Five Essential Hulk Stories

What are the essential stories of Hulk?

Hulk plays a significant role in Thor: Ragnarok, but there is much more to him than just what you see on the screen.  His character’s history is replete with some “incredible” moments.  So if you’re interested in finding out more about the Jade Giant or simply love a great story and beautiful art, here are the top 5 essential stories of the Incredible Hulk.

The cover for Incredible Hulk #1

Incredible Hulk #1: How could you not pick this one? It all begins here.  The gamma bomb experiment.  Bruce Banner running out onto the testing field to save a hot-headed teenager and becoming irradiated in the explosion.  Turning into the Hulk for the first time.  Some surprising differences in this Hulk from the one we know today – he turned into Hulk at night and Banner by day in this first issue, and he was gray!  It took nearly 400 issues to explain this discrepancy.  Most just assumed it was a coloring error until Marvel made it part of his history.

The first appearance of Wolverine was in The Incredible Hulk #181

Incredible Hulk #181: The funny thing about this issue is that it’s importance is not really about the Hulk at all.  It was in this issue that Wolverine was first introduced.  Considered his first appearance, this is probably the most valuable of all Hulk comic books.  Technically, Wolverine appeared in a panel in #180, but just as baseball doesn’t consider it your rookie year until you have a certain number of appearances, comics don’t consider it a 1st appearance until a character is featured in the book for more than a cameo. Like Thing and Thor, Wolverine would over the years be both opponent and ally of the Hulk and it was this book that first featured him.

Inside of Bruce’s psyche, the two other parts of his personality finally come together after a visit from Bruce’s long dead mother

Incredible Hulk #377: Peter David is one of the most renowned Hulk writers and his work with artist Dale Keown has to be one of the landmark runs on the book.  It was revealed in this issue that Bruce Banner suffers from multiple personality disorder and the green and gray Hulk are different personalities Bruce manifested after his exposure to the radiation.  By the end of the issue, Doc Samson (Bruce’s friend and another of the gamma-irradiated family) is able to integrate all three into one.  What we get is a fully integrated Hulk with the brain of Bruce Banner.

Just a normal day in the life of the now cured Bruce Banner – drinking soup and playing Minecraft

Totally Awesome Hulk #8: After the conclusion of Secret Wars (the reboot), we are introduced to a completely new Hulk – Amadeus Cho.  Not only has someone else assumed the mantle of the Hulk, but Bruce Banner is actually cured!  What makes this issue so special is it shows Bruce completely at peace.  He’s recovering from the flu (which he hasn’t had to deal with since becoming the Hulk) and playing Minecraft while surrounded by his friends.  It seems FINALLY Bruce has found the peace he has always craved.

The shot heard round the world – the death of Bruce Banner by one of his friends, Hawkeye

Civil War II #3: Until this issue. It took no time at all in the comic book universe for the happiness of Bruce Banner to come to an end.  Permanently.  At least as permanently as you can get in the Marvel Universe.  Except for a brief stint as a zombie, he has stayed dead since this issue.  Apparently Bruce made a deal with Hawkeye from the Avengers that if he ever saw Bruce about to become the Hulk again, he was ordered to kill him.  He even had a special arrow to do it.  It was highly questionable if Hawkeye saw what he thought he saw, but after a vision by an Inhuman with the ability to see future probabilities showed a rampaging Hulk causing death and destruction, nearly every superhuman comes to confront Bruce.  It was during this confrontation that Hawkeye shot Bruce.  And that was the end of the original Hulk.

These are not necessarily the best Hulk stories, but ones that made a significant difference in the history of the hero.  It leaves out some incredible runs by other writers and artists who have made a huge impact on the Big Green Guy.  Greg Pak’s take on Hulk (Planet Hulk) directly influenced Thor: Ragnarok.  The storyline “Who Shot the Hulk?” by Mark Waid and Mark Bagley was a terrific story.  And there were so many others.  But these five cover the arc of who is the Hulk and worth reading.  Any Hulk fans out there?  I would love to know what might have been in your top 5!

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