Along with Rick Jones and a renegade S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Clay Quartermain, Bruce Banner aka the Hulk are on a mission to destroy gamma bombs that are being manufactured by the government. Banner feels it's his responsibility to halt any possible accident or tragedy, since he created the first gamma bomb that turned him into the Hulk. However, the Hulk's long-time and deadliest foe The Leader is after the bombs also. It's a race against time to see who will claim the prize first. -summary
Many people know the Incredible Hulk to be a big, green, powerful, dumb beast, who happened to walk the Earth causing wholesale destruction for whatever reasons. There was a point in time when he actually became intelligent, and this is when Bruce Banner's brain was able to control the creature. Later on, he would become dumb all over again and we would get some of the same ol' same ol'. Apparently, the idea of a smarter Hulk piqued the interest of many since it happened to be a fresh idea. Marvel would explore the concept again, only this time changing his color back to gray, reduce his strength a great deal, and give him a cunning personality to rival some of the more clever characters. Admittedly, I remember it taking a while for me to get used to this, at the time, new Hulk who only appeared during sunset, instead of due to Banner's anger. Eventually he would grow on me and this added a new twist that explored new territory, and presented to fans some very interesting and memorable stories, with this being among them.
The Incredible Hulk: Ground Zero is recognized as one of the better story arcs during Peter David's 12 year run on the character. In some peoples eyes it's the best. This TPB collects issues 340 - 346, and of course it's jam packed with action, a little comedy, a good portion of those things that make Hulk stories worthwhile.
The book begins with Hulk abandoning his group to go search for food in the middle of a snow storm. He bumps into Wolverine in the woods, and due to the bad blood between them that originated in their first encounter, the fist and claws start to fly. I was never crazy about this story, and I find it ungodly over-rated to this day. The action is decent enough, and if you're a serious Hulk and Wolverine fan, then the story will be even more enjoyable. The first two stories with the second one involving an encounter with the Man-Bull are pretty much stand alone tales. There is some focus on the Leader planning something, but nothing really comes of it until later on.
During the middle of the story is when things begin to get good. Leader makes his move with two of his new creations Rock and Redeemer carrying out a mission for him, plus Betty Banner is added to the mix and she doesn't feel the least bit tacked on. There is some good characterization taking place, with Betty and Bruce's very rocky relationship being put on blast. The Hulk as well as the side characters are also developed and new readers will get an idea on how they think. The action is kind of stale at first, then later on you start to see some real creativity which is noticeable during the Hulk's battle with Half-Life. This is one battle where readers will clearly see a difference between the green and gray Hulk.
Although the ending is very good, and I remember it being one of those type of endings you wouldn't expect. I think the TPB ends on too much of a sour note though, and the following issue should have been added on to at least clear up one thing. Overall, I don't think the ending hurt the story, but it could have used more closure than this.
Unlike a lot of people, for some reason Todd McFarlane's artwork was something I had to get used to. And I think it was during his run on The Amazing Spider-Man when I finally took a real liking to his work. He draws the Hulk a little too rough to the point where he looks too inhuman. Not that it's a bad thing, because he still looks pretty cool along with everything else; it's just that he always felt a little blocky to me. Still, you could always tell McFarlane's artwork, because there's this stylish swagger with the characters that will attract your attention. The action against giant robots and Leader's minions is drawn very well and easy to follow.
The only problem for me with this arc was the first two stories. They felt too much like a warm up and there just wasn't enough bang behind them. But when looking at the action, plot twist, witty and funny dialog, plus interactions on part of the Hulk, this is a very hard TPB not to recommend. The only problem I can see are people who are not familiar with a gray Hulk, and the questions arising on how he got like that. That's a small gripe though, and it shouldn't keep one from giving this a look.
-Great second half, good action, dialog, and artwork
-First two stories are alright at best
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