Summary from Goodreads:
Bruce Banner’s life was torn apart by the explosion of the Gamma Bomb. From that moment on, he unleashed the strongest creature on Earth–The Incredible Hulk. No matter how powerful he became, his heart could still be shattered by Betty Ross. The Eisner Award-winning team of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale continue their insightful look into the early days of Marvel’s most popular heroes as they unravel the origin of the Hulk.
I am a firm believer of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. This is how I came to be in this situation. Once again, I find myself at the mercy of the masterful writing of Jeph Loeb and the grand artistic machinations of Tim Sale and I could not be happier. In the world of comics, a team up with two popular characters usually produces something marvelous (no pun intended). Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale are the epitome of great team ups. Some of you may know from reading my previous posts that I am a huge fan of theirs, whether it was their work on Batman: The Long Halloween or Dark Victory, or perhaps it was their take on Superman in ‘Superman for All Seasons’, but whatever the case may be, these two juggernauts in the comic industry, when put together, create magic on the pages. Hulk Gray is no exception.
The Hulk is one of the most layered characters in all of comic history. He has an identity crisis of the highest order and in line with that, has to maintain his own sense of humanity (life, love, moral code). He is the Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde of comics. The Jade Giant (as he is affectionately called) is a fascinating character to write about, but is also such a task to turn his stories into something original. The whole ‘man apart’ story has been done before many a time and although it is a proven success, it is the safety net for writers of the Hulk. Jeph Loeb must have realized this and decided that he would put his own spectacular spin on the multidimensional beast.
This story is a part of the 3 series run which I have dubbed ‘The Marvel color series’. Spider Man: Blue, Daredevil: Yellow and Hulk: Gray. The colors stated in the titles depict the colors which associate either the characters (Daredevil original costume was yellow and Hulk was orginally gray) or the mood of the character (Spider Man is blue because of his depression in regards to Gwen Stacy). Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s work on these series are timeless and each of them stand out in their own special way.
The Hulk’s story takes place in the early years of his mythology. Bruce Banner has just become the Hulk and is internalizing all of his problems; literally. A lot of this story is told from the Hulk character, but some of Bruce Banner’s thoughts. This is one of the reasons why the Hulk is such a layered character; we, as the reader, get two stories for the price of one. Two characters inhabiting the same body at the same time but thinking two entirely different things. Without giving too much away, this story is one of conflict without violence. It is the inner conflict of The Hulk and how he and Banner both struggle with the outside world whioh will never accept them and the issues between themselves. Before the Hulk, Bruce Banner was a genius scientist with a lovely lady by his side (Elizabeth Ross–father is General Thunderbolt Ross). He was living his own personal dream. Enter the Hulk; his own personal nightmare. Now that the Hulk is a part of him and he of the Hulk, the two characters must coexist with one another. What makes this story so fascinating is that the Hulk, which some might say is the intruder in Banner’s life, feels wholeheartedly that HE, not Banner, is the one that should be the dominant personality.
For those of you familiar with the Hulk in the comics, this entire story might sound so familiar. Believe me; it is anything but. The Hulk is a character that is all about smashing and being the strongest their is; this story is more about finding one’s own sense of identity in a now fragmented world. Loeb and Sale come together to create yet another piece of art, one in which I shall forever cherish. I was very much impressed by the sense of awareness both the Hulk and Banner have for each other; they realize they inhabit the same body but the conflict is ever present. Since this story is told in the formative years of the Hulk, it is interesting to see how awkward and alone the character truly is. Tim Sale’s artwork gives the Hulk a new life in his old world. The use of subdued but purposeful colors add the necessary meaningful touch that put this story over the edge. The color series has yet to disappoint me and is yet another work of greatness to add to the resume of Loeb and Sale.