Alternate Cover: The best of the Hulk

James picks out some of the best Hulked-out action from old greenskin's venerable history...

The many faces and facets of old greenskin.

Since I tackled the Punisher’s, er, “top” stories last week, and Iron Man’s top stories shortly before the release of the film earlier this year, I’ve decided that this week, to go alongside the release of The Incredible Hulk on DVD, I’ll take a look at the some of the top Hulk stories that you can track down.

The story of the Hulk isn’t a complicated one – a man versus monster, Jekyll and Hyde-meets-Frankenstein formula – but in the past, it’s been taken to all sorts of dizzying extremes. From Sci-Fi and Fantasy epics to work as a Las Vegas nightclub bouncer, the Hulk has been placed in all manner of ridiculous-on-paper situations, but somehow they all work. Here are the best storylines, all of which should be available collected.

Future Imperfect – Written by long-time Hulk scribe Peter David, who developed the definitive take on the character over a decade-long stint, Future Imperfect sees the Hulk of the present day being pulled into the future to do battle with his demented evil self, “The Maestro” who has conquered and subjugated the planet. While artist George Perez’s visuals make for a stunning 2-issue series, it’s David’s writing that turns this epic sci-fi story into a character drama, as the Hulk’s internal conflict is externalised, with the entire planet at stake. Too fantastical for the movies, perhaps, but it remains a must-read for Hulk fans, if only to witness the full horrible implications of the Maestro’s trophy room…

Planet Hulk/World War Hulk – When some of the world’s most powerful heroes – Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange and Black Bolt – decide to deal with Hulk once and for all, the solution they come up with is fairly simple – capture him, deposit him on an unpopulated planet and let him live out his days in peace, harming no-one. Unfortunately, things don’t go so well – the Hulk is knocked off course, and lands on Skaar, a war-torn planet where he’s made into a gladiatorial slave. In a year-long Conan-esque epic, the Hulk escapes captivity and fights his way to the top, eventually become the benign ruler of Skaar. Peace is short-lived, though, when the ship that brought him to Skaar explodes, taking the planet’s core – and Hulk’s pregnant wife – with it. Returning to Earth, he exacts brutal vengeance on those that caused his misery. Together, these two stories represent the best of “Hulk Smash!” action, in a unique, fantasy-inspired fashion. It’s not at all a definitive take on the character, but it can’t be denied that it is an amazing adventure.

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Hulk: The End – Another story about the Hulk in the future, as told (again) by Peter David. This time, the idea is a hypothetical “final” Hulk story, as Banner sits alone on the post-nuclear wasteland of Earth, his resistance to radiation having allowed him to survive the war that killed everyone else. It’s an introspective character piece with a back-to-basics incarnation of the Hulk, and it really proves just what Banner and the Hulk’s relationship is with a final, brutal twist. Illustrations are by Dale Keown, one of David’s definitive Hulk collaborators.

Bonus List! Best Individual Issues of Incredible Hulk!

If you’re just after a single 22 page comic to read, then try some of these out for size:Incredible Hulk #300 – It’s Hulk Vs. the Marvel Universe as a newly-Bannerless Hulk goes on a mindless rampage, fighting every hero who crosses him to a standstill, with dimensional exile the only solution they can eventually come up with.

Incredible Hulk #417 – It’s Rick Jones’ Bachelor Party, all the guests are super-heroes, and that can only mean one thing: hilarity ensures. One of Peter David’s most fondly remembered issues, with good reason.

Incredible Hulk #466 – With Peter David “asked to leave” the series after a decade of top-rated stories, he finishes with an introspective issue where “Rick Jones” reflects on his time with the Hulk, though it’s quite clear that Jones is acting as David’s mouthpiece. Remarkably personal for a superhero comic, and a fantastic read as a result.

James writes Alternate Cover every Monday at Den Of Geek. His previous column can be found here.

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