Despite his superhero persona, the Hulk is often viewed as a monster and many of his stories range between Hulk as a hero and as the hunted. He’s one of the rare Marvel heroes who started with their own solo series and then got absorbed into an anthology series (Tales to Astonish), only to receive a solo series again. Marvel often doesn’t know how to handle the green goliath, so it can be difficult to find which stories to read first.
Thankfully, good old Uncle Geekly is here to set you straight with a guide of starter Hulk stories.
Hulk: Gray (written by Jeph Loeb/art by Tim Sale; 2003-2004)
Loeb and Sale usually do a great job showing a hero’s formative years, and Hulk: Gray is no exception. For those who don’t know Hulk’s origin as well as other Marvel character’s this series delves into the accident that created him and his early struggles and failures to control his powers.
Hulk: Gray only ran for six issues, but readers get a good understanding on how at odds Banner is with his counterpart. It’s a quick and must read.
Planet Hulk (written by Greg Pak/art by Carlo Pagulayan and Aaraon Lopresti; 2006-2007)
Yes! This story should look familiar for Thor: Ragnarok fans. Humanity deems Hulk too dangerous to remain on Earth, so he’s jettisoned on an alien planet Sakaar. Once there, the locals enslave him and force the Hulk to fight in gladiatorial combat against other aliens. Planet Hulk is one of the wildest and best Hulk stories.
The story builds intrigue on who sent Hulk to the planet—I won’t spoil it here, but it’s eye-opening—and watching the Hulk battle to liberate Sakaar from the Red King is satisfying. Throw in Hulk getting married and a Hulk baby and you have a romp that’s well worth the read.
World War Hulk (written by Greg Pak/art by John Romita Jr.; 2007)
Remember the intrigue from Planet Hulk? Yeah, World War Hulk shows what happens when the Hulk discovers who sent him to Sakaar and the subsequent war. While this mini-series displays some intricate combat, it also manages to show a mindful Bruce Banner who remains trapped inside all the Hulk’s rage.
It’s a side of the Hulk that readers don’t get to see that often and it’s refreshing.
Indestructible Hulk (written by Mark Waid/art by Leinil Francis Yu; 2012-2014)
This story may seem out of place as it was published a good five years after World War Hulk, but Indestructible Hulk does a great job of showing why humanity may fear the Hulk enough to send him to another planet.
The Hulk chooses to do some good and allies with S.H.I.E.L.D.. This partnership leads to some of the Hulks battles, but as the title implies, the Hulk gains so much strength that he becomes indestructible. I won’t spoil the shocking reveal at the end, but this series shows how the Hulk struggles to be a hero, but he’s ultimately a force of nature.
Hulk: Destruction (written by Peter David/art by Jim Muniz; 2005)
The Hulk doesn’t have as many villains as other heroes in comics, but the Abomination (featured in the movie The Incredible Hulk) must be one of the key few, and Hulk: Destruction does a great redefining the two’s relationship.
Peter David also happens to be a long-time The Hulk writer and this mini-series does a good job showing what he can do with the character.
Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk (written by Damon Lindelof/art by Leinil Francis Yu; 2005-2009)
The infrequent schedule of this mini-series left a lot of readers miffed at the time of its original run, but the six issues have been completed, and no collection of Hulk stories would be complete without including at least one battle between Hulk and Wolverine. Heck, Wolverine was first introduced as a Hulk foil.
Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk shows how insane these battles get. It opens with Wolverine torn in half, his legs on top of a mountain. Yikes!
I could have done with so many flashforwards and flashbacks in a short series like this (Lindelof is one of Lost’s co-creators, so I guess he likes using a lot of these), but Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk gives insight to the brutality of these two primal beings.
That’s my list for new Hulk readers. Did I miss any stories or include some that I shouldn’t? Send me a smoke signal atop a mountain—preferably not the one the Hulk traveled to—or let us know in the comments.