The Bottom Line: If you feel attracted to paranoia-inspiring stories along the lines of The Fugitive, with the hero hiding from a huge manhunt, then this could easily appeal to you.
I say we go east.
Everybody thinks hes headed west. Thats why well go east.
No, thats why hell go west. Banners a chess buff . . . or didnt you know?
(Dialogue from two hard-boiled bounty hunters trying to anticipate which way the the hero is headed.)
You probably don't know the names of the villains the Incredible Hulk fought in comics released in October of 2000, or September of 1995, or January of 1973 for that matter. Which is fine, since you don't need to know anything about the details of his past stories to appreciate what is happening as this volume, The Incredible Hulk: Return of the Monster starts him in a new direction under the guidance of writer Bruce Jones.
It would be nice if you already knew the bare outline of the original concept (from old TV shows, perhaps): Bruce Banner is a skinny physicist (humane, easygoing, likeable) who turns into a very big green bulletproof super-strong angry not-very-bright humanoid creature ("the Hulk") in moments of severe stress and later reverts back to his weaker-but-smarter self. But if you didn't already know that, you would pick it up fast.
We quickly learn from a newscast that the Hulk is believed to have caused the death of a nine-year-old boy in Chicago when he tore down a building and chunks of it crushed the boy. There is now a huge manhunt underway for Banner, since the Hulk's secret identity has been known for years (although for many years the Banner mentality was in control of the Hulk body and thus not seen as a dangerous criminal). We may safely assume that the FBIs involved in the manhunt, but at least one other faction hunts him with mysterious intentions. Intentions that involve hiring cold-blooded assassins to work on the case. The faction (no specific name provided) has access to technology that just might be able to knock the Hulk for a loop, which conventional bullets and such are notoriously unable to do. They also have some scary tricks I wont spoil for you. I should mention, however, that the back cover claims Bruce Jones was a noted horror writer before he scripted these stories as the beginning of a long run with the Hulk. The horror influence definitely shows as the plot ripens.
Banner uses his laptop computer to communicate with an unknown friend who always has good information on how close the manhunt is getting. They address one another as Mr. Green and Mr. Blue. Green is obvious, but I dont know who/what Blue refers to. One of several ongoing puzzles. (Another being, did he really kill the boy? That one is eventually addressed.)
Jones writes this in what I think of as cinematic style. We see people do things and say things, but we don't have captions or thought balloons telling us what is going on inside their heads in detail. Much like watching a movie. In addition, I might mention that the Hulk gets no dialogue when Jones is writing him. Back in the old days, he constantly spoke in third-person baby talk, such as "Hulk is angry at little man. Get out of Hulks way or Hulk SMASH!" Wisely, Jones decided he could dispense with that entirely in favor of presenting the Hulk as a rampaging elemental force that everyone in his right mind is leery of and cant really communicate with.
A note: I said Jones avoided the trap of making the story dependent on the readers knowledge of past continuity. Having done that, he then cheerfully walked into another possible trap by making this storyline only the first portion of a much longer epic in monthly installments. Banner's legal problems are not resolved in this volume, and though he copes with a few attempts to kill or capture him, he still doesnt know just who (other than the conventional authorities) is hunting him or why. Stay tuned for future episodes, a la X-Files and other conspiracy theory-oriented series!
This volume collects issues 34-39 of the current Incredible Hulk monthly title, featuring stories which were published in late 2001 and early 2002. The capable John Romita Jr. did the pencils.