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Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Ghost of the Past Paperback – October 6, 2015
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The “Ghost of the Past” storyline (previously released as a separate trade paperback in 1996) remains one of Peter David’s finest contributions to the mythos. A sequel of sorts to “Ground Zero”, it harkens all the way back to the beginning of David’s run, addressing some long-running loose ends, and bringing the war between the Hulk and the Leader to a close (at least for the present), at a great personal cost to our hero. When Doc Samson merged the Hulk’s personalities and created this current incarnation, it had always seemed a fast fix for Bruce Banner’s emotional turmoil. It’s here that we see the first inclination that the “cure” is not as permanent as everyone thought, and it’s no coincidence that Doc Samson reenters the series after a 20+issue absence to more closely observe the results of his work.
Putting the Hulk in charge of the Pantheon is an innovative change of pace for the character. While he has worked within groups like the Avengers and the Defenders prior to this point in his life, the Hulk has by tradition been a loner, never seeking a leadership role and the demands that come with it. It’s not the smoothest of changes, but it’s an excellent opportunity for David to probe even deeper into the Hulk’s dual capacity for good and for evil, backed by a think tank organization rife with its own drama and interpersonal conflicts. The new direction is marked artistically by the departure of Dale Keown, in-between work from Jan Duursema, and the arrival of Gary Frank, all seasoned pros who do well in visualizing the people and events depicted by David.
The “Return of the Defenders” crossover, here collected in its entirety, unfortunately doesn’t fair as well, plagued by the usual sort of inconsistencies evident in crossovers. The Hulk, in particular, seems slightly out-of-character in the Namor, Dr. Strange, and Silver Surfer annuals he’s featured in, as if the other writers don’t quite have a handle on how the merged Hulk should be portrayed, and what differentiates him from other incarnations in which Banner’s mind is in control. The savage Hulk has suffered from similar mischaracterization, played as more of a beast than the lonely, child-like tragic figure he should be.
For those fans who have religiously followed Peter David’s work on the Hulk, Incredible Hulk Epics: Ghost of the Past is a hefty continuation of that prolific period. Hopefully this reprint series will continue long enough to see the remainder of David’s first twelve-year run collected, as it deserves to be.
This collection includes Hulk #397 to Hulk #406 plus two Hulk Annuals #18 and #19 . Plus a story from Marvel Holiday Special #2 and portions of three other Annuals which featured the continuation of The Defenders Return storyline. All of these originally cover dated 1992 and 1993.
The good news for any of you that bought the Epic Collection just prior to this Daredevil: Widow's Kiss is that Marvel had gone back to thicker pulpy white paper and not continued with the glossy ultra thin stock paper. We also get numbered pages again, which were also missing from the DD volume. In all this book contains 470 pages all sharply printed in beautiful color.
Here is my one format suggestion . A single Who's Who page after the contents page would be very helpful. Peter David's books feature a Giant size supporting cast. Knowing who all the members of The Pantheon are would have increased my enjoyment since they are integral to the story.
The book starts out with Hulk Annual #18 . Well in 1992 and for several years prior Marvel had been boosting their lagging Annual sales by doing crossovers. So we get the main story which is the first part of the Return of The Defenders story and four small stories. The smaller stories range greatly in quality. The best is the lead story by Peter David and Travis Charest which is the Hulk Vs. The Thing. The other not as successful stories are built around the Hulk's supporting cast with one each for Rick Jones, The Pantheon and Doc Sampson.
As for the main story in Hulk Annual #18 it is beginning of The Return Of The Defenders. Part one is by Peter David and Kevin Maguire. It is a very fun story with Rick Jones getting a Sub-Mariner personality. Now here is the strange part Marvel also reprints parts 2, 3 and 4 from the Sub-Mariner, Silver Surfer and Doctor Strange Annuals . This is strange because previously in these connected Annuals the Epic Collection had only reprinted the lead character chapter and given you either a recap or a some text telling you how it finishes. See Captian Americs : Streets Of Poison. This turns out to be a Catch-22 . If they had not reprinted it, I would have been disappointed since David's first chapter was so good. But now having read it I wish they would not have included it. The next three chapters are pretty darn bad and almost incomprehensible. I normally like Ron Marz and Roy Thomas but this is a train wreck. The art also takes a big plunge. This is the low piont of the volume.
That's OK , because it rebounds nicely with Peter David's return and the five part Ghosts Of The Past storyline which runs from Hulk #397 through the oversized Hulk #400 which has two chapters. Dale Keown pencils parts 1 and 2, Jan Duuresma on parts 3 and 4 and Chris Bachalo on part 5.
This Ghosts Of The Past story involves The Leader , The U-foes and the death of Rick Jones girlfriend Marlo. Peter David reveals that he wrote this poignant story while recovering from his own loss when a friend died.
Bobbi Chase or who ever edited this original issue of Hulk #400 should be embarrassed with the contents page reprinted here on page 223. First it lists the pin-up reprinted on page 264 as being by Ernie Colon , it is not, instead it is the work of Ernie Chan (also know as Ernie Chua ). Then it says Mark Farmer's pin-up on page 224 is Hulk and Juggernaut when it is clearly Rhino instead.
In Hulk #401 (still penciled by Jan Duuresma ) loose ends are tied up with U-foes. Also Agamemnon goes on walkabout and the Hulk is put in charge of The Pantheon.
Next we get the three part story running in Hulk #402 through Hulk #404. It guest stars The Avengers and features the Red Skull and the Juggernaut as villains. With issue #403 Gary Frank becomes the new regular artist.
In Hulk #405 the Hulk must resolve a love triangle in The Pantheon. While Hulk #406 features the return of Doc Sampson and guests Captain America. Plus we get a resolution to the Marlo sub-plot.
Next we get another Hulk Annual this one #19. Well in 1993 Marvel had finally gotten over the crossovers and moved on to Polly Bagged Trading Cards as a gimmick. Each Annual debuted a new villain and that villain got a trading card and at least one story. Hulk's totally forgettable villain was Lazarus. We get Two Hulk versus Lazarus stories then a fun little story by Green Hornet Scribe Ron Fortier about a town named Hulk.
We close out with a Doc Sampson story from Marvel Holiday Special #2. Plus we get an additional fourteen pages of extras like ads, pin-ups , original art and a Hembeck story.
Peter David's time on Hulk marks a very long stretch of High Quality on the Hulk book. I hope Marvel reprints more later stuff and re-collects the Early Marvel Visionary books as Epic Collections. This is a fantastic era for Greenskins and should be in print for everyone to read.
My Highest Recommendation.