The Hulk (a.k.a. Bruce Banner) is possibly the most visually iconic comic book character and founding member of Marvel’s The Avengers. Debuted more than half a century ago as The Incredible Hulk, he has been featured in a variety of comics, merchandise, video games, television, film and animated series since.
The massive green-skinned humanoid alter-ego of the weak, emotionally withdrawn physicist Bruce Banner formed after an accidental exposure to gamma radiation. In his origins, he only transformed into a gray version of The Hulk by night and was human by morning. Over years of development, he has progressed into the familiar green icon of today, triggered by rushes of adrenaline, exuding an uncontrollable power that often leads to rampage, chaos and conflict in his external and internal world.
Though his characterization has changed over the years, he has remained one of the greatest scientific minds on Earth-616 as Bruce Banner. He has limitless physical strength fueled by emotions, particularly anger, which make him a danger to society. However, he has befriended and teamed up with numerous other superheroes, saved the world countless times and has enough powers and abilities to contend against the most powerful of comic book Gods.
The Hulk’s exciting unpredictability is what makes him such a powerhouse of entertainment for comic book readers. We’re excited to see where new developments take him next. Until then, here are the Top 15 Hulk Stories to sink your teeth into!
Bruce Banner relives the first hours of the Hulk’s painful creation through a narrative conversation with his psychiatrist friend. There are moments of emotionally-driven dimension to the Hulk’s story as he takes on the government as a weapon of rage, and struggles with the internal effects of his love for Betty Ross in this touching re-telling of life as the Gray Hulk.
The relationship between Banner and his alter ego are given a front seat in this collection by Loeb and Sale in their third comic novel together. We see the origins of Hulk wrapped up in an intuitive, thoughtful package with artwork by Tim Sales that captures the essence of the Hulk’s despair, violence and naivety.
Collection: Hulk Gray: #1-6
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale
Ultimate Hulk vs Wolverine
Hulk has been presumed dead since his execution by nuclear bomb at the end of Ultimates 2, but there’s talk of an unidentifiable creature wreaking Hulk-sized havoc that’s got Nick Fury shaken. He sets Wolverine on the case as the amoral bounty-hunter type to ensure that the deed is managed, but there are obstacles in the way of his goal that a sly sense of humor and primal rage may not be able to contend with.
Lindelof shows that he knows a comic audience in this collection. It’s a plot-driven vessel that gives an interesting depth to Hulk, and keeps with a quick-moving pace that will keep the pages turning. Pencil work by Yu is a visual masterpiece, which lends to the movement and action of the storyline through landscapes, expressions and artistic detail.
Collection: Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk #1-6
Writer: Damon Lindelof
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Incredible Hulk: Pardoned
After attempting to rid himself of the Hulk once again, Banner finds himself under control of the massive green giant’s mind instead. This new development leads to a Hulk with the intelligence of Bruce Banner, and the brawn to destroy anything he sets his mind to. Pardoned by the President and forgiven by the public, he’s accepted as a peer among heroes. Given the opportunity to live a public life for once, we venture into getting to know Bruce Banner, the man.
There are first appearances by Rocket Raccoon, familial revelations and a guest appearance by almost every single character in the Marvel pantheon in this collection. Bill Mantlo gives us an intelligent Hulk that is set apart from any other incarnation in Marvel history, and the result is a memorable story that’s a strong pull from beginning to end.
Collection: Incredible Hulk #269-285
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Sal Buscema
Incredible Hulk: Regression
Bruce Banner returns to being a scientist after the events of “The Incredible Hulk: Pardoned.” He has everything he could have ever wanted, including the love of the beautiful and intelligent Kate Waynesboro who works alongside him in his New York state lab. However, his fear of losing everything he has so desperately wanted bubbles beneath the surface of his mind. With a sudden onslaught of stressors threatening his small piece of happiness, from an array of villainous characters such as MODOK, Abomination, General Ross, Nightmare and Beyonder, Banner has to fight for what assertion of control he has left over the massive Hulk before it threatens to undo all of the good that Banner has done.
Collection: Incredible Hulk #286-300, Incredible Hulk Annual #12
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artist: Sal Buscema
She-Hulk (now just Hulk) comes back from Civil War with severe PTSD after the death of her cousin and her own critical injuries. Struggling to survive and keep normalcy in her life, she gets back to work on her metahuman cases, but sustaining her “new normal” proves to be more difficult than imagined when she is faced with stress and rage inducing complications that threaten to transform her. Jennifer Walters is deeply changed by the pain of her past, as she battles panic attacks and anxieties to keep herself from transforming into the only Hulk left alive.
This is a powerful and intimate look into the suffering of trauma and the loss of loved ones, handled expertly by Mariko Tamaki, who utilizes empathy, wit and insight to give us a Hulk we’ve never imagined. Although we lose some of the humor that made She-Hulk so light-hearted in the past, there’s a new ground of real-life issues and humanistic development that makes this a must read for Hulk fans.
Collection: Hulk #1-6
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Nico Leon
Hulk Visionaries (John Byrne)
Doc Samson discovers a way to fully separate Banner from the Hulk, reducing him to a mindless, outraged monster on a rampage. Bruce Banner is a mad scientist who finds himself able to pursue a relationship with longtime girlfriend Betty Ross, but he’s also caught up in his monster hunting schemes that may eventually lead to his spliced alter-ego. The Hulk takes on Iron-Man, Wonder Woman, Sub-Mariner, Hercules and others in a battle royale that’s worthy of the read alone, and there’s a guest appearance by Hulk’s cousin, She-Hulk.
Byrne’s art is excellent from the first page to the last and has been restored in this new collection. There are plot-points in these issues that weigh heavily in the development of the Hulk even after his brief run finishes. If you’re a new reader of the Hulk, this is a great choice to catch up on the history.
Collection: Incredible Hulk #314-319, Incredible Hulk Annual #4
Writer: John Byrne
The earliest adventures of The Hulk are collected here, with first appearances of General Thunderbolt Ross, Betty Ross, Toad Men, Leader Abomination, Rick Bones, Drenkob, Tyrannus, Ringmaster, Metal Master, the Secret Empire and more. Take yourself back in time to the origin story as told by Stan Lee and illustrated by Jack Kirby, as we see the Hulk evolve into the man-creature we know and love, and the emergence of the gamma-irradiated villainous genius known as the Leader.
All six of the earliest issues, followed by thirty-one Tales to Astonish, show the transformation of comic quality that brought The Hulk up from monster-of-the-week to one of the most popular household names in comic characters.
Collection: Hulk #1-6, Tales to Astonish #60-91
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
She-Hulk: Law & Disorder
Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk) is a successful, driven lawyer with a new practice and paralegal after leaving a firm of big bosses behind her. From taking an immigration case for the son of dictator Dr. Doom looking for political asylum, to teaming up with Hell-Cat to track down and discover files that could affect all of the Marvel universe, we see her racking up enemies faster than a forest fire. There are appearances by Daredevil, Tigra and several others as Jen navigates a superhero legal world in this fun, law-fluent series.
Collection: She-Hulk #1-6
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Javier Pulido, Ron Wimberly
Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Banner build, Hulk smash. Marvel NOW! has made the Hulk an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., giving Bruce Banner access to a lab, technicians and the technology of his dreams as long as Banner utilizes his alter-ego as a weapon of mass destruction for the government. We see the Hulk taking on the villainous likes of the Quintronic Man, Attuma and the Mad Thinker. Meanwhile, Banner has come to a self-actualization that he can do some good with this high-powered intelligence by creating world-saving tech to balance the destruction of the Hulk.
Mark Waid has some fantastic humor balanced with straight wo/man parts that keep you on your toes. This reimagining of the Hulk clears the baggage of his history and introduced concepts that turn the Hulk from almost hero to true world-saver. Yu gives a visually impressive boost to this collection, adding both nuance and grit to the writing.
Collection: Indestructible Hulk #1-5
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Gods and Monster
Bruce Banner takes a lab team to Jotunheim, the world of giants, to acquire the atomic component of Eiderdurm. Here he meets with Thor, who has no memory of Banner or his alter-ego Hulk. They team up to battle Frost Giants of Asgardian lore before the violent cabal can invade Earth, but the heroes will need help in order to keep them from crossing into the earthly dimension.
Additionally, Banner/Hulk and his attorney, Matt Murdock (a.k.a. Daredevil) team up to take on urban crime in Hell’s Kitchen as they hunt down a substantial gunrunner. Matt is Banner’s insurance against SHIELD, but it also seems that he could be his friend.
Thor fans will love to see Simonson’s artistic rendition of the legendary God of Thunder, and Scalera’s distinct and vastly differing style suits the change of pace from story-to-story.
Collection: Indestructible Hulk #6-10
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Walter Simonson, Matteo Scalera
She-Hulk: Single Green Female
Jennifer Walters, the fun-loving, smart She-Hulk, is infamous for her party girl ways, and subsequently kicked out of the Avengers mansion for the incessant nature of it. Seated with a spot in the most prestigious law firm on the east coast after being ousted, we follow along her cases specializing in “superhuman law” of the Marvel universe. These issues have loads of guest stars among the unique, abnormal cases she takes on, including Spider-Man, a host of comical supervillains.
Dan Slott really shows a sharp wit and humor with his time on She-Hulk, balancing her humanness and super strength deftly. This is a light read that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but simultaneously gives us a fantastic, individual development of a character generally regarded as merely the female version of Hulk. This series aims to reframe that. The artistry by Bobillo and Pelletier may drastically vary, as Bobillo depicts a smaller version of She-Hulk while Pelletier draws a bulkier, muscled-up version, but they cater to the stories and easily make She-Hulk as visually captivating as she is awesome.
Collection: She-Hulk #1-6
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Juan Bobillo
Following a merciless battle between Hulk and the Fantastic Four, they’re left with no choice but to shoot the big green guy into space to live in isolation for the good of all. When he lands on the brutalist alien planet of Sakaar and is forced into arena-style battles, a whole world of chaos, corrupt politics, Gladiators, deadly competition, monsters and champions leads us into the most savage story of the Hulk’s history.
For fans of the MCU, this is a suggested read. Thor Ragnarok takes inspiration from the pages of Planet Hulk, giving us a Hulk who speaks in sentences, with a cleverness and intelligence that fits his brutal, barbaric ways.
Collection: Incredible Hulk #88-105
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Aaron Lopresti
The End/Future Imperfect
The internal conflict and isolation of the Hulk is perfectly captured in “The End”, as one of two stand-alone stories that take place in a post-apocalyptic America. Banner and the Hulk remain at odds even as the last sentient being on Earth, roaming endlessly through barren landscapes as they encounter irradiated carnivorous cockroaches. There is a bleak existence for the last man and monster on earth, stuck together while Banner wishes for death, and the Hulk remains alive purely out of rage and spite.
In Future Imperfect, we see what could become of a world where Maestro reigns supreme after Hulk is brought into the future to fight his post-nuclear war version. Rushing into battle to defeat him proves to be harder than expected, as the Hulk finds himself unprepared for the battle against an intelligent, ferocious foe.
Although neither of these stories tie into the overall material of Hulk’s arc, they are brilliant stand-alone concepts for the character’s development, giving fans a glimpse at a world where his indestructibility is ultimately in question.
Maestro also makes an appearance in the Marvel’s 2099 comics. Including Spider-Man 2099.
Collection: Incredible Hulk: The End, Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect #1-2
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Dale Deown, George Perez
World War Hulk
Our not-so-friendly green giant find himself on the planet Sakaar, where he was exiled by a group of Marvel heroes. The Hulk has moved up the ranks from slave to king and returns to Earth with war-bound gladiators and a possessed rage to wreak a terrible vengeance on those he deems responsible. Iron Man, Reed Richards, Dr. Strange and Black Bolt gather to quell the rage of Hulk before he destroys everything in his path.
There are appearances by She-Hulk and The Fantastic Four, making this a great crossover read, and fans of the MCU will find this one familiar, since inspiration for Thor Ragnarok was taken from the pages.
Collection: World War Hulk #1-5
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: John Romita, Jr.
Hulk Visionaries (Peter David)
From the confinement of Hulk’s tortured psyche to the glowing lights of a Las Vegas location, the best place to start our list is at the beginning of the legendary series run by Peter David, who breathes new depth and mythos into the story via a cunning, cynical and amoral Gray Hulk. These several volumes explore the internal warfare between Bruce Banner and his alter-ego(s), a host of new and old nemeses’, crossovers with fan favorite and more, all setting up an incredible story arc that gives rise to the most memorable Hulk characterizations in history.
Collection: Incredible Hulk #328-467
Writer: Peter David