Writer: Jeff Parker
Artists: Ed McGuinness & Dexter Vines
Colorist: Morry Hollowell
Letterers: Ed Dukeshire
Production: Irene Lee
Assistant Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
What more intriguing way of uniting the previous Hulk creative team with the current one than matching today's writer with yesterday's artist? Gabriel Hardman may be an excellent artist, with his work in the last five issues looking even more terrific than in Atlas, but you have to say that for the first two-plus years of this title's existence, the boisterous, stylistic artwork of Ed McGuinness kept fans coming back month in and out. Certainly he didn't draw every issue of the first twenty-four, but it was clear the project belonged to Ed. It's no secret that he's been a Hulk fan for many years, and wanted a prolonged run on the book. All good things must end, and so after the finale of "World War Hulks," during which the Red Hulk's identity stood revealed, Ed and his frequent co-conspirator, Jeph Loeb, left the book. Evidently Ed found a hole in his schedule and an itch he wanted to scratch, because he's back, for one month only, and with him he brings loads of silliness right out of DC's Silver Age.
Maybe that last bit is an understatement of writer Jeff Parker's involvement in this story, but I can't help stating this book is full of the kinds of big ideas and imagery that are hallmarks of McGuinness' best work, from Superman/Batman and of course previous issues of Hulk. This one's got it all, from Woodgod, voted "most likely to reappear in Greg Pak's Hulk run because he's one of Bill Mantlo's creations," to the perennial silly favorite among Marvel aliens, the Impossible Man, to various pre-code Marvel monsters including Xemnu the Titan, the original Hulk from Journey Into Mystery #62 as well as a monster that echoes one of Superman's most backwards foes. (And if that last bit doesn't clue you in to who Parker and McGuinness are riffing, then all my jokes are lost on you.) All of the above doesn't even come close to the audacious addition of the cover's core conceit: The Compound Hulk! (Who says this isn't the age of ambitious alliteration?)
I know it's well within Parker's talents to tell outrageous and fun stories, but McGuinness's involvement amps it up to the next level. The story is framed, simply enough, as a contest as schemed by longtime Hulk and She-Hulk foe Xemnu. It's an excuse, pure and simple, to bring all kinds of monsters and DC homages into the book and get McGuinness to draw big, bombastic action sequences, but it's still fun as anything and strings together all kinds of things the artist never got to draw during his earlier tenure. Does it bother me that our green Hulk, who guest-stars this month (and why shouldn't he do that anytime he wants?), is unable to defeat the horde of humongous hellions by himself, leading to he and the Red Hulk cavorting as a Compound Hulk? Or that the character they're combined to battle is a white-skinned, green-pantsed, erudite echo of our own red-and-green goliaths? It's all in service to the spectacle, and spectacles don't get much bigger than when drawn by--well, you know!
What strikes me as the big continuity nerd that I am is the league of monsters Xemnu's assembled. On that terrific double-splash in the middle of the issue, there's Zzutak (from Strange Tales #88), Taboo (from Strange Tales #75 & 77), the Blip (from Tales To Astonish #15), the Creature from Krogarr (from Tales To Astonish #25), Fin Fang Foom (from Strange Tales #89) and others I couldn't even identify. (If anyone knows the two of whom I speak, shout 'em out and be duly No-Prized!)
Hulk #30 is an unabashed love letter to the tales that astonished me when I was growing up--not as a child of the 50s with its many monstrous icons, nor the 60s with the dawn of the Marvel Age and the many weird goings-on at DC that gave birth to Bizarro and the Composite Superman, nor the 70s with the further development of all that was Marvel into a new generation. I'm a child of the 80s but with a healthy appreciation of all that makes Marvel great, raised on Marvel Super-Heroes reprints of the Hulk's early adventures and Marvel Tales reprints of Spidey. For all that comics have advanced over the years, it's nice to see a story return to the big action and goofiness of yesteryear. Hulk fans, monster fans, fans of weird stuff--buy this book!