SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for “Civil War II” #3, on sale now.
Bruce Banner has always been a brilliant scientist, but for years he’s struggled with some very serious anger management issues. And, of course, when he gents angry, he does far more than throw a temper tantrum or knock some papers off a desk. After being bombarded with gamma rays, his emotions or anything that triggers adrenaline turned him into turned him into the Hulk, a massive green monster in purple pants capable of destroying nearly anything and anyone in his path.
But Bruce Banner hasn’t been the Hulk since the Marvel Universe jumped forward eight months after the conclusion of “Secret Wars.” Amadeus Cho, the seventh smartest person in the Marvel U, used nanites to remove the Hulk from Banner’s blood, seemingly curing Banner of his long-time curse. While Cho became a new, “Totally Awesome” version of the Hulk, Banner’s reappearance in the post-“Secret Wars” Marvel U also involved his green alter ego, as seen in an ominous vision by precognitive Inhuman Ulysses. As readers of “Civil War II” #3 now know, that vision ultimately led to Banner’s death.
With Bruce Banner’s tragic passing fresh in our minds, CBR pays tribute to the Jade Giant by detailing our picks for the Hulk’s 17 greatest moments of all-time (not including alternate realities, like the Ultimate Hulk or “Hulk: The End”).
17. “Up, up and away!”
In “The Incredible Hulk vs. Superman” (by Roger Stern, Steve Rude and Al Milgrom), the Hulk made a real impression upon the Man of Steel when the two heroes clashed, as the Hulk threw Superman into orbit! This was the Marvel/DC crossover where the Hulk fared the best against Superman. Their first meeting (in the second “Superman/Spider-Man” crossover) did not go nearly as well for the Hulk, as Superman just shrugged off the Hulk’s best punch.
16. “Hulk is Angry”
In “Onslaught: Marvel Universe” #1 (by Scott Lobdell and Adam Kubert), the X-Men and most of the superheroes of the Marvel Universe took on Onslaught at once. The powerful being was too much for them, until the Hulk decided to alter the playing field. He had Jean Grey use her telepathic powers to silence the Bruce Banner side of his personality, leaving only the Hulk. The raging Hulk was enough to crack Onslaught’s armor, allowing the heroes to stop Onslaught by absorbing his psionic energies into themselves (which seemingly killed them all). The force of cracking Onslaught’s armor was so great that it actually split the Hulk into two, the Hulk and Bruce Banner. Banner sacrificed himself alongside the other heroes, while the Hulk remained (this was because the “dead” heroes were actually going off into their own universe for the short-lived “Heroes Reborn” line of comics by Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld’s studios and they wanted to use the Hulk in their comics but Marvel still wanted to put out a “Hulk” comic).
In “Incredible Hulk” (Volume 3) #25 (by Paul Jenkins, John Romita Jr. and Tom Palmer), Thunderbolt Ross informed Bruce Banner of the whereabouts of Emil Blonsky, the Abomination, the man who seemingly murdered Bruce’s wife and Ross’ daughter, Betty Ross Banner. This led to a massive battle between the Hulk and his old foe, with tremendously powerful pages by Romita Jr. and Palmer. The fight itself could have earned a spot on this list, but the best part is that as the Hulk was beating Abomination to death in a rage over the loss of Betty, Banner’s personality took over, sparing Abomination’s life. However, as we found out, Banner did this more because death was too good for Abomination. Instead, he locked him up in a cell with old home movies of Abomination and his beloved wife, Nadia, playing on a loop. Nadia had turned away from Blonsky and he blamed Banner for it (hence him killing Banner’s wife) and now he was stuck listening to her expressing her love over and over again. Banner transformed into the Hulk as he walked away from Abomination’s psychic torture.
14. “Turnabout’s Fair Play”
Throughout their history, Hulk and Thing have had many great fights (you’ll see at least one more on the list), and a general consistency was that the Hulk was stronger but the Thing was smarter. Things changed with their bout in “Incredible Hulk” #350 (by Peter David, Jeff Purves and Terry Austin), as the Thing had been mutated into being much stronger than normal and the Hulk was in his wily, gray form. So this time, it was the Hulk who was to use strategy to keep away from the Thing and use guerrilla tactics to take him down. Ultimately, the Hulk won after almost drowning the Thing.
13. “Unbreak My World”
In “Incredible Hulk” (Volume 3) #102 (by Greg Pak, Aaron Lopresti and Sandu Florea), the classic story “Planet Hulk” took a major turn as the rebellion against the ruler of Sakaar, the Red King, led by the Hulk (who accidentally landed on the planet after the Marvel heroes known as the Illuminati intended to send him to a peaceful, uninhabited planet), who was known as the Green Scar, seemed to be a success. However, the Red Scar would rather destroy the planet than let someone else rule it, so he set into motion a process where the planet would be torn asunder. The Hulk stepped in, though, and the “Worldbreaker” (another nickname given to the Hulk on the planet) instead saved the world by keeping the plates of the planet together through sheer strength.
12. “Returning Home”
In “Incredible Hulk” (Volume 3) #105 (by Greg Pak, Carlo Pagulayan and Jeffrey Huet), the “Planet Hulk” storyline came to a tragic end when the ship the Hulk arrived in exploded, killing the Hulk’s Queen and many of his subjects. The distraught, grief-stricken Hulk strove for some way to make the pain go away. His friends (the Warbound — the gladiators who served with him in the rebellion against the Red King) convinced him that he could get revenge on the people who sent him to Sakaar, so the Hulk headed home and things would never be the same. The sight of the Hulk riding the space ship home is outstanding.
11. “I Didn’t Come Here for a Whisper”
In “World War Hulk” #1 (by Greg Pak, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson), the first member of the Illuminati to face the Hulk’s wrath was also one of the group’s most powerful members, the king of the Inhumans, Black Bolt. Black Bolt initially repulsed the Hulk’s attack by whispering “enough,” as Black Bolt’s voice delivers tremendous sonic force. However, everyone was shocked to learn that the Hulk, who is powered by rage, was in a whole other power level at the time due to his anger over what happened to him on Sakaar, so he shrugged off Black Bolt’s attack and came at him again, shouting that he didn’t come here for a whisper, he wanted to hear Black Bolt scream. You can probably guess who won that fight.
10. “Stepping Up for a Friend”
In “Incredible Hulk” #388 (by Peter David, Dale Keown and Cam Smith), the Hulk’s old friend and sort of sidekick, Jim Wilson, requested the Hulk’s help at the AIDS clinic he worked for, as one of the patient’s gangster father kept sending assassins to kill the patient’s companion (blaming him for his son having AIDS). The Hulk showed up and luckily was there to stop the villainous Speedfreek. While there, the Hulk learned that Jim himself was HIV positive. For a 1991 comic, this was striking in how well it handled the topic, in particular a sequence where Betty Banner asked the Hulk how Jim contracted HIV, to which the Hulk responded that he didn’t know and he didn’t care, all he cared about was that a friend needed his help. It was a powerful moment. Wilson would pass away in “Incredible Hulk” #420, which was also an excellent issue.
9. “The Ultimate Hulk/Thing Fight”
“Fantastic Four” #112 (by Stan Lee, John Buscema and Joe Sinnott) is probably the all-time greatest Hulk/Thing fight, as art legends Buscema and Sinnott go all out depicting the brawl between the two behemoths throughout the issue, but the kicker came at the end of the story, where a piece of debris from their fight strikes the Thing’s girlfriend, Alicia Masters. The distracted Thing didn’t see the Hulk’s next punch coming and the Hulk actually killed the Thing! Obviously, this being comics, the Thing was revived the next issue, but still, it was a very dramatic moment.
8. “The First Transformation”
There are better moments in “The Incredible Hulk” #1 (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Paul Reinman), but they involve Bruce Banner’s initially getting caught in the gamma bomb explosion, including the legendary shot of Banner screaming as he’s being bombarded with gamma rays. However, when you are talking the greatest Hulk moments, you have to give a nod to the first time Banner ever transformed into the Incredible Hulk.
7. “Poetic Justice”
In “Hulk: Future Imperfect” (by Peter David and George Perez), the Hulk was taken to the future by rebels who are trying to take down the evil ruler of this world, the tyrannical Maestro. Why did the bring the Hulk in particular? Because the Maestro is a future version of the Hulk himself! The Maestro had conquered the planet and killed off all of his former superhero allies (as well as his supervillain foes) and collected all of their weapons and paraphernalia in a sort of museum (including the ashes of the Hulk’s loved ones), where he also kept an ancient Rick Jones (the Maestro couldn’t bring himself to kill his old friend). The Maestro was more powerful than the modern-day Hulk, though, so things seemed lost. However, he was ultimately done in by his own collection, as the Hulk was able to use Doctor Doom’s time machine (which was in the museum) to send Maestro back in time to the day of the gamma bomb explosion, only the Maestro was placed at ground zero of the blast, incinerating him.
6. “The Formation of the Avengers”
The Hulk played a major role in the formation of the Avengers in “Avengers” #1 (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers), as Loki tried to manipulate Thor into fighting the Hulk, but instead accidentally drew the attention of Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp, as well. In the end, after Loki’s scheme was uncovered, the heroes decided to remain a team, along with the Hulk! It didn’t last very long, but the Hulk was a founding member of the Avengers, which is pretty remarkable.
5. “That Brute That Shouted Love”
In “Incredible Hulk” #140 (by Roy Thomas, Herb Trimpe and Sam Grainger — based on a story idea by Harlan Ellison), the Hulk ended up on a microscopic world filled with green-hued people, including Jarella, the princess of the world who fell in love with the Hulk. The world’s technology was able to give Bruce Banner control of the Hulk’s body and for once, the Hulk was at peace… then he was torn from it all by the villainous Psyklops. However, for a time, the Hulk knew peace. This story influenced many future Hulk stories, including “Planet Hulk.” The title of the story (split over multiple pages of the comic) was “The Brute that Shouted Love at the Heart of the Atom,” a reference to a then-recent Hugo Award-winning short story by Ellison titled “The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World.”
4. “The Clash of the Titans”
In “Defenders” (volume 1) #10 (by Steve Englehart, Sal Buscema and Frank Bolle), the Avengers and Defenders had been at war with each other for some time (manipulated by Loki once again), but luckily they discovered the deceit before the clash between the Hulk and the Thor could be decided (well, lucky for all the people in the vicinity of the fight — not so lucky for those who wanted to see who would win the fight). Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had done an earlier brawl between the two in the pages of “Journey Into Mystery” (set between panels in “Avengers” #3) but this full-page splash is probably the ultimate in Thor/Hulk awesomeness. One of Sal Buscema’s greatest pieces of art ever.
3. “The First Major Crossover Clash in Marvel History”
There had been previously crossovers in Marvel history, with the Hulk actually taking part in the first one in “Fantastic Four” #12 (which came out the same month as the Fantastic Four appearing in “Amazing Spider-Man” #1), but never anything quite as epic as “Fantastic Four” #25-26 (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and George Roussos). The landmark issue saw a full-on fight between the Thing and the Hulk in the first part (their first meeting was much briefer) and then the Fantastic Four and the Avengers taking on the Hulk in the second issue! Never before had so many Marvel comic book characters appeared in one adventure. This was a momentous occasion in Marvel history, and certainly one of the Hulk’s greatest moments. The Hulk actually successfully took on everyone — it took Rick Jones slipping him a gamma-irradiated capsule to take the Hulk out of the fight by transforming him back into Banner.
2. “Hulk Carries a Mountain”
In “Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars” #4 (by Jim Shooter, Bob Layton and John Beatty), the collected superheroes (who had been drawn to Battleworld by the powerful and mysterious Beyonder) had just suffered a setback in a battle with the collected supervillains (also called there by the Beyonder to see them fight for his amusement) and they were on the way back to their base to lick their wounds when the Molecule Man tried to stop their escape by dropping an entire mountain on top of them!!! And he did so… and the Hulk caught it and kept it up to keep his fellow heroes alive long enough for Reed Richards to be woken up (after he had been knocked out during the battle) and devise a way out of their predicament. Truly one of the Hulk’s greatest feats and one of the coolest comic covers of the 1980s!
1. “Honey, I’m Home”
Peter David’s classic run on “The Incredible Hulk” was already acclaimed for what went on in the first forty or so issues of his run, but he made comic book history with what he achieved in “The Incredible Hulk” #377 (by David along with artists Dale Keown and Bob McLeod). In that issue, Doctor Leonard Samson successfully managed to merge the warring personalities of Bruce Banner, the green savage Hulk and the grey cagey Hulk into one being. This changed the book’s trajectory dramatically and set up a new status quo that lasted for years. It was the most memorable moment in what was perhaps the most memorable creator run in “Hulk” history, and thus it is our pick for #1 on the greatest Hulk moments.
What’s your favorite Hulk moment ever published? Let us know in the comments!
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