Chaos War #5 arrived this Wednesday, bringing with it the conclusion to the storyline of the same name that prominently featured newly-minted skyfather Hercules and Amadeus Cho in mortal combat with Amatsu-Mikaboshi, the self-proclaimed Chaos King, who threatened to destroy all of reality. With the help of the incredible Hulks, Thor, a couple of (dead) Avengers, Galactus, the Silver Surfer, and the also-dead original members of Alpha Flight, the crisis was averted and reality restored. If you don't want to know specifics beyond the above, I strongly recommend you turn back now, as this review will feature two prominent spoilers about the conclusion of Chaos War.
Now, then, shall we indulge?
The Incredible Hulks #621
"God Smash" Part 1 of 2
Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Paul Pelletier & Danny Miki
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Production: Irene Lee
Assistant Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
In the aftermath of the Chaos War, the incredible Hulk's family finds themselves in the middle of a city, surrounded by people just awakening from the sleep caused by the Chaos King. Briefly, they bemoan having helped save the world only to have the "puny humans" terrified by their presence. But this scene doesn't last long, and the remainder of this epilogue of sorts to Chaos War moves to the efforts of Bruce Banner to resolve his family's issues...by begging the indulgence of the Olympian gods, including the skyfather himself, who isn't exactly who we thought he'd be.
I'll say this for writer Greg Pak: he dreams big. It's interesting seeing how he positions Bruce Banner as the narrative focal point here, and at once I have to again question just whose decision it was to pluralize the title of this comic magazine. After all, the book has never, in the ten issues since becoming The Incredible Hulks, truly been an ensemble book. Rather, it's been about the Hulk, his son, and arguably the Red She-Hulk as a sort of post-nuclear family. The rest of the cast--Korg, A-Bomb, She-Hulk--has just been bit players in the ongoing drama, never really ascending to the same level as the main trio. Aside from the first three pages, this issue is entirely devoted to Bruce Banner and the Hulk, to the exclusion of the rest of the cast. Oh, sure--Banner makes it clear in talking with Hercules that this fool's errand is about them, but I get the feeling they won't figure much in the remainder of this two-part storyline.
(Interestingly, shortly before this issue became available it was announced in Marvel's April solicitations that the incredible one is going back to being a solo act with that month's issues. Think what you will, but I believe it's the right move, as the balancing act has proven untenable.)
So, after the events of Chaos War, Hercules is no longer empowered to the drastic degree he had to be in order to defeat the Chaos King; in fact, he's no longer super-powered at all, which lays to waste Banner's desperate plan to solve his family's ills. Is this the degree to which Banner feels utter guilt toward what his family's been through since "Fall of the Hulks"? He wants Rick to be healed from the wounds the Abomination inflicted upon him (in #618). He wants Betty to be cured of this "insanity" she suffers from as Red She-Hulk. (Denial, as they say, isn't just a river in Egypt, Dr. Banner.) He wants to ease his family's suffering, and maybe, superhuman as they are, he has to crawl before omnipotent forces, but something about the man of science begging the gods for help rings false. (So does the Hulk's slow healing in these issues, but there's a tale for another blog.)
On the other hand, the premise of this issue--that the Hulk challenges the gods so that his family may be relieved of their burdens, or perhaps that he may be relieved of them--allows for some truly awe-inspiring artwork from Paul Pelletier and Danny Miki. The Hulk smashes the Olympian gods on his way to encounter the newly-resurrected Zeus, and it's great fun seeing this indulgence and knowing through Zeus' narration that it's not going to end well next issue. "I hate spunk," says Zeus, his wife Hera by his side, a smoldering Hulk at their feet. The issue closes on a note that leaves no question as to what we're in for next month.
I'm somewhat unimpressed by the issue, on the whole. While there is something of a bond between the Hulk and Hercules, it's largely seemed artificial, an invention of Peter David (in his "Green Pieces" story teaming the Hulk and the Champions of L.A. in the second Giant-Size Hulk special, 2006) and Pak himself (throughout the "World War Hulk" crossover issues of The Incredible Hulk). The two-parter seems less an organic part of where the Hulk (er, Hulks) book was going, and more a way to bookend the character's involvement with Hercules that began in the aforementioned stories.
The one potential silver lining I see in this saga isn't even something that's directly referred to within this issue, but instead one plot point involved in the ending of Chaos War #5. Of all those resurrected to fight the Chaos King during the storyline, the Canadian super-group Alpha Flight remained alive at the end. This event occurred because, as Hercules himself tells Banner in #621, "When I grasped that power, I was guided by the wisdom beyond all our ken. And if you weren't healed...then perhaps that is as it should be." The way I like to read that comment from Hercules is that some others may have been resurrected when Hercules re-ordered reality and saved it from the Chaos King. If that's true, then potentially, one or more of those we saw in the last two issues of Incredible Hulks could again be alive. It doesn't matter who you choose, for each of the characters from the Hulk's past--Glenn Talbot, Hiroim, Doc Samson, and Jarella--could, as mentioned in my previous entry, have a full storyline devoted to even one of their returns. I hope Greg Pak realizes just what a golden nugget he has laid at the Hulk's feet.
So, what else is there to say about Incredible Hulks #621? After the flurry of activity in the last three issues, this issue certainly takes a break and slows the pace, but it's just a bit lacking, maybe because the story doesn't seem particularly fitting of the character. We'll see how it all bears out in next issue's finale, however.
What say you, sirs?