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I love reading a crossover comic book that was made by very talented creators to be a whole lot of fun from start to finish. Back in the early 1980s, rivals Marvel Comics and DC Comics collaborated temporarily with inter-company crossover comic books that were made to be entertaining to fans of their respective properties.
What I’m going to review here is the 3rd superhero crossover comic book between Marvel and DC titled Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk.
Before I start, let me clarify that this particular comic book was specifically published as issue number 27 of the DC Special Series which was a series of one-shot comic books. By comparison, the 1981 crossover comic book Superman and Spider-Man (which I reviewed previously) was published under the Marvel Treasury Edition line of Marvel Comics as issue number 28.
Going back to Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk, the comic book was the final issue of the DC Special Series line and it carried a cover price of $2.50 which was quite high for its time.
The people at DC Comics made sure that the crossover was handled by the best talents they had back then. The late Len Wein (best know for creating Wolverine) was assigned to write the script (and ensure that elements from both the Hulk and Batman would mix nicely) while José Luis García-López was hired to illustrate. Dick Giordano was the embellisher and editor while Allen Milgrom and then Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter were the consulting editors. In return for their assistance, Marv Wolfman and Mike DeCarlo were acknowledged with thanks.
Now we can begin with this retro review of Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk.
The early story
The story begins when a few persons in Gotham City witness their dreams turning real beyond logic. A man dreamed he was in the arctic hunting and wakes up to discover his room was filled with snow. In a cinema where a horror movie was shown, a couple kissing each other discover, to their shock, that monsters of different sizes surrounded them out of thin air.
At the waterfront of the city, the Joker (accompanied by his gang members) talks to an unseen being (Shaper of Worlds). He gives his assurance to the being that he and his gang will acquire a specific item (needed by the being). For the Joker, what was discussed was a simple business arrangement.
A short time later inside a high-tech facility of Wayne Research, Bruce Banner (the Hulk) secretly works under the false identity as David Banks. He works along with the scientists but not on the scientific projects. Rather, he works odd tasks such as lifting hardware and putting them into places that need them. Of course, Banner did not get hired for a salary but for something much essential to him and his condition with Gamma Rays.
“I had to get a job here somehow so I could get close to the experimental Gamma-gun they’re working on,” he thought to himself.
Suddenly the facility gets filled with laughing gas incapacitating all the people inside. Banner fortunately manages to wear a radiation suit for protection. Moments later, the Joker and his gang enter searching for the Gamma-gun. From this point on, Banner decides to act.
When it comes to the selection of characters from Marvel and DC, having the mismatch of Batman and the Hulk was a very splendid idea. Not only was having the large green brute and the world’s greatest detective together as temporary rivals a fascinating concept, having them work together as a duo turned out to be a really great move. When it comes to the selected villains of the Joker and the Shaper of Worlds as the anti-hero figures of the story, the two looked like an odd pair but if you focus on the details of the story, you will realize that it made a lot of sense having them two together. The Shaper needs something which requires him to depend on the Joker who in turn brings his gang with him to cause chaos to acquire what the alien needs
All of the above details would not have worked had it not been for the excellent writing by Len Wein. Clearly Wein knew a whole lot about the defining elements of the Hulk and Batman (and the same with the Joker and Shaper), and he carefully blended those elements together to make a story that is thrilling, intriguing, engaging and at the same time still made sense. More on crossing over, there are other characters connected to Batman and the Hulk that made appearances and a few of them fit in nicely into the story.
As this was released in 1981, it was typical of the time for writers to use thought balloons to help readers understand what the characters were thinking. The use of thought balloons in this comic book truly defined Batman who not only had to fight the bad guys but also manage his way with the Hulk and do a lot of detective work.
Going back to the Hulk and Batman, this comic book has a lot of fun stuff. More than once did the two superheroes engage in action-packed encounters and their exchange of words was very nicely done. Their match-up (or mismatch) really works.
When it comes to the common complaint by some readers out there that the comic book was more of a Batman story and made the Hulk less prominent, I should say that the slight imbalance is not a problem at all. In fact, for me it makes perfect sense that Batman has more spotlight than the Hulk. Why? Because Batman is a detective and he performed a lot of researching, information gathering and other moves to solve problems. His detective work in the story made perfect sense for the narrative. As for the Hulk, his character really has very limited options other than causing destruction and disturbing the public. Since early on, the Hulk was best known for attracting the attention of the American military (led by General Ross) and huge destruction defined the encounters. For this crossover, the creators did not show the Hulk engaging with the military (save for the phonies) but rather he struggled to figure things out whenever he encountered Batman or the Joker. There is no way the Hulk could do detective work like Batman and having him fight the military would have weakened this comic book’s presentation. Clearly, having the story slightly slanted towards Batman is still the right move.
The artwork done by José Luis García-López is excellent! He really captured the looks and details of each and every character Marvel and DC that appeared in this comic book. Back in the early 1980s, I got to read several comic books that showed Batman, the Hulk, the Joker and others and the way they appeared in this comic book was indeed accurate of the time. José Luis García-López also knew how to balance spectacle with character development and expository dialogue in terms of visual pacing and framing shots. Also his work becomes even more imaginative during the final conflict. Undoubtedly this is still a great looking comic book!
Overall, Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk is a great comic book and easily it is one of the greatest intercompany superhero crossover comic books ever published! From start to finish, this comic book proved to be highly engaging and there never was a single boring moment. The creators led by Len Wein (he is sorely missed) made the best possible story anyone can make involving Batman and the Hulk.
You can read a hard copy of this comic book by getting Volume 1 of Crossover Classics or, if you can afford to, hunt for a copy of this in its DC Special Series form which now sells for $280 for a very fine copy to as much as $400 for a near mint copy as of this writing according to MileHighComics.com
In ending this, I declare that Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk is highly recommended!
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