THE END OF THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Rarely has reading a single comic moved me to write a special issue ofPipeline at midweek within a few hours of reading it. (Actually,that should actually read "Never has a single comic...") Tonight, I am doing so. I'm not numbering this one. This is a special. Because the Hulk is a special book which Marvel has now officially screwed over, and Peter David's amazing tenure must not be forgotten.
When I first started reading comics in 1989, the first on-going series I latched onto was THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. I stayed firmly attached to that for something like 50-75 issues. It was a run I wasn't sure I'd ever top.
I just realized this past week that THE INCREDIBLE HULK probably has it beat. I've been reading HULK since issue #377, and without missing an issue since #379. I've gone back since then and started putting together as good a run on the title as I could find. Imagine -- one writer for twelve years with artists such as McFarlane, Larsen, Keown, Frank, and Kubert contributing to the greatness. (It's a feat surpassed only by Chris Claremont's days on X-MEN.) We all have our favorite runs on the book. Artistically, mine is probably the Keown years. You can't beat the art on those issues. It was beautiful stuff. Story-wise, I'm kind of partial to the Pantheon, which overlaps with the Keown years and moves through Gary Frank's tenure.
Along the way, Peter David has brought us some wonderful memories,wonderful moments, and wonderful stories. Rick and Marlo's wedding. The Hulk and the Punisher teaming up in Vegas. And the final issue, for three. He sculpted these people into characters we cared about. He did it with flair and with a sense of humor second-to-none. Some may complain that the Smart Hulk is not the True Hulk, but to me he was always the most entertaining.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK #467 came out today, with story by PAD, art by Adam Kubert, lettering by John Workman, and coloring by Steve Buccellato. It's the perfect ending not just to PAD's tenure but, as far as I'm concerned, to the series. I don't know; Maybe I'm just overreacting to the sudden change. After all, the fate of this character has been in the capable hands of one man for the past dozen years. Maybe such a radical change isn't sitting well with me. But it's more than just that.
To me, the Incredible Hulk, whether this is fair or not, will always be Peter David's character. He's the one who made him so interesting. I've read some spare issues of pre-PAD Hulk and I'm not very interested.
Maybe this is just anger at Marvel. Let's face it -- Marvel has shown repeated contempt for its fans vis a vis this series. I've always said that the period between Gary Frank's departure and Adam Kubert's tenure was more or less forgettable. Not entirely, but mostly.
Why? Let's see what happened in those years. Marvel split up its line into various factions. The HULK got put into the harder-edged line and was told to add political and darker more "relevant" tones to it. Then HEROES REBORN came about. All of a sudden, Marvel dictates that HR must include the Hulk. Why? It makes no sense, but such was the decree. In these times, the title lost complete track of itself and seemed to meander all about.
For two solid years there, Marvel put the creator who made the title as popular as it was, behind the eight ball. It's classic. It's amazing we didn't all see this day coming many moons ago. When a series is mostly forgotten, the comics company will put anyone on it. Once a creator gets the book popular -- mostly due to being left alone and allowed to pursue that individual creator's own edict -- the company starts fiddling with the book again. THEY know what's best, not the creator. So they jerk him around. (It happened once before. 7 of Marvel's most popular artists left and formed some start-up company. Wonder what ever happened to it?)
Oh, and did I almost mention it was only fan outcry which saved the popular series from being cancelled around the time of HEROES REBORN? Yup, they almost cancelled it. Of course, there were some of us who thought that might have been a merciful death given the crappy things Marvel was doing to the book and the crappy artists they assigned to it. (Liam Sharp will forever be on my sh!t-list for his issues. I mean, you know it's bad when Mike Deodato is a big improvement.)
The final issue is a masterpiece in an of itself. Yet Marvel tries to ruin it. How? Well, right after the letters page, they throw in a two-page prologue which automatically invalidates a chunk of the previous PAD finale. I'm half-tempted to just rip that last page out of the comic and forget I ever saw it.
But it points to one thing: Marvel has no respect for PAD's work. They're already working to undermine it and return things to the status quo.
It is also my firm belief now that PAD was more or less forced off the book. Nothing Marvel's done vis a vis this title in the past year has made any sense. And their dictate of direction which forced PAD off the book is just screwy. Do yourself a favor and go look up Rich Johnston's web site. ( http://www.twistandshoutcomics.com ) He has a wonderful essay on his Ramblings page devoted to this topic which outlines everything.
When it comes right down to it, Politics almost ruins this great title.
But not for me. John Byrne or not, this series ends for me with this issue. It's a wonderful ending and it's the ending I'm choosing for the book. I feel no need to read on.
I don't mean to sound bitter and cynical. It should be a celebration, as PAD uses the issue to have an epilogue, of sorts, keeping track of what happened to all the characters in the years after the current storyline finishes. And that shall be my continuity. The issue itself is a wonderful mixture of splash pages and panel-to-panel storytelling, with a couple of absolutely unforgettable images, including the funeral and Doctor Banner lighting up his pipe and Rick Jones sitting in a room which could only serve as a precursor to the trophy room in FUTURE IMPERFECT... In spots, you can read it like a science-fiction short story. Andy Kubert's art has never looked so good.
Sit back, take your time, have a hanky ready, and read the grand finale.
So long, PAD, and thanks for all the fish.