by Brian Azzarello
& Richard Corben
(Marvel Comics, 2002)

The town of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is nearly obliterated. Buildings are leveled, people are killed and wounded in a disaster of unprecedented proportions. The government declares a tornado to be the cause of the destruction. In reality, according to scientist-adventurer Dr. Leonard Samson, it was the world's most devastating bomb: "A bomb that moves around and continues to blow up." Thus begins Samson's quest to capture Bruce Banner or, as he is known in his monstrous persona, the Hulk.

It's a fairly routine premise, as Hulk stories go, but Banner, a new trade paperback published by Marvel Comics, is still more than a little different. Why?

Because it takes the character back to his roots, back to what he is supposed to be: a monster. It does this with good writing and even better artwork.

Writer Brian Azzarello reverts the Hulk to his essence. Too many stories in decades past had made the Hulk into a big, green, snarling ... well, teddy bear. Azzarello shows us a creature of great rage and destruction that leaves chaos and death in its wake. Then, he presents the picture of a horrified Bruce Banner, who gets to "wake up" and see the nightmare his other self has made others endure. Powerful stuff.

Even more powerful is the artwork of Richard Corben. Long known for his horror illustrations, Corben proved long ago his ability to render brutal, creepy, chilling scenes beautifully. Few artists produce such oxymoronic work. I mean that in a good way, really.

The truth is, it took Corben far too long to illustrate a Hulk story, as he renders the visual monster superbly. The rage, the destruction, the unrestrained and uncontrollable force that is the ogre that Lee and Kirby created a generation ago, this is what Corben gives the readers.

Banner is highly recommended for all but the youngest readers.

- Rambles
written by Mark Allen
published 22 February 2003

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