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Cover Date: Annual 1997
Cover Price: US $2.99
Issue Tagline: None.
Format: Color; Standard Comic Issue
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The two stories are set during the ďHeroes RebornĒ era of the Hulk, where a Bannerless Hulk roamed the earth in something of a bad mood, occasionally accompanied by Rick Jonesí grand-daughter from the future, Janis. The first features long-time supporting characters from Peter Davidís run, Doc Samson and the Pantheon, as they deal with a child who may or may not be the offspring of Bruce and Betty. Thrown inexplicably but enjoyably into the mix is the ShiíAr Imperial Guard, who were stationed on Earth for a brief time. The mix of characters is obscure and difficult to keep track of, but you canít argue with the spectacle of the Hulk fighting Superman-analogue Gladiator. Writer Chris Cooper does, to his credit, manage to keep the overall theme and narrative of the story from being overtaken by the guest-stars, and the end result is both an enjoyable and respectful tale.
The second half of the issue concerns the wider Heroes Reborn arc, and showed what I believe were the first hints at some connection between the Hulk, Franklin Richards and the Heroes Reborn universe. However, it also contains the Hulkís long-awaited first meeting with Artie and Leech, which is much more fun. Thereís less at the centre of this story, but between the cutesy, manga art style, the slapstick traps the kids set for the Hulk, and the way that he seems oddly reasonable when dealing with children, itís a nice little short story memorable because itís funny and entertaining, rather than because anything particularly major happens in it, and sometimes it seems like there arenít enough comics like that aroundÖ
A good annual overall, though unfortunately, the references to current continuity that made it seem more enjoyable at the time have ultimately bogged it down in the past. Itís not essential reading, but it is an amusing comic, and one thatís easy to love.
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