Hilk: Gray #1-6 (2003/04)
by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale

With Spider-Man: Blue, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale managed to recast the hoary tale of Peter Parker's transformation into Spider-Man with real eloquence and beauty, making it possible to enjoy the story anew no matter how familiar you were with it. With minimalist writing and totally gorgeous artwork, that series was truly the ultimate Peter Parker-Mary Jane treatment, no offense to Stan Lee.

Perhaps that was a stroke of good luck – the confluence of great storytellers and a classic story, not coincidentally timed to tie in with a major motion picture release. I love Kirsten Dunst, sure … but Spider-Man: Blue transcended the "movie cash-in" tag simply by being excellent.

With Hulk: Gray, the duo teams up to deliver another renewal of a classic origin story, just in time for a lame-ass cineplex offering. Hulk: Gray finds Bruce Banner hashing out the details of his early days with psychiatrist/friend Leonard Samson. Again, the art is just terrific, and the writing is as good as it gets. So why is Hulk: Gray ultimately a disappointment?

Simply said, it's just that there isn't much nuance to be derived from The Hulk. Bruce Banner gets angry, he becomes The Hulk. Hulk smashes shit. That's as deep as it gets.

Wisely, Loeb and Sale choose to focus on the character's forgotten incarnation as a lumbering beast – gray, not green – still coming to terms with his reality. And putting Bruce Banner into a therapist's office allows for more layers of meaning and emotion than you'll typically find in a Hulk book.

But ultimately, "Hulk smash!" That's it. The story draws on over six belabored (though admittedly beautiful) issues, coming to the rather underwhelming conclusion that Banner's paramour, Betty Ross, was drawn to Hulk because he so closely reflected her father's rage.

For a Hulk comic, it's incredible. As literature … well, "Hulk smash!" It is what it is.

Review by Britt Burpee