People frequently ask me “I want to get into comics, what should I read?” If I were to answer honestly and carefully consider a response for each individual person, I would undoubtedly get it wrong. Everyone is different and everyone’s exposure to comic book universes varies. I’m familiar with a lot of the Marvel universe, but I would hardly consider myself well-read enough to know every little detail or reference in every issue. But what I can do is tell you what I do know. So, looking back at my comic book rack, where should we begin?
If you have virtually no comic book knowledge, but are looking for a Marvel comic that you can easily pick up without any prior knowledge and put down after you’re done for a nice fairly self contained story, then my favourite standalone Marvel graphic novel would have to be Planet Hulk. What do you need to know before reading? Nothing. You will have heard of Hulk. You should vaguely be aware of him and his characteristics. If not, it’s nothing the opening credits of a 90’s animated TV show couldn’t solve….or YouTube…or three Marvel films…or a certain show starring Bill Bixby…. or Wikipedia…. In fact, the world is saturated in Hulk.
The Hulk is known for his great strength and great rage; to the point that he is deemed a bit too overpowered, so reading about Hulk can get a bit boring or repetitive. But, in this graphic novel, they change the rules. Hulk gets shipped off to another planet and we are left with this John Carter of Mars type saga where a weakened Hulk must fight as a gladiator to appease the mad Red King, getting caught up in heated drama and racial politics between the insect like natives, the mystic Oldstrong, the red skinned imperials and savage technology known as wild-e-bots, punctuated with some familiar faces, concepts and characters from all over the Marvel universe (but I’ll not spoil that for you). Be warned though, it can be a bit dark in places and does borrow some sci-fi tropes to turn your not-so-average Hulk story into more of a sword and fantasy tale.
Not only is it a good read, but you can even follow it up with the continuous developments of Hulk in the never ending Marvel universe: Skaar, Son of Hulk, another favourite of mine, where the story sticks around on planet Sakaar for a bit longer; World War Hulk, which looks at Hulk heading back to Earth for a bit of payback (but admittedly, not as good as Planet Hulk); Hulked Out Heroes, to name but a few.
These are good ways to slowly ease into the Marvel universe by picking up on context and getting the ball rolling via how other heroes react to Hulk’s homecoming. The question is: when are you going to start?