Marvel recently embarked in a series called Season One, this took popular characters and sought to produce a one stop origin presentation. This allowed upgrading of more dated elements and other tweaks as well as bringing together elements from TV shows, games and of course the new movies. This Hulk revision goes a step further and after reading this graphic novel I can confirm that there are no better representations of Bruce Banner’s tragic transformation.
Establishing the era, the car stolen by Rick Jones and driven into the testing centre for a bomb devised by Bruce Banner, we are in the 21st century. The Hulk origin story has been moved forward by a few decades. What is now called the Bannerbomb is designed not to kill in the quantities of a conventional nuclear detonation, but it’s still lethal for anyone caught in the blast zone. Banner still has an unrequited love interest in Betty Ross but now she is the security commander for Gamma base and as before Banner is aware he is transforming into the Hulk, but is green from the start and not grey.
All Fred Van Lente’s tweaks to Stan Lee’s origin make perfect sense while ironing out the wrinkles in what was a very brief story devised with no thought of ongoing continuity in 1962. It rapidly becomes apparent that we are dealing with far greater revisions than present in the other origin retellings. These aren’t restricted to the incorporation of the 1980’s concept of Banner as an abused child but to a more credible version of the criminal scientists collective, now rechristened ‘Them’.
Tom Fowler’s art has an attractive looseness when it comes to the Hulk in action and technology but in places it’s not effective when dealing with the human cast, who can appear too flimsy. Compared to what he does though, this is a minor complaint and Fowler’s Hulk in action has a terrifying sense of power and movement.
Van Lente has created a wonderful, cohesive and suspenseful drama from this origin story. You can really sympathise with the well-intentioned Banner, a complete fish out of water in an otherwise military environment, exploited and abused. His Hulk is a tower of repressed resentment. His Rick Jones a successfully updated teenager with a protective coating of glib backchat and the dramatic retouches applied to everyone else are meaningful and consistent.
This is a perfect book for those wanting to see a retelling of the Hulk’s origins and those new to the franchise.