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Gray Hulk & Dr. Bruce Banner

Avengers 60th Anniversary
by yo go re

Caught in the heart of a Gamma Bomb explosion, Dr. Bruce Banner now finds himself transformed when darkness falls, into the most powerful creature to walk the earth - the Incredible Hulk.

There was already one gray Hulk released, on a gigantic "Retro Collection" card allegedly as part of the 80th Anniversary line, but it was only available as one of those "Fan Channel" exclusives, meaning you could basically only find it at GameStop or online. This is, functionally, that figure again: gray skin, blue pants, orange shirt-tatters laying on the shoulders.

And yet this is a better figure, thanks to the things that are new. Obviously there's the head - "heads," plural - because the old figure had a very small noggin, to make him look larger, while the heads included here are much broader. We get one head angrily frowning, and one showing its teeth. Both were sculpted by Paul Harding, because he has the ability to not so much "sculpt" something as "speak it into existence from the realm where art exists as a Platonic Ideal."

Surprisingly, this Hulk also gets a new torso? To make this look more "first appearance," the musculature is smoother, less "ripped," though it does seem to be based on the same digital sculpt. Presumably they went back to the original file and just pressed the "smoothen" filter. It makes sense, but it does look a bit out of place next to the highly vascular arms. Best to keep his shirt-remnants on him to help hide the transition.

The colors on this Grey Hulk are lighter than on the 2019 figure, with a warmer skintone, a paler shirt, and more vibrant jeans. He has all the articulation this oft-reused body always gives us, including those shoulders that for whatever reason go all the way back instead of forward at all, and includes that crushed pipe accessory the others have neglected. They did take the opportunity of a new chest to improve the forward motion of the shoulders. Slightly. Not enough to really make any difference.

The other thing included here is a pack-in no Hulk has had since 2004: a Bruce Banner! The closest we've come has been an MCU Mark Ruffalo Bruce Banner in an exclusive multipack, so we really did need a new one quite badly.

Just by hearing the words "Hasbro's made a comic-based Bruce Banner," you can probably guess exactly how it's been made. And more than that, you're probably exactly right: the original suit body with Reed Richards' labcoat. Hey, just because something is the obvious choice, that doesn't automatically mean it's not also the right choice. The colors match Hulk's: bright blue pants (and tie), orange shirt. This certainly isn't the look anyone would have chosen for him, but it is accurate to the art in Incredible Hulk #1, the only time Hulk would be gray until 1986.

(And what do you want to bet, if Al Milgrom hadn't brought back the Grey Hulk after all those years, Marvel would have just quietly swept that one-off color choice under the rug, and retconned that Hulk had always been green? There had already been some reprints in the '60s that did it that way, and never forget that originally all the Eternals of Titan were shown as purple, not just Thanos.)

Bruce's head is new, and it's slightly oversized in order to make the body it's on look smaller by comparison. He looks surprisingly young - like, if you put this head on a different body and told someone it was High School Peter Parker, they'd probably believe you. This mold doesn't have the easily removable arms the Mr. Fantastic body does, but there's still all the usual articulation, and he does include a pair of glasses. But you know what they could have given him? Some beakers and tubes. For science.

On the surface, this doesn't seem like much of a set: Banner isn't the colors you'd want him to be, and this Hulk is basically the same as one that already exists. But paired together, and with the changes that have been made to the mold and the paint apps, this is a bunch more fun than expected.

-- 09/04/23

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