I have a weird relationship with Hulk comics. I neither love or hate them. I have occasionally bought them monthly but have quickly dropped them when things have got…well to put it nicely: really dumb. Planet Hulk and World War Hulk are among my favourite comics but at the end of the day the Hulk has an incredibly small place in my heart and collection. I have heard and read a lot about Peter David’s run on the character and how it is required reading, so Silent Screams was setup as a way to introduce me to David’s style. The results of it are a very mixed but entertaining bag.
Published at the dawn of the 90s this comic is an odd mix of sensibilities that somehow mesh together to make a compelling tale. But before we get into the nitty gritty though I want to highlight the funniest thing I have seen in a comic for a very long time.
This is played in the book as something dramatic and deadly serious but when I saw it I burst out laughing because at the end of the day it is a pair of huge hands coming out of Bruce Banner’s butt. I am not ashamed of this juvenile response to such a ludicrous scene because it is funny. Intentional or not it tickled my funny bone.
Giant butt hands sort of sums up the rest of the book. It is a weird mixture of deadly serious and character defining moments such as the merging of Banner, The Hulk and Grey Hulk into one as a result of them collectively coming to terms with the child abuse Bruce was subject to as a child that lead to his fractured psyche. That whole sequence is gripping and emotional reading that made me look at Bruce Banner, the Hulk and his mind in a completely different way. It is all groundbreaking stuff but then you have men in bright red hightech cars hunting down the Hulk/Banner, the revelation that Betty has joined a convent, a nun in said convent telling off a military colonel and Rick Jones pretending to be a Skrull stuck in the form of Rick Jones dressed in his Bucky Barnes costume. Oh and Rick Jones also escapes an exploding Skrull spaceship off-panel by deploying a miniature parachute that he just so happens to always carry with him for just this type of situation. Insane and surreal is one way to put it.
In the end though all the insanity sort of works. Bruce, Betty and Rick are shown to be at terms with the craziness that is their lives and just shrug it off as being a normal day for them. It works really well in a very odd and sort of endearing way.
The best thing about this volume however is the Bruce/Betty dynamic. The book is peppered with rom-com and romantic drama moments that rival even the most popular films and TV shows. Such as Bruce hopelessly running after a train to reunite with Betty and tell her that he is alive. Only to find out she has lept from the train because she instinctively knew he was there and alive says all that need to be said about their relationship. Once together Peter David focuses on them actually behaving like a married couple. They are clearly shown as being partners and working together to overcome Bruce’s unique problems. It is an incredibly refreshing take on marriage in comics, then you remember that this is a comic from 1990 and you realise most relationships in modern comics are very poorly told.
Has my view of the Hulk changed since reading this? Not really. I loved this book and I am happy I took the time to give it a shot but the Hulk is still a very marmite character. I am happy just picking up and reading the classics like this and the highly regarded modern classics like Planet Hulk and Hulk The End, for now.