Marvel Explores Bruce Banner’s History in Hulk: Grand Design

The Grand Design formula continues in Hulk: Grand Design – The Madness # 1 with a journey down memory lane in an approachable, beautiful issue.

The Grand Design formula has been a great way to get both first-time readers and long-standing fans up to speed on their chosen character’s decades-spanning history in a short format. For both the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, this has paid off nicely, and now it’s the Hulk’s turn to get the same treatment. With the previous issue covering Hulk’s journey from humble beginnings in the ’60s to the cusp of the mid-’80s, Jimm Rugg has already covered the jade giant’s formative years. Written, illustrated, and colored by Jim Rugg, Hulk: Grand Design – The Madness # 1 continues the journey by living up to its title as readers are taken through the Hulk’s most traumatizing years.

Hulk: Grand Design – The Madness # 1 starts off in 1984, with the Hulk’s prominent stories being told as the years roll by. A comprehensive character study of this fractious period in the Hulk’s history is the running through-line for this issue as Ruggs’ navigates Hulk’s history out of the awe-inspiring wonder of the 20th century and into the more tumultuous adventures of the 21st century. Readers will find many important character moments throughout these pages, from the Joe Fixit days of Las Vegas to wars with Thaddeus Ross and his banishment from Earth. By the time the issue concludes with Hulk’s world-breaking rage in the year 2008, readers are left with a deeper understanding and fear of the giant that readers know and love.

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Jimm Rugg’s love for the rich lore of the Hulk shines as he takes the Grand Design formula and plays it out to its fullest potential. The collage-based narrative structure works beautifully to spell an almost generation-spanning story of the Hulk’s history in a manner that provides depth without coming across as overbearing. It makes the stories much easier to consume for all kinds of readers, which is a feat in and of itself. While Hulk: Grand Design – The Madness # 1 focuses more on the fractured relationship between Bruce and the Hulk, for the most part, the issue is not without its moments of levity and whimsy. There’s even a nice little reference to Peter David and Erik Larsen’s legendary feud in the ’90s, which is sure to get a good chuckle out of readers in the know.

The art once again is what makes this issue, with Rugg’s skills taking center stage. The art and story structure has followed a style that offers a loving throwback to the comics of yesteryear while still offering a narrative that is modern and easy to absorb. Iconic moments from the character’s history are presented with loving detail throughout Rugg’s pages as his colors and line work simply pop. In accordance with the generally heavier theme of this issue, there are some truly exceptional pages that perfectly highlight the inner turmoil that Bruce and Hulk endure. These tour-de-force artistic wonders can sum up the entire issue’s themes.

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Hulk: Grand Design – The Madness # 1 is another fantastic era in the Hulk’s Grand Design canon. By the end of the issue, the reader sees the eponymous figure securely established in the twenty-first century and ready to go on some of his most intriguing journeys yet. For those in the know and those just hopping on the train, Jimm Rugg’s current trajectory with this title points to some truly wonderful things to come. If Pattern was about spectacle and Madness is about introspection, then readers can only imagine what the next few issues have in store for them.


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