First Published: September 2001
Contents: Hulk stories from Tales to Astonish #92 (June 19674) to #101 (March 1968), Incredible Hulk #102 (April 1968) to #117 (July 1969), back-up story from #147 (January 1972), and Incredible Hulk Special #1 (1968)
Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Marie Severin, Herb Trimpe, Gary Friedrich, Roy Thomas
Key First Appearances: Timberius
Story Continues From: Essential Hulk Vol. 1
Story Continues In: Essential Hulk Vol. 3
Overview: The tales of the angry green goliath continue in this second Essential Hulk volume. We see Bruce Banner still being hounded by General Ross and the U.S. Army. Betty Ross must rebuff the interest shown by Major Talbot, as her heart still remains true to Bruce. And the Hulk shows that most times the true monster in the book is not him, but the humans fighting him.
With these stories, we see the Hulk start to crossover with characters from other books. There is a multi-issue arc where the Hulk teams up with Thor and the Warriors Three; Bruce Banner and his alter identity cross paths with Ka-Zar in the Savage Land; and another story line features the Hulk battling the Mandarin, which leads to an obligatory appearance by Iron Man.
A highlight of the book would be the inclusion of the first Incredible Hulk Special (Specials later became known as Annuals). Written by Gary Friedrich with art by Marie Severin, the Hulk encounters the Inhumans, which had been exclusively supporting characters in the Fantastic Four book until this point. What makes this memorable is the cover by Jim Steranko, which shows the Hulk bent over while holding up the book logo made out of rock. The image has been the subject of numerous homages over the years.
What makes this Essential?: This should be a better book, given the talent of the creators. That said, this collection of stories feels very average. My opinion here, but it feels like Marvel was more concerned with just having a book on the newsstands each month compared to the content of the stories. If you are a Hulk fan, get it only if you are wanting to read his complete journey.
Footnotes: This Essential also includes a back-up Hulk story from Incredible Hulk #147. It is uncredited on the front cover of the Essential, but it is listed in the table of contents. The back-up story was also reprinted, along with the original story, in Essential Hulk Vol. 4.
The Hulk was one of two features printed each month in Tales to Astonish. Since issue #70, the other back-up feature was Namor, the Sub-Mariner. For issue #100, the two characters teamed up for a full-length story.
Tales to Astonish ends with issue #101 (March 1968). The following month, the title was renamed The Incredible Hulk, and continued with the same numbering. Namor jumped to a one-shot special, Iron Man and Sub-Mariner #1 (April 1968), before moving into his own solo book, The Sub-Mariner #1 (May 1968).
The full review can be found at EssentialShowcase.com.
To find the original issues, or reprints, of Tales to Astonish, check with your local comic book. In the Midwest, I strongly recommend Clint’s Comics in midtown Kansas City. Clint’s has been in business for nearly 50 years at the intersection of Main St. and Westport Rd. The back-issue selection is incredible, and what you see in the store is just a small fraction of their total inventory. In addition to the back issues, Clint’s stocks current issues, trade paperbacks, toys, T-shirts, and more. Check out Clint’s Comics to build your own essential collection!