xavier is aware that things are not entirely what they seem and is capable of combating the true source of the fantastic threat, aided by the Hulk’s most incredible gamma-fuelled transformation yet…

Also included in this splendid and explosively entertaining epistle are the original covers by Davis, Farmer, Val Staples, Matt Hollingsworth & Brad Andersen plus Marie Severin & Grainger’s 1969 classic image, and a selection of variants from John Cassaday, Alex Ross, Ryan Stegman, Jim Starlin and Dale Keown.

Cleverly conceived, beautifully illustrated, riotously action-packed and stunningly suspenseful, this tale of triumph and tragedy is pure vintage Marvel Mastery, ably augmented by the original inspirational yarn from the end of a unique era and offering readers young and old a magnificent chance to re-experience the glory days of the House of Ideas.

™ & © 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.

Hulk: Banner D.O.A.


By Mark Waid, Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-619-9

Once upon a time, Robert Bruce Banner was merely a military scientist accidentally caught in a gamma-bomb blast of his own devising. As a result, any undue stress could cause him to transform into a gigantic green monster of unimaginable strength and fury.

As both occasional hero and bombastic brute he rampaged across the landscape for decades, becoming one of comics’ most popular characters and most enduring multi-media titans.

Over the years he has undergone numerous radical changes in scope, character and format to keep his stories fresh and his exploits explosively compelling, whilst the number of gamma-galvanised grotesqueries crashing about the Marvel Universe has proliferated to inconceivable proportions.

The days of Bruce going green with anger at the drop of a hat are long gone, so anybody taking their cues from TV or movie incarnations would be wise to anticipate a smidgen of unavoidable confusion…

In a world of numerous Hulks, She-Hulks, Abominations and every kind of ancillary colour-swatched atomic berserker, the MarvelNOW! event saw the Jade Giant reinvented in a stripped-down, back-to-basics but startlingly original manner which energised new and old fans alike.

The big change occurred after S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill was “persuaded” to provide perennial fugitive Banner with resources and funding in order to sanitise his devastated scientific reputation. In return Hill could call on the Hulk as a living weapon of last resort…

One of the smartest men on Earth, Banner had lost years of success, progress and peer renown whilst trying to cure himself of the Hulk. Concerned about his legacy, the fugitive genius had at last decided to make his future headlines as a scientist, not a shattering force of nature – for as long as he could possible manage – rather than fruitlessly seek to cure his affliction. Additionally, in return for S.H.I.E.L.D. science labs and trained assistants, the beleaguered boffin would give the spy agency first use of his discoveries and inventions…

Despite the occasional catastrophic aberration now and then, the arrangement proved a success and both Banner and his emerald other became valued assets of the global peacekeeping force and key components of the latest assemblage of Mighty Avengers. However, after facing an escalating string of string of crises – the latest of which involved sinister scientific maverick Ted Goodrich and his reactivated rogue think-tank The Enclave – Banner was assassinated…

This volume (collecting Hulk #1-4, published from June-August 2014) picks up the tale as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents forcibly second brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Aaron Carpenter for a top secret medical emergency.

The opening of 4-part saga ‘Who Shot the Hulk’ finds the medical wizard cautiously operating on old college associate Banner; marvelling at the precision needed to shoot someone in the brain twice and not kill them whilst simultaneously terrified that his slightest misstep could unleash the monster within…

As Carpenter works other teams finishing harvesting gamma-infused flesh, blood and other biological samples but he only begins to suspect something is awry when the shadow-enshrouded lead operative instructs him to implant a device which will allow the Hulk to be controlled like a weapon.

…And then the mystery-man admits that they are not S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at all…

Thankfully the decision to connect the device is taken out of Carpenter’s hands when one of his surgical team allows Banner to awaken and the furious Hulk manifests…

As chaos ensues the impostors attempt to kill everybody but the Gamma Goliath is unstoppable. In the resulting carnage the medics all escape but the villains vanish…

Two weeks later genuine S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives Maria Hill and Phil Coulson track down a “John Doe” in a rural hospital and are apprised of the long-missing Bruce Banner’s condition. One of the three smartest men on Earth is physically fine but irrevocably brain damaged…

The story picks up as Hill and Coulson pursue a fruitless task in trying to determine who shot, abducted and tried to weaponise the Hulk. The list is too long to contemplate but, even as they ponder, the mystery-man is using Banner’s bio-samples to resurrect the one old foe S.H.I.E.L.D. have confidently crossed off their list…

Meanwhile in Hightown, Colorado Reverend and Ms. Bassey are caring for their severely impaired grandson Bobby. They are particularly careful to never let him become overly frustrated or angry. Later, however, when a pack of bullies target the simpleton things get exceedingly strange as the thugs are suddenly surrounded by heavily armed agents and the truth comes out…

No sooner is Banner’s covert protective custody exposed than another crisis erupts and Hill is forced to actually brutalise the child-like man and rouse the Hulk within. The reason becomes clear when definitely deceased gamma monster The Abomination smashes into the town like a missile. Their enigmatic evil enemy has resurrected the creature using Banner’s DNA, unleashing a radioactive zombie programmed to hunt and destroy its debilitated nemesis…

As the enraged jade juggernauts wade into each other and subsequently raze the town, Hill realises it’s only a feint when masked soldiers phase through the walls in a sneak attack…

In the third episode Hill, despite easily defeating the ghost warriors, loses control of the overall situation when The Avengers, alerted by the escalating catastrophe in Colorado, storm in to rescue their long-missing comrade. Amidst a blockbusting battle Banner appears, with very little sign of ever having been lobotomised by bullets.

His recovered intellect doesn’t stay long and he quickly destabilises into confusion, fear and worse. As the Avengers struggle to stop the gamma-zombie, Hill realises Hulk’s gamma-charged rapid-healing abilities are restoring Banner’s brain but not his mind and warns Bruce that if he fully transforms his personality might be erased forever.

With the Avengers utterly unable to slow Abomination’s attack, Banner has only one choice to make…

The final chapter opens with a flashback to the moment Banner first convinced Hill to let him join S.H.I.E.L.D. It involved blackmail and the placing of incriminating time-sensitive files with ferociously independent lawyer Matt Murdock – AKA Daredevil – to ensure that if anything happened to the fugitive physicist everybody would suffer…

Back in the now, with hell unleashed in Hightown, the Hulk finds an unbeatable advantage and destroys the undead Abomination, seemingly dooming Banner forever. When the dust settles the Avengers claim the debilitated victor and Iron Man swears to save his childhood intellectual rival. Some time later, through use of the most dangerous and proscribed bio-technology available, he seemingly succeeds…

As Hill reaches an unhappy accommodation with Daredevil, in Tony Stark’s futuropolis Troy one troubling question remains unanswered. Although apparently restored to rational brilliance, there is still a troubling doubt about the rapidly recovering patient. What cost has the biologically potent remedy had on the traumatised mind and battered soul within? Can Banner possibly be the same man he was before?

To Be Continued…

Sporting a stack of AR icons (Marvel’s Augmented Reality App featuring printed portals to online story bonuses and extras for everyone who downloaded the free software from marvel.com onto a smart-phone or Android-enabled tablet) and a Baker’s Dozen of covers-&-variants by Jerome Opeña, Dean White, Bagley, Jason Keith, Michael Del Mundo, Chris Samnee, Gerald Parel, Mike Grell & Skottie Young, this razor-sharp, tension-soaked, blisteringly action-packed and astonishingly compelling read offers a fantastic new beginning for one of Marvel’s oldest and greatest star turns.

This fresh and exciting epic brilliantly mixes astounding adventure with clever characterisation and an addictive excess of furious Fights ‘n’ Tights spectacle into a tale no comics fan could possibly resist.
™ & © 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.

Indestructible Hulk volume 4: Humanity Bomb


By Mark Waid, Mahmud Asrar, Clayton Mann & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-620-5

Once upon a time, Bruce Banner was merely a military scientist accidentally caught in a Gamma-bomb blast of his own devising. As a result, any undue stress could cause him to transform into a gigantic green monster of unimaginable strength and fury.

As both occasional hero and bombastic brute he rampaged across the landscape for decades, becoming one of comics’ most popular characters and most enduring multi-media titans.

Over the years he has undergone numerous radical changes in scope, character and format to keep his stories fresh and his exploits explosively compelling whilst the number of Gamma-galvanised grotesqueries crashing about the Marvel Universe has proliferated to inconceivable proportions.

The days of Bruce going green with anger at the drop of a hat are long gone, so anybody taking their cues from TV or movie incarnations would be wise to anticipate a smidgen of unavoidable confusion…

In a world of numerous Hulks, She-Hulks, Abominations and every kind of ancillary colour-swatched atomic berserker, the MarvelNOW! event saw the Jade Giant reinvented in a stripped-down, back-to-basics but startlingly original manner which energised new and old fans alike.

The big change in his fortunes occurred after S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill was persuaded to provide perennial fugitive Banner with resources and funding in order to sanitise his devastated scientific reputation. In return Hill could call on the Hulk as a living weapon of last resort…

One of the smartest men on Earth, Banner had lost years of success, progress and peer renown whilst trying to cure himself of the Hulk. Concerned about his legacy, the fugitive genius had at last decided to make his future headlines as a scientist, not a shattering force of nature – for as long as he could possible manage – rather than fruitlessly seek to cure his affliction. Additionally, in return for S.H.I.E.L.D. science labs and trained assistants, the beleaguered boffin would give the spy agency first use of his discoveries and inventions…

This volume details the final days of this cataclysmic chapter in the ever-eventful life of Dr. Banner and his angry green alter ego (collecting Indestructible Hulk #16, 17.INH, 18.INH, 19.INH, 20 and Indestructible Hulk Annual #1, spanning January-March 2014) with scripter Mark Waid going out on a unforgettable high.

These days comics are all about the next Big Publishing Event and this latest Hulk collection capitalises on the tide of Inhumanity to bring this particular iteration to a spectacular climax …

During earlier mega-blockbuster Infinity, mad Titan Thanos invaded Earth and battled the Inhumans’ ruler Black Bolt to a standstill. As a last resort the embattled king released the Hidden People’s mutagenic Terrigen Mist into the atmosphere where it triggered mutation in millions, proving that human and Inhuman were not necessarily different races…

After being marooned in mystical ice-hell Jotunheim and then having to outwit Zarrko the Tomorrow Man and repair the fracturing time-stream, Banner and his team are way behind the greenly envious genius’ schedule to prove himself smarter than Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Hank Pym and all the other assorted big-brains who have outshone and pitied him over the years of his affliction…

Thus in ‘Humanity Bomb: Prelude’ (by Waid & Mahmud Asrar)Banner is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to get back on track. After blackmailing the Military-Industrial complex for “black bag” funds, the inventor goes on a spree of tinkering only to be beaten to the patent office post over and over again by his oblivious intellectual rivals.

With his temper fraying, only calm, cool assistant Randall Jessup seems able to keep him from “Hulking Out”, so it’s with some relief that Banner hears of a rushed – and highly suspect – S.H.I.E.L.D. mission to an ancient Meso-American pyramid in Mexico where he can exorcise some pent-up frustration…

They only want Renewable Energy expert Jessup on-site, but Banner is not a man to take “no” for an answer anymore – which is lucky considering the original purpose of the monolith and the things waiting inside…

Indestructible Hulk Annual #1 then offers a look into Banner’s – and Tony Stark’s – boyhood via a ‘Journey into Science’ (Jeff Parker & Asrar) as Dr. Derenik Zadian – the charismatic but mercenary scientific genius who taught and then advised the two prodigies to go into weapons research – returns as a threat to the entire world. Iron Man and the Hulk must reluctantly invade the monster-stuffed island their renegade mentor is now literally part-and-parcel of…

‘Humanity Bomb’ (by Waid, Clay Mann, Seth Mann, Miguel Sepulveda, Jheremy Raapack, Tom Grummett, Joe Bennett, Karl Kesel, Ruy José, Andrew Hennessy & Scott Hanna) then opens as Stark and Pym meddle with Banner’s proposed solution for the still-propagating clouds of airborne Terrigen Mist…

Already under relentless, self-induced pressure to succeed, the unwelcome intervention stresses Banner, but not as much as the S.H.I.E.L.D. edict that his entire research team are to be held in “lock-down” since one of them has tested positive for the genes that react to Terrigen exposure…

Thus, when Iron Man, Giant-Man and The Beast arrive, insultingly demanding to check his work before proceeding, Banner goes ballistic. To be fair though, his quick fix is a bomb and everybody is painfully aware of how well his last radical radioactive explosive device turned out…

When the physicist goes green and crazy the assembled Avengers are unable to stop him stealing the bomb and escaping into the unsuspecting world…

The resulting chase and cataclysmic clash causes the bomb to detonate over Tulsa, Oklahoma with horrific and astounding results. In the aftermath the now pacified physicist’s solution is deconstructed and the reason for its failure to end the spread of “Terrigenesis” determined.

Banner is blithely unaware that his team have broken out of custody and flown after him. They are unaware that the cure hasn’t worked – until one of them suddenly turns into a monster that feeds on rage…

Inevitably the fresh new travesty of nature clashes spectacularly with the Hulk but, even after a seeming solution reverses the Terrigen transformation, the danger is not over. Elsewhere, maverick scientist Ted Goodrich has rebuilt and reactivated the rogue think tank dubbed The Enclave (which numbered growing the first artificial godling Him/Adam Warlock amongst its numerous wonders and breakthroughs) and has targeted Banner’s recently reverted aide…

That bombastic battle apparently goes the Good Guys’ way but after reporting back to Maria Hill one more shock and another impossible tragedy awaits the understandably at-the-end-of-his tether Bruce Banner…

Sporting a stack of AR icons (Marvel’s Augmented Reality App featuring printed portals to online story bonuses and extras for everyone who downloaded the free software from marvel.com onto a smart-phone or Android-enabled tablet) and a stunning cover gallery by Asrar & Dave McCaig, this sharp, action-packed and astonishingly compelling read offers a fun-filled, fury-fuelled shocking end to the epic which brilliantly mixes incredible adventure with clever characterisation and an addictive excess of furious Fights ‘n’ Tights action that no comics fan could possibly resist.

™ & © 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.

Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars: 30th Anniversary Edition


By Jim Shooter, Mike Zeck, Bob Layton, John Beatty & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-589-5

Has it been thirty years? Cripes!: stir the Horlicks and break out the Zimmer frames…

The “maxi-series” which started the seemingly insatiable modern passion for vast, braided mega-crossover publishing events originally came about because of an impending action figures licensing deal with toy manufacturing monolith Mattel.

Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter, a great advocate of tales accessible to new, younger readers as well as the dedicated fan-base, apparently concocted the rather simplistic but amazingly engaging saga starring the House of Ideas’ top characters as a result of urgings from a potential major licensor. He then built his tale around a torrent of unsolicited, inspirational mail from readers, all begging for one huge dust-up between all the heroes and villains…

The 12-issue Limited Series launched with a May 1984 cover-date and closed (April 1985) with a double-sized blockbusting battle that left many characters changed forever – or as least as “Forever” as comics get…

The premise of the secret saga was that an all-powerful force calling itself The Beyonder abducted an army of Earth heroes and villains – and the most dreaded destroyer in the universe – in its quest to understand the emotion of desire…

The enigmatic, almighty entity dumped them all on a colossal purpose-built Battleworld created from and populated with fragments of other planets as a vast arena in which to prove which was better – self-gratification or sacrifice…

In his introductory reminiscence ‘The War to End All Wars’, Shooter recounts the concatenation of circumstances which led to the creation of the series, after which an tantalising page clipped from the Daily Bugle outlines the mounting mystery of a seemingly unconnected legion of missing heroes before the furious Fights ‘n’ Tights epic opens…

As crafted by Shooter, Mike Zeck & John Beatty, ‘The War Begins’ found the Avengers, X-Men and Fantastic Four, Magneto, the Hulk and utterly out-of-his-depth Spider-Man all teleported into the deep unknown to see a galaxy destroyed and a world constructed before their astounded eyes. This was achieved purely so that a cosmic force could determine which of two philosophies was correct.

Arrayed against them were Doctor Doom, Molecule Man, Ultron, Dr. Octopus, the Lizard, the Enchantress, Absorbing Man, Kang the Conqueror, the Wrecking Crew and Galactus, all of whom had no problem with a disembodied voice telling them “slay your enemies and all you desire shall be yours”…

Whilst the villains instantly turn on each other, the Devourer of Worlds doesn’t care for the offer and attacks the disembodied force, only to be smashed casually and unceremoniously onto the brand new world below. The heroes too touch ground but dissent starts to split them into suspicious factions. The mere presence of mutant supremacist Magneto on their “team” divides the champions along human and mutant lines…

Elsewhere Doctor Doom tries to explain the underlying threat to his fellow villains in the huge super-scientific citadel they have commandeered, but the rogues refuse to listen.

Exasperated, the Monarch of Latveria decides to swallow his pride and consult with despised rival Mr. Fantastic but is blasted out of the skies by his greedy, treacherous companions before he finds the heroes’ camp. The bushwhackers then rashly go on to attack the gathered Good Guys… and The War begins…

‘Prisoners of War!’ sees the first of many pitched battles, but as the cataclysmic conflict proceeds, elsewhere Doom, having survived the sneak attack, is on site to see Galactus revive and ominously repair to a mountain top to begin his own unique response…

Leaving the cosmic glutton to his own devices, the Iron Tyrant returns to the fortress of evil; dubbing it Doombase as he reprograms the dormant AI Ultron to be his slave.

He is waiting when the thoroughly trounced malefactors limp home, having lost the Lizard, Enchantress, Kang and Thunderball, Bulldozer and Piledriver of the Wrecking Crew to the heroes.

The triumphant yet troubled victors have occupied their own city-sized futuristic castle-complex where, after imprisoning their captives, they soon return to bickering with each other. The suspicions of some human heroes quickly drives Magneto away – taking the Wasp as a hostage – but even as the remaining mutants begin to feel the weight of prejudice, bigger problems manifest.

As the rocky Thing unexpectedly reverts to merely mortal Ben Grimm, on his distant mountain top Galactus is preparing to consume Battleworld…

The suspense builds in ‘Tempest Without, Crisis Within!’

As the master of magnetism discusses a truce with the Wasp, in the hero citadel Spider-Man misconstrues an overheard conversation and accidentally sparks a schism between human and mutants.

Whilst the webslinger and Hulk remain with Reed Richards, The Thing, Human Torch, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man (unknown to all Jim Rhodes not Tony Stark), Hawkeye, Captain Marvel and She-Hulk, the much-aggrieved X-Men Storm, Cyclops, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Wolverine and diminutive space-dragon Lockheed follow increasingly doctrinaire Charles Xavier’s demands to separate from the assemblage and join Magneto…

Doom meanwhile has used his fortress’ alien technology to turn two mysteriously-arrived earth girls into super-powered allies. When his remaining forces attack the heroes at dawn, the power of Volcana and Titania tips the balance against the defenders, deprived as they are of the might of the now-missing mutants…

Thor too is gone. Having journeyed with the captive Enchantress to a pocket dimension – hoping to persuade her to switch sides – he returns too late to stop the felons freeing their comrades and crippling the Torch and Captain Marvel…

Bob Layton stepped in to pencil the next two chapters, beginning with ‘Situation: Hopeless!’ wherein the resurgent rogues move to end the war by having Molecule Man drop an entire mountain range on the already-reeling heroes. Trapped under 50 billion tons of rock – only barely held up by the Atlas-like Hulk – the heroes are rallied to hold on by Captain America whilst Reed and Iron Man devise a technological solution to their dilemma.

Outside, Thor’s unexpected return almost overwhelms the exultant evildoers, but he too is eventually destroyed…

As the dust settles, Doom kills the newly liberated Kang (for shooting him down as he flew to confer with Richards), blithely unaware that Thor has survived and escaped to rescue his buried comrades…

In another quadrant, as the X-Men arrive at Magneto’s bastion – giving the Wasp a chance to escape – the recently disinterred heroes find an alien village in the shadow of Galactus’ peak where a comely healer named Zsaji uses her empathic abilities to heal the battered, wounded warriors from Earth…

However even as Ben unpredictably becomes the Thing again, Galactus makes his next move…

Above the skies of Battleworld, the Devourer’s solar system sized starship materialises, signalling ‘The Battle of Four Armies!’ At Doombase meek, socially inept Molecule Man Owen Reece is starting to blossom under the romantic attentions of Marsha Rosenberg AKA Volcana and, after being teased and bullied by the Wrecking Crew, smashes them all and flies off to be alone with her.

Whilst Magneto and Xavier attempt to communicate with the disdainfully oblivious Galactus, the X-Men speed to assist the human heroes against an outlaw assault on Zsaji’s village. In the melee Colossus is gravely injured and only saved by the healer’s intervention.

For him it is true love at first sight…

Oblivious to the conflict Doom, meanwhile, has again accomplished the impossible and invaded Galactus’ ship…

Zeck returned for ‘A Little Death…’ in which the Wasp, frantically making her way back to her friends, encounters and befriends the savage, confused Lizard.

Thousand of miles above her, Doom’s explorations have led him to find and restore sonic scourge Klaw. The malign, sentient sound wave had been trapped in the system-ship for months but although reconstituted in a solid-vibrational body construct, the Master of Sound is completely crazy….

Xavier’s confrontational leadership style is causing contention amongst his students and Colossus is having his heart broken every time he sees Zsaji fawn and simper over the shallow, lustful – human – Torch…

As Captain America and the big brains strategise ways to stop Galactus, Cyclops, Wolverine and Rogue unexpectedly rout a pack of bad guys on a mission for Doom which leaves the nigh-omnipotent Molecule bleeding out. Elsewhere, however, the fates are less kind when the Wasp, still cosying up to the Lizard, is ambushed and murdered by the Wrecking Crew.

The primordial predator is unable to save her, but his vengeance is terrible to behold…

And back at the Healer’s village a new player is about to enter the fray…

‘Berserker!’ introduces a new Spider-Woman and reveals where Titania and Volcana came from. Whilst assembling his war world The Beyonder appropriated segments of many other planets, including an entire suburb of Denver, Colorado from Earth…

Before the enigmatic arachnid can explain further the Wreckers blaze in to dump the Wasp’s corpse and gloat, but the Star Spangled Avenger refuses to let his enraged comrades pursue the killers. He needs everyone to stay ready for the moment when Galactus starts to eat the planet and the billions of kidnapped innocents unhappily inhabiting it…

As the villains retreat with the wounded Molecule Man they are ambushed by the rest of the X-Men and Magneto, resulting in another savage yet inconclusive battle, whilst high above them all Doom continues to plunder Galactus’ home. When the World Eater finally notices him, the Master of Latveria is casually expelled and sent crashing like a bug to the planet below …

Back at Doombase She-Hulk, filled with righteous rage and ignoring Cap’s orders, attacks the amassed murderers alone. After a ferocious fight she eventually succumbs to their greater force and ruthless brutality…

So when Xavier informs the heroes that his mutants will stand guard over Galactus, the Sentinel of Liberty at last lets his enraged comrades loose to take on the killers and live up to the name “Avengers”…

She-Hulk is near death when ‘Invasion!’ (inked by Beatty & Jack Abel) opens, as the champions of justice thrash their enemies with great enthusiasm, especially the enigmatic new Spider-Woman. In the course of the spectacular melee, Spider-Man single-handedly beats the impossibly strong Titania and his costume is destroyed.

As they imprison the crushed criminals, Captain America finds Doom, slumped in defeat and despair. Whilst the triumphant heroes use matter-shaping machines to repair their clothing and uniforms, the Wall-crawler accidentally uses a different device and receives a new all-black costume similar to Spider-Woman’s…

His, however, can change shape, colour and design, is thought-activated and somehow produces an inexhaustible supply of webbing. In the days to come on Earth he will learn to deeply regret his error…

Back in the village Zsaji has pulled out all the stops and resurrected the seemingly dead Wasp, but any joy the victors might feel is instantly erased as Professor X broadcasts a desperate telepathic alarm: Galactus is at last beginning to consume the planet…

As the X-Men begin their ‘Assault on Galactus!’ the human heroes rush back to assist them, but Reed Richards – the greatest intellect on Earth – suddenly has a flash of insight and vanishes as the Devourer teleports him to a private conference.

At that moment Doom rouses himself from his despondent funk, having conceived a grand plan of his own to conquer both Galactus and The Beyonder, erasing forever the humiliation of his ignominious defeat…

Due in part to his discussion with Reed, the Cosmic Carnivore abandons Battleworld and instead absorbs his own system-ship…

In the confusion Doom makes his move, using a hastily constructed device to absorb all the omnipotent instigator’s power and deal out ‘Death to the Beyonder!’

Despite being all but incinerated in the struggle, the Iron Tyrant uses the stolen energies to rebuild himself and declare the Secret War over with Doom the sole victor…

In ‘…And Dust to Dust!’, having successfully stolen the Beyonder’s power, he exults in the joys of becoming omnipotent. However the troubled new god finds it hard to hang on to lust for conquest, or even personal ambition after achieving all-consuming divinity, and his benign acts and vapid indolence betray a certain lack of drive and ambition…

With heroes and villains nervously awaiting the new supreme one’s next move, events take a subtly disturbing turn as a strange energy wisp begins to possess a succession of heroes as it makes its way ever closer to the Doom Deity…

The other do-gooders remain deep in conference, debating their response to the self-proclaimed saviour of the universe. At the moment they finally decide to oppose him they are all vaporised by a bolt of energy…

Of course it doesn’t end there as the resurgent Beyonder battles through heroic and villainous proxies to reclaim his purloined power and put everything to rights – sort of – in the blockbusting finale ‘…Nothing to Fear!’

Although perhaps a little dated and rather straightforward – although peppered with plenty of convoluted and clever plot twists – this bombastic box of delights still reads exceedingly well (especially for younger readers) and this commemorative edition also includes a couple of added extras.

‘The Toys’ features many of the action figures, packaging and ads for all us kids to salivate over and the whole show concludes with scholarly overview ‘The Birth and Legacy of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars’ which rounds off the cosmic nostalgia-fest by discussing the secret origins of mega-crossovers from crucial prototype Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions to a few of the more memorable descendants such as Civil War, Age of Ultron and Infinity

Fast-paced, pretty-looking and impressively action-packed, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars was – and still is – sheer comicbook magic that no true aficionado of Fights ‘n’ Tights fiction can do without.

™ & © 1984, 1985, and 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.

The Arms of the Octopus


By Mike Costa, Chris Cosentino, Kris Anka, Jake Wyatt, Michael Dialynas & Dalibor Talajić (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-577-2

Here’s a welcome return to those (relatively) uncomplicated Good Old Days, when you could pick up a comic or book without Ph.D. level preparation and just read for the sheer fun of it.

Collecting the linked serial from 2013’s All-New X-Men Special #1, Indestructible Hulk Special and Superior Spider-Man Team-Up Special (and incongruously including the Wolverine: In the Flesh One-Shot), The Arms of the Octopus offers just such a jolly “Blast from the Past” in a gripping tale of time-banditry, courtesy of writer Mike Costa.

Illustrated by Kris Anka All-New X-Men Special #1starts the ball rolling with ‘Elegy in the Classroom’ as time-displaced mutant teenagers Hank (the Beast) Pym, Bobby (Iceman) Drake, Scott (Cyclops) Summers and Jean (Marvel Girl) Grey spend their first vacation day on a trip to Manhattan and get a full-on face-full of 21st century future shock.

Escaping the bleeping sound and blinding visual fury of the telecommunications era, the kids head for Central Park where young Hank is smitten by a poetry-reading college girl. After catching a mugger, the Beast expects her to run screaming, but she’s actually so intrigued at meeting a mutant she invites him back to see her lab.

Hank knows it well: before he and the teen X-Men were brought into their own future he studied there under Gamma-medicine radiation research pioneer David Jude. Decades later the genius is still in residence, but now his field of endeavour is Temporal Displacement…

Dr. Jude is remarkably sanguine about meeting his young-looking old student, but before any questions can be asked the lab is brutally attacked by Doctor Octopus, also oddly youthful and emitting huge amounts of Gamma rays.

As the rest of the X-Men join the bombastic battle the clash inevitably draws the attention of the Superior Spider-Man…

The Wallcrawler is astounded and furious. What the kids – or anybody else for that matter – don’t realise is that for months now the mind of Otto Octavius has inhabited the Amazing Arachnid’s frame and to see his earlier self running wild in 2013 drives the cerebral bodysnatcher into a state of unthinking outrage…

After fractiously cooperating with the mutant kids, Spider-Man defeats Doc Ock and drags him back to Jude’s time-lab, where examination of the Gamma-drenched mystery maniac leads to only one conclusion: some form of time travel…

The X-kids are living proof of concept and with some reluctance the arrogant Arachnid admits that he needs to consult with an expert…

‘For a Friend Whose Work has Come to Triumph’ (illustrated by Jake Wyatt in (Indestructible Hulk Special #1) picks up the tale as S.H.I.EL.D. Specialist Bruce Banner is helicoptered in and, after getting over his astonishment at meeting genuine time travellers, gets stuck into unravelling the enigma of the radioactive rogue.

Before too long however another distraction hits the campus: a blockbusting assault by old Hulk foe the Abomination. The Gamma-irradiated gargoyle is one of Banner’s oldest enemies, and he’s been dead for years…

As the physicist gets green and mean to tackle the threat, the theory of a temporal anomaly caused by the displaced X-teens seems confirmed. Thus the mutants take Spider-Man and Dr. Jude back to their school to check out the time machine which brought them back to the future just as the Hulk makes a shocking discovery defeating his rampaging opponent.

…And in the copter speeding to Westchester, Jude realises he’s been rumbled and makes his move…

The chronal conundrum concludes in ‘With Mercy for the Greedy’ (Superior Spider-Man Team-Up Special #1, with art by Michael Dialynas) as the Machiavellian scientist (Jude, not Ock-in-Spidey for a change) uses previously concealed gamma radiation powers to blow up the transport before heading after the coveted time machine, leaving the assorted heroes in lethal freefall…

Following a suitably spectacular cooperative save, the X-kids and Spider-Man set off on the villain’s trail whilst Banner and Pym frantically work on a method of containing the real radioactive menace. Eventually everything ends up in a ferocious fight before a measure of order is restored and grudging respect is meted out all round…

Blending sinister suspense with riotous action and devilishly clever scenes of outright hilarity, this is a marvellously accessible romp no fan of clear-cut Costumed Dramas should miss and is followed by a rather strange – and unconnected – outing for the world’s favourite mutant.

Illustrated by Dalibor Talajić, Wolverine: In the Flesh is written by – and implausibly co-stars – celebrity chef Chris Cosentino; detailing the hunt for cannibal killer the Bay Area Butcher.

The satanic serial killer’s reign of terror can only be ended after the Canadian mutant recruits his old culinary chum to offer insights into the haute cuisine methodology of cutting meat and invaluably intimate knowledge of San Francisco’s Food Truck culture.

Little do either know that their prey is fed up “serving Man” and needs just one little ingredient for his pièce de résistance: a suitably trussed, tied and marinated mutant…

Light, quirky and mordantly piquant, this one won’t be to everyone’s taste…

With covers by Alexander Lozano and Tim Seeley, The Arms of the Octopus offers casual readers and faithful fans alike a smart break from cosmic epics and should certainly whet the appetite for all the monumental Marvel madness heading our way in the months to come.
™ & © 2013 and 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.

Indestructible Hulk volume 3: S.M.A.S.H. Time


By Mark Waid, Matteo Scalera, Kim Jacinto & Mahmud Asrar (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-574-1

Once upon a time, Bruce Banner was merely a military scientist accidentally caught in a Gamma-bomb blast of his own devising. As a result, undue stress could cause him to transform into a gigantic green monster of unimaginable strength and fury. As both occasional hero and blockbusting brute he rampaged across the landscape for decades, becoming one of comics’ most popular characters and most enduring multi-media titans.

He has, inescapably, then undergone numerous radical changes in scope, character and format to keep his stories fresh and his exploits explosively compelling…

In recent years the number of Gamma-galvanised grotesqueries crashing about the Marvel Universe has proliferated to inconceivable proportions. The days of Bruce going green with anger at the drop of a hat are long gone, so anybody taking their cues from TV or movie incarnations would be wise to anticipate a smidgen of unavoidable confusion…

By the time of the game-changing Avengers versus X-Men mega-crossover relaunch, there were numerous Hulks, She-Hulks, Abominations and all kinds of ancillary rainbow-hued atomic berserkers roaming around, and in the aftermath of that house-cleaning exercise, the MarvelNOW! event saw the Jade Giant return in a stripped-down, back-to-basics version which energised new and old fans alike.

Modern comics are all about the next Big Event and throughout 2013 numerous Marvel titles experienced a few temporal troubles. This latest Hulk collection also tenuously ties in to those ongoing time travel travails, which all ostensibly arose from the after-effects of dramatic disruptions in the (Marvel) universes’ conjoined time-streams. The root cause was The Avengers unmaking of the Age of Ultron, but don’t fret as the stories here stand well enough on their own…

The big change in the Hulk’s fortunes occurred after S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill was persuaded to provide perennial fugitive Banner with resources and funding in order to sanitise his scientific reputation. In return Hill could call on the Hulk as a living weapon of last resort…

One of the smartest men on Earth, Banner had lost years of success, progress and peer renown whilst trying to cure himself of the Hulk. Concerned about his legacy, the fugitive genius had at last decided to make future headlines as a scientist, not a devastating force of nature.

For the foreseeable future and as long as possible he would manage – rather than seek cures for – his affliction. Additionally, in return for S.H.I.E.L.D. science labs and trained assistants – generally in the isolated facility of Nuclear Springs, Nevada (AKA “Bannerville”) – the bombastic boffin would also give the agency first use of many of his discoveries and inventions…

This guest-star packed third volume details the next cataclysmic chapter in the ever-eventful life of Dr. Banner and his mean green alter ego (collecting Indestructible Hulk #11-15, cover-dated September 2013 to January 2014) with scripter Mark Waid letting the emerald engine of destruction loose on a multiplicity of Marvel’s genre-adventures roots…

Banner and his team are just getting back to business (after a agonising sojourn in Jotunheim, realm of Asgardian Frost Giants) when the irascible genius is summoned to an ultra-secret division of S.H.I.E.L.D. to apply his unique gifts to a cataclysmic situation. Even before seeing the Temporal Irregularity Management and Eradication site Banner knows something big is up: the Hulk’s last mission had included a surprise attack by a brand spanking new 75-year-old American bomber packed with ancient skeletons in flight suits…

The 5-part ‘Agent of T.I.M.E.’ (illustrated by Matteo Scalera, Kim Jacinto & Mahmud Asrar) continues as Banner meets the secret project’s prize prisoner. Zarrko the Tomorrow Man, has been an inmate of the facility for two decades – even though for that entire period he has been continually battling Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man on the outside in a variety of centuries.

He explains the impossible paradox by describing – as he has continually for over twenty years – how, thanks to constant meddling, the Timestream is broken and all of reality is in imminent danger of shattering.

Thanks to recent events the S.H.I.E.L.D. higher-ups are at last prepared to believe him…

Stuck in his cell, helplessly emitting time-warping radiations, Zarrko again repeats his warnings: even with the armour and screening technologies he has provided, mere mortals cannot survive in the roaring chronal currents. Only the Hulk can be sent to key time points to fix the escalating chaos.

It’s pretty urgent he goes soon, too, since Chronarchists from beyond now are targeting weak spots in time, intent on overwriting the past to cement their own futures…

Banner is dead set against the idea until Zarrko reminds him that people and places are dropping out of reality every moment: people like Betty Ross, Banner’s ex-wife and now the riotous Red She-Hulk.

In the crowded lab only he and the Tomorrow Man remember her… and even Bruce is having trouble recalling her name…

The Chronarchists are also the reason the Hulk’s intellect is so mutable: his Gamma-charged existence is a threat to their victory so they have been tampering with his personal history…

Resigned to his task Banner acquiesces, allowing Zarrko and the T.I.M.E. technologists to set him up for the trip. Since he’ll need to stay “Hulked” for the duration Banner’s personality is duplicated in a free-floating, self-powered Recording Observation Bot, which effectively means the scientist and savage who have always despised each other will be working as a team…

The first stop is Arizona in 1873 where the Big Green Galoot and his floating metal sidekick/brain join Western legends Kid Colt, Rawhide Kid and Two-Gun Kid in battling dinosaurs and the Chronarchist Tok Baltusar who has enslaved a town and tried to turn the local silver mine into his personal factory for producing time-warping nano-alloys…

The bizarre aggregation of heroes eventually overcomes the temporal infiltrator but the Hulk is explosively propelled back to the sixth century and another heroic crisis: the too-early fall of Camelot

Expelled from his citadel by Chronarchist Valdar Ahd (employing a legion of warriors from all ages), King Arthur even welcomes the assistance of a gross green ogre and its talking, flying box as he, Merlin and the puissant Black Knight lead the surviving paladins of the Table Round in a battle to restore honour and save the right and proper future…

After spectacularly and destructively dealing with the chronal iconoclast, R.O.B./Banner and the ferociously fluctuating Hulk are rather at a loss to track down the final temporal tamperer.

Following a host of false trails only leads into a procession of clashes with old foes such as the Abomination, Sandman and Fin Fang Foom, all cunningly placed in time-ambushes throughout a rapidly and constantly revising history to delay interference in a hidden mastermind’s true scheme…

Each subtle distraction further diminishes Hulk and the recording of Banner before, as time is literally about to run out, the answer occurs to the rapidly failing brainbox in a box…

At an atomic test site R.O.B. can barely remember, a scientist named Banner argues with his assistant Igor, his girlfriend Betty and her father – military martinet General Thunderbolt Ross – about the imminent detonation of the world’s first Gamma-bomb. Then when a kid drives onto Ground Zero, the Banner dashes out to save him, only to be caught in the blast…

This time though, a monolithic green giant pushes him aside and takes the full hit of raging radiation…

The rapidly failing Banner/R.O.B. has deduced their quarry’s when-&-whereabouts seconds too late, blinking in to the event just in time for the Hulk to be bombarded with a second dose of mutative energy – exactly as his time-bending opponents had intended…

With all his programs failing, the robot rapidly downloads his remaining memories into his pre-radiated organic self, leaving a horrified, physically powerless but utterly up-to-speed Bruce Banner to face the enraged atrocious monstrosity of a “Hulk-Squared”…

Or not.

Finally freed of the curse of the Hulk before he ever carried it, Banner is tempted to let the new status quo stand… until he realises that the last Chronarchist’s tampering has also deleted his beloved Betty from the timeline…

The heartbroken savant has only one chance to put things right: defeat the last time-bender Khotto and the now-obvious Machiavellian mastermind behind the entire audacious history-warping scheme – no matter the cost…

And when the dust of centuries finally settles, Banner’s world is back the way it should be, although the weary savant cannot help but feel that something, somewhere, somehow has changed in a way he cannot yet fathom…

Packed with the now-standard AR icons (Marvel’s Augmented Reality App: printed portals giving access to story bonuses and extras for everyone who downloaded the free software from marvel.com onto a smart-phone or Android-enabled tablet whatsit) and a stunning cover-&-variants gallery by Mukesh Singh, Michael Del Mundo & Leonel Castellani, this is a smart, comfortingly convoluted and amazingly compelling read: a fun-filled, fury-fuelled saga which brilliantly mixes incredible adventure with clever characterisation and an addictive excess of furious Fights ‘n’ Tights action that no comics fan could possibly resist.
™ & © 2013 and 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.

Marvel Adventures Avengers volume 9: The Times They Are A’Changin’


By Paul Tobin, Matteo Lolli, Ig Guara, Casey Jones, Christian Vecchia & Sandro Ribeiro (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3832-7

Since its earliest days Marvel has always courted young comicbook audiences. Whether through animation tie-ins such as Terrytoons Comics, Mighty Mouse, Super Rabbit Comics, Duckula, assorted Hanna-Barbera and Disney licenses and a myriad of others, or original creations such as Tessie the Typist, Millie the Model, Homer the Happy Ghost, Li’l Kids or Calvin, the House of Ideas always understood the necessity of cultivating the next generation of readers.

These days, however, accessible child-friendly titles are in decline and with Marvel’s proprietary characters all over screens large and small, the company generally prefers to create adulterated versions of its own pantheon, making that eventual hoped-for transition to more mature comics as painless as possible.

In 2003 the company created a Marvel Age line which updated and retold classic original tales by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and subsequently merged it with remnants of its failed manga-based Tsunami imprint, which was also intended for a junior demographic.

The experiment was tweaked in 2005, becoming Marvel Adventures with the core titles transformed into Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four and Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man and the reconstituted classics replaced by all-original yarns. Additional titles included Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes, Power Pack, Hulk and The Avengers, which ran until 2010 when they were cancelled and replaced by new volumes of Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes and Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man.

This particularly light-hearted digest-sized collection re-presents issues #32-35 of Marvel Adventures Avengers (from 2009) and offers a succession of stand-alone yarns that will delight fans with a sense of humour and iota of wit…

What You Need To Know: this incarnation of the World’s Mightiest Superheroes operates an “open-door” policy where almost every metahuman marvel might turn up for duty. However – presumably because of their TV cartoon popularity – the Wondrous Wallcrawler and Jade Juggernaut are on scene in almost every episode…

Written throughout by Paul Tobin, the fast-paced fun begins with ‘The Big Payoff’ illustrated by Matteo Lolli & Christian Vecchia, wherein the team gets a most unpleasant visit from Special Agent Clark Harvey of the Internal Revenue Service.

This weaselling civil servant is ostensibly there to collect the individual Avengers’ taxes, but it’s all a ploy to blackmail the team into forcing a bunch of defaulting villains into paying up…

Smart and deviously hilarious, the clashes between Giant-Girl, Spider-Man and Luke Cage against Whirlwind, the Web-spinner and erudite philosophical monster/political activist Oog or Man-Bull versus Iron Man are entertainment enough, but Iron Man and Giant-Girl overmatched against the Absorbing Man and the childlike Hulk convincing assassin Bullsesye to do his patriotic duty are literally priceless…

When jungle king Ka-Zar visits from the Antarctic lost world all he can think about is learning how to use a car. Sadly Wolverine, Storm, Giant-Girl, Hulk and Spidey all feel safer battling an invasion of super-Saurians unleashed by Stegron the Dinosaur Man than sitting in the same vehicle as the Lord of the Savage Land in ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy’ (art by Ig Guara & Sandro Ribeiro)…

When ancient Egyptian magicians turn time into an out of control merry-go-round, ‘Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos!’ (Lolli & Vecchia) are caught up in the assorted eras of chaos, with Ant-Man, Giant-Girl, Tigra, Storm, the Wallcrawler and Hulk frantically fighting just to keep up…

This titanic tiny tome then concludes on a romantic note in ‘Lovers Leaper’, rendered by Casey Jones, when all the female Avengers head off for a vacation break. They foolishly thought Captain America, Cage, Spider-Man, Hawkeye and Wolverine could handle things for awhile, but boys will be slobs and soon the HQ is a ghastly mess of “man-cave” madness…

Moreover, since Hawkeye now needs a date for the Annual Archer Awards, he tries an on-line dating service and manages to upload not just his but all his buddies’ information onto the site…

With seemingly every eligible lady – super-powered and not – in New York City subscribing to the Lovers Leap site, the unsuspecting heroes are soon being bombarded by an army of annoyed women who think they’ve been stood up by the utterly oblivious Avengers.

…And when they try to get the owner to remove their details, the heroes discover former French bad-guy Batroc the Leaper is in charge and unwilling to do them any favours…

Smart and fun on a number of levels, bright and breezy with lots of light-hearted action and many solid laughs, this book really offers a fabulous alternative to the regular Marvel Universe angst and agony.

Even with the violence toned down and “cartooned-up” the stories are superbly thrilling and beautifully depicted: a perfect introduction for kids and adults alike to the vast realm of adventure we all love…

In 2012 the Marvel Adventures line was superseded by specific comicbook titles tied to Disney XD TV shows designated as “Marvel Universe cartoons”, but these collected stories are still an intriguing and perhaps more culturally accessible means of introducing character and concepts to kids born often two generations or more away from those far-distant 1960s originating events.
© 2010, 2011 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.