When I was first asked to review this disc I asked whether or not this animated outing of Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk was the late 1990s version featuring multicoloured Hulks, She-Hulk and the comedy-voiced Leader (provided by Matt “Max Headroom” Frewer), or the early 1980s version.
Happily for me, I was provided with a lovely double disc set containing all the fun of the 80s series that, to me, is the best animated version of the character Marvel has done.
Kicking off with one of the best intros to any cartoon ever, this animated version of the Hulk is accompanied by a rousing, bombastic orchestral score and a massive, angry bellow. A cartoon equivalent of catnip for a fan of the Hulk, this is, my friends, what the Hulk should be – a mass of anger, smashing his way through everything. This is essentially what the cartoon entails – episode upon episode (well, 13 anyway) of the Hulk smashing things up.
Admittedly there is a story to each one, and actually some pretty good ones at that. The only really disappointing aspect is that the Hulk, in most episodes, fights generic villains (and the occasional dinosaur), so those of you looking for the Hulk to have a brawl with the Abomination, Absorbing Man or Bi-Beast (yes, that character exists) might be disappointed.
However, there are some cyborg bikers, out-of-control robots, shrinking Hulks and aliens for the Hulk to fight. While the Leader and She-Hulk do make an appearance, unlike a lot of later Marvel animation, the idea of a shared universe and host of villains, cameos or stories mirroring existing comics is very limited.
We do get the origin story of the Hulk taken directly from the comic books, with Bruce Banner rescuing a blonde Rick Jones from a gamma bomb detonation in a panel-for-panel copy of the original, first shown way back in Journey Into Mystery. That really is about all comic purists will get from the show.
That’s not to say the stories or the actual cartoon are bad. They are actually pretty good, with specific elements taken directly from the live action series that was airing around the same time – so we get to see Banner transform into the Hulk with the classic eye-change, ripped shirt and exploding shoes. Admittedly, the change sequences are repeated time and again, but they’re still fun. Added to this, there is also a great voice-over by the over-enthusiastic Stan Lee who introduces each episode with his usual vigour and enthusiasm.
Well animated for its time (flared trousers aside), this is a great nostalgia trip into the Hulk’s history, bringing back yearnings for when the Hulk comic was actually good and contained characters from the mythos that have long since departed – so to see the likes of Glenn Talbot, Betty Ross and Thunderbolt Ross once again was a welcome return, and unlike Peter David’s run that gave Hulk a reason ‘why’ he should exist, this show was taken from a more innocent time when there was no underlying requirement for the Hulk to smash. He did it just because, and for a kid (now a mid-30-year-old high on nostalgia) this really is all that’s needed.
It might be the rose-tinted nostalgia I have for this show, which was recorded and watched again and again on my family’s first video player, but this really is the best version of the Hulk Marvel produced away from the comics. This is pure Hulk -certainly better than the recent comics (which frankly are a mess), and while not as good as the recent ‘Planet Hulk’ animated feature this is pure, unadulterated, nostalgic fun.
While the show might be superb, the ‘extras’ are lacking, with the standard menus, intro and episode guide. I guess a show such as this doesn’t have a great deal of ‘extras’ to put on a disc.
The Incredible Hulk will be released on June 7th and can be pre-ordered from the Den Of Geek Store.