One of the mainstays of the superhero team is that someone is the member with superhuman strength. There may be more than one, but there is always at least one member of the team that is the team’s muscle, usually physically larger than the rest, and the one sent in when the team just needs someone pounded into dust.
That’s actually how today’s entry got his superhero name.
It’s hard to make a corporately-owned superhero intellectual property something distinct. The temptation is to generally keep the character in the form fans recognize him or her in the most and try to give him or her some exciting adventures to please the fans. In fact, the more high profile the character, the less editorial is going to allow a certain level of meddling. Second and third stringers can be used for that sort of thing.
That’s sort of what makes the Hulk a unique character. Though often depicted as just a big, stupid brute who doesn’t understand how to use personal pronouns, the Hulk has often been used as a more experimental character, someone whose intelligence and setting can fluctuate depending on the story’s needs. The Hulk is high profile enough for Marvel to always have a Hulk book of some kind in publication, but not enough for them to really care as much about what he’s doing as they are, say, Spider-Man. That’s led to some interesting Hulk runs and experiments in the character. Writer Peter David played with the idea Bruce Banner had Multiple Personality Disorder and had different Hulks appearing at different times until Doc Samson figured out how to merge them into a composite being that was always the Hulk. Paul Jenkins developed this concept further, and had a run complicated by Bruce contracting Lou Gehrig’s disease and needing to find some sort of cure before he had to become the Hulk permanently. Even Bruce Jones, a writer whose comics I don’t much care for, initially had an interesting run where Banner was on the run from some conspiracy that seemed supervast and complex until Jones wrapped the whole thing up in two issues by saying it was just the Leader the whole time, which ended something cool in a lame manner.
And then there’s the Planet Hulk storyline, which may have been one of the most ambitious Hulk storylines ever done.
There is a common title that pops up during Marvel events that tries to give a “view from the common man”. These books tend to revolve around a newspaper and their staff as they cover the events of the, uh, event. And they generally manage to get into some hi-jinx of their own. You might notice a common theme with the naming of these books: Civil War Front Line, Secret Invasion Front Line, World War Hulk Front Line and…Siege Embedded.
In this mixed up, messed up planet that is Battleworld, there really isn’t an opportunity for Marvel to roll out a Front Line-esque tie-in. Instead they’ve given us not one, but two short story anthology books: Secret Wars Battleworld and Secret Wars Journal.
I’ve looked at the first two issues of Battleworld in Part Four and Part Five respectively. After the break I’ll have a spoilery look at Secret Wars Journal #1, Secret Wars Journal #2 and Secret Wars Journal #3.