One of the most beloved and intimidating superheroes in the Marvel Universe, The Hulk has always been known for his size and green color…but he wasn’t always green. From the masterful team of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale comes the story of Hulk Gray. Published in 2011, just a year shy of the release of The Avengers, this story gave true Hulk fans a new vision of how Hulk should truly be portrayed on the big screen.
The entire story is told throughout a therapy session between Bruce Banner and his physiatrist. Loeb and Sale don’t drift off too much away from the classic origin story of how Hulk came to be: it’s still a result of Bruce Banner being caught in a gamma bomb explosion whilst attempting to save a young man named Rick Jones. Banner and Jones quickly seek medical attention and avert the army who has been sent to find them by General Ross, the father of Betty Ross who happens to be Bruce’s love. Rick attempts to comfort Bruce assuring him that things will be okay in the end, but Bruce feels that his life is now torn apart. All the frustration and anger begin to build eventually causing him to morph into The Hulk (who is of a gray shade of colouring.) Hulk makes a run for the hills in the night but is soon pursued by an Army Unit who attempt to stop him by firing a variety of weapons including automatic assault rifles and RPG’s. This does nothing but anger the Hulk. He quickly disassembles the unit by practically destroying it! Through the destruction however we see much sadness Hulk has inside of him or how much power and anger he has.
Still in the form of the Hulk, he goes to Betty’s house…literally stepping up to Betty’s front door. Betty does not know that Hulk IS Bruce Banner, so she quickly blames him for Bruce’s disappearance. Hulk speaks to Betty and this causes her to pass out. This is pretty much the only time in the story in which we as the reader go from a comical concept to an affectionate connection between the Beauty and the Beast. We don’t stay in this state too long, however. The army approaches and this time General Ross is with them! He sees Hulk carrying the unconscious body of his daughter and commands his soldiers to open fire. As Hulk stomps the ground creating a small tremor, he leaps away as he leaves Betty behind. At this point, General Ross knows that the army might not be able to stop Hulk alone. He needs help from someone…someone who can match Hulk’s strength and yet has more intelligence. It’s Tony Stark.
Rick is eventually taken into custody and is interrogated by General Ross for the whereabouts of Hulk. Rick does not comply. Ross’ patience is soon tested and things get physical with Rick! Betty interferes, begging her father to reconsider his actions. Hulk then smashes into the prison and sees Betty. Unlike the last time they were together, he takes her hand and leaps away. What happens next is the strong-point of the entire story.
Hulk is blasted aside by a beam of power and force. Iron Man is here! And not the Iron Man we know to be in the MK V Armour. It is the retro, Golden Avenger suite known as the MK II! The appropriateness of this image is glorious! Seeing Hulk battle Tony Stark as the MK II is a visual delight. Tim Sale delivers amazing artwork to portray the conflict. This is a battle any fan of the Hulk wants to see in modern times! The story concludes with Bruce morphing into the Green Hulk as he storms out of his therapist’s building, in tears as he gazes upon Betty’s picture. Knowing that he cannot be with his one true love, it is right here that we now know just how sensitive the Hulk really is. Between the smart dialogue, the intense action scenes depicted and simple yet sturdy character development, this book easily defines itself to be a true Hulk Graphic Novel available for anyone to pick up who may wonder about who The Hulk truly is. Have you ever read Hulk Gray? Were you a fan? Fire away in the comments below or sound off on Facebook and Twitter!