The Big Change was a big departure for the Marvel graphic novel line in 1987. While not all read that way now, the intention was that top of the line creators work on top of the line projects with some critical weight behind them. John Bolton, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Frank Miller, P. Craig Russell, Bill Sienkiewicz and Charles Vess were among the artists on the 24 previous graphic novels, as was Berni Wrightson. Jim Starlin launched the line with his Death of Captain Marvel, and here they combine for the silliest Hulk vs Thing story ever. The sample page fully represents the tone, and if that appeals, the chances are you’ll enjoy the remainder.

That features our heroes doused in crap on several occasions as they make their way to an arena for a task set by an alien who’s abducted them from Earth. In return for their help he’ll grant them any wish, and for the Thing at least this provides a form of subplot, leading to a good final gag. There’s nothing wrong with the idea of a comedy superhero story, even a Three Stooges style slapstick comedy superhero story, but The Big Change is lacking in any imagination, let alone sophistication. Occasionally there are reminders of what a great artist Wrightson is. His robot design is fantastic, a complicated mess of metal parts at opposing angles, and there’s a wonderful spread showing the aftermath of the Hulk letting loose on a varied group of aliens, but for much of the story this is strictly by the numbers art.

Starlin was very much ahead of the times in turning out full comedy drama with superheroes, and in the 21st century many Marvel titles would adopt the approach. However, The Big Change is indulgent and obvious, wasn’t great when first published, and time hasn’t improved it.