If you’re a Wolverine fan then you’ve probably read this comic in some form or another over the years, more than likely in one reprinted form or another – which is what I read for this review because I can’t afford an original copy (and if I could I’d probably never open it). Specifically a 25th anniversary reprint edition of the story that also included Incredible Hulk #180 – Wolverine’s first appearance was on the final page in this comic, his full comic debut would come the following month in issue 181 – as well as a story featuring Hercules from Marvel Treasury Edition #26 that was largely forgettable, I can honestly say that The Incredible Hulk #181 was much better than I remember it being.
Having first read this story when I was twelve in a British reprint magazine (Wolverine Unleashed #16), I remember not really being all that impressed with the story. There was too much Hulk and not enough Wolverine for my twelve year old sensibilities, and it would be safe to say that a lot of the comic was lost on me back then.
While I don’t think I’ve grown up a whole lot since I was twelve – I literally just spent the last ten minutes posing an action figure – I may have matured somewhat in my understanding of story telling, and the themes of loneliness that Len Wein is exploring using the Hulk, because I don’t remember these threads running through the comic the first time I read it, although to be I was probably more interested in the action at the time.
One of the first things I noticed was the style of the narration throughout the book as Wein filled in details that weren’t always covered by the art. While in today’s comics the reader should be “reading” the art as well as the words, that was less of a requirement here, which had the end result of feeling as though there was a lot more story included within the comic, and a greater insight into the Hulk’s thought process – such that it is. While I won’t claim to prefer this method over the modern, or vice versa, it is an interesting way to tell a story in a comic book, and as I read more older comics for these retro reviews it’s something I’m excited to see more of.
As I said, when I first sat down with (a reprint of) The Incredible Hulk #181 I didn’t actually expect to enjoy it, let alone for it to be as good as it is. Despite being more than thirty years old, this comic still holds up to this day; the story is still relevant and the artwork is still vibrant and exciting (and not at all dated); reading this today was one hell of a pleasant surprise, and if yu can track down a copy to read, I’d highly recommend you do so. Especially if you’re a Wolverine fan.
Story: Len Wein: Penciller: Herb Trimpe
Inker: Jack Abel Colourist: Glynis Wein
Story: 8.75 Art: 8.25 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy (a reprint).