22.6.11

Quick Reviews: Hulk #34-35, Incredible Hulks #631

(I swear, my review for last week's Alpha Flight #1 is forthcoming!)

Let's see, what else is on the way? "Crossing" retrospective finale? Check. A blistering op/ed on DC Digital? That, too. A talk about why the Hulk had to change in the 1980s? You betcha. For now, here are three reviews for my adoring masses, due to popular demand. (You know who you are!) Where, you might ask, is my review for Skaar #4? My weekly comic shipment arrived without it, but it's apparently on the list for next week. Stay tuned, true believers!


Hulk #34-35 - Marvel Comics, $2.99
By Jeff Parker, Carlo Pagulayan, Danny Miki & Jesus Aburtov

"Planet Red Hulk" is the name of the game in this two-part storyline. "Thunderbolt" Ross starts out trying to help some Russian cosmonauts on a mission in space, but finds himself swept through a wormhole and living an adventure eerily similar to the one the Hulk had a few short years ago, deposing an alien monarch and becoming an, erm, "Red King." All the while, he's left wondering who's really behind putting him in such a similar situation as Banner, even contributing the scenario to Banner himself, only to find the real culprit and their true rationale in the concluding chapter.

One can't help but feel the very theme of this storyline is a blatant cash grab by conjuring fans' pleasant memories of Greg Pak's monumental "Planet Hulk" storyline. The storyline is similar enough, and it also features beautiful artwork by "Planet Hulk" illustrator Carlo Pagulayan. Fortunately, of course, the storyline is only two parts and not fourteen, which makes the effort only slightly more palatable than the initial concept implies. Unfortunately, writer Jeff Parker can't maneuver the plot points in a way that truly elevates the material beyond a near-slavish homage.

When Parker and artist supreme Gabriel Hardman last teamed together (issue #33), the threats Red Hulk was facing appeared imminent, so it would take drastic means to divert the ongoing storyline's momentum. "Planet Red Hulk" and the upcoming "Fear Itself" tie-ins appear to stall all that momentum for the sake of gimmickry, pure and simple. Although Pagulayan's art here is revelatory, almost superior to Paul Pelletier's efforts on the competing Hulk book, the story is such a distraction that I long for Hardman's return and the return of the many ongoing plots that have been cooking since Parker came aboard. The rationale for the entire "Planet Red Hulk" journey just underscores the bad timing of such a diversion.

Beautiful art. Distracting story at best. Quick verdict? Skip It.




The Incredible Hulks #631 - Marvel Comics, $2.99
By Greg Pak, Paul Pelletier, Danny Miki, Morry Hollowell & Jesus Aburtov

When writer Greg Pak brought in a mess of old Hulk villains at the end of the first part of "Heart of the Monster," his swan song on the series, I called it the one misstep in an otherwise solid start. This time out, Pak wisely wastes no time in breaking up the team of evil titans so that they might menace the Hulk and his family on a more one-on-one basis, roughly in the order they appear on the interlocking cover images of the next three issues. This issue centers on the immediate aftermath of last issue's cliffhanger, and then shifts focus to the spotlight battle between the Hulk and the unusual tag-team of the Bi-Beast and the Wendigo who, next to Tyrannus, are the Hulk's oldest foes to grace this narrative. (Interestingly, the order the bad guys appear on the covers roughly coincides with the order in which he met them in his long history. Coincidence?)

Now, the key mystery driving the final arc is "What was Betty's wish?" Amadeus Cho has an interesting theory about the wishes being made before he, the Hulk, and even the Wendigo have their various wishes brought to life in some fashion this time out. Bi-Beast acts credibly in-character, and Wendigo is...well, much the same Wendigo he's always been. The main fight is terrific in scope, mostly due to the Hulk's unfortunate wish. The story this time out was well-paced and kept moving at a freight train's pace right up to the end--another cliffhanger that will certainly prove to make the Hulk even angrier next issue.

As before, Paul Pelletier provides powerful penciling this time, and Danny Miki delineates to the best of his ability. Morry Hollowell, assisted by Jesus Aburtov, gives the resulting inked work a considerable, colorful flourish. If all parties can keep this up, "Heart of the Monster" may be the best-looking of all arcs since The Incredible Hulks began. Certainly it's proving to be a lot of fun seeing the Hulk and his family put through their paces during the last issue and this one. I'm enjoying the ride in spite of my initial misgivings. The Hulk is certainly making his share of awesome feats of strength and derring-do, and I expect those feats to only increase in remaining issues.

Face it, effendi, my quick verdict is that you should definitely Buy It!

~G.

7 comments:

  1. I agree regarding Planet Red Hulk. The ending totally renders teh story meaningless and reduces it to filler. I could see using thsi story as a bridge between two major story arcs, but to place it right between a large arc makes no sense.

    I'm expecting Betty's wish to be a Scarlet Witch-like "No more monsters" or to make everyone a monster, so that she and the Hulk aren't so unusual in society. Not that the story demonstrates any of that so far, but her wish likely revolves around her comment that the Hulk will always come between her and Bruce.

    Perhaps if she wishes for a cure for her and Bruce, that would be a suitable way for the series to end later this year (as we know it will)?

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  2. Great reviews, Gary!

    Incredible Hulks #631: Heart of the Monster Part 2, was awesome! We get excellent art by Paul Pelletier and an awesome storyline from Greg Pak! It's great to see Hulk do some incredible feats and smash some powerful villains for a change! This is the Hulk that we haven't seen since Incredible Hulk #611... and I'm glad that the Green Scar has returned!

    It was great to see Hulk battle Wendigo and Bi-Beast, which turned out to be both epic in scale and action packed! Pak is really going all-out with his final story, which is great because this storyline makes Dark Son, Chaos War/God Smash, Planet Savage, and the Spy Who Smashed Me story arcs look lame by comparison! It is simply Hulk at his best and showing why he is indeed the Strongest One There Is!!!

    And the last page involving Lord Armageddon... WOW! It's certainly going to get very interesting from here on out, that much is certain! I'm really looking forward to a confrontation between Hulk and Lord Armageddon!

    Anyways, great reviews, Gary!

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  3. Hey Gary,

    Just read Hulk #35, and I agree with you. I am a huge fan of Jeff Parker (Fall of the Hulks: Alpha was GREAT!); I would say I like him better than I like Greg Pak, but it's true that this particular Planet Red Hulk story doesn't have any compelling reason to exist. Boy, Marvel is really milking the ramifications of Planet Hulk for all it's worth, and then some!

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  4. Great reviews as always, Gary! I'm kind of glad PLANET (RED) HULK was just a filler, and not a totally blatant rip-off of the original. Jeff Parker has proved several times over that he's definitely capable of better work.

    On the flip side, HEART OF THE MONSTER is shaping up to be one hell of a decent finale for Greg Pak. I'm enjoying seeing all of these old Hulk foes return... especially Armageddon, an old favorite of mine from Peter David's run. It's been too, too long.

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  5. Jeff Parker, better than Greg Pak? I say thee nay! Or, at least, it'd be easier to form a cogent opinion when actually presented with a few issues of the original, green Hulk written by Parker. For my money, Pak still understands Banner and the Hulk like only a blessed few others in the character's storied history. I once heard, from Nathan Cosby, former assistant editor on the Hulk books, that Greg could tell you what Banner was thinking at any given moment during his appearances in World War Hulk and beyond. He really has such a gift for the character. I'll be getting into that a bit deeper on an upcoming blog, and if I'm lucky, there may still be an interview forthcoming to close out his run...

    I really ought to bring up some things some fans and I have discussed on Twitter. Last night we had a lively back-and-forth about the modern Banner/Hulk relationship.

    ~G.

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  6. It sounds like your dislike of Red Hulk is almost as powerful as mine. The way you describe this story, I couldn't believe you didn't give it a "Burn It" rating. I suppose you reserve that for the most extreme of bad comics.

    The Hulk getting angry is what I read this comic to see. So I am really eager to read "Heart of the Monster" when it comes out in trade. Even more than that, however, I am excited to find out what the next incarnation of the Hulk will be since the monster part of Hulk is being hinted as tired of "playing nice" with Banner. After Pak leaves, what kind of Hulk are we going to get? Hopefully, one whose personality is less ambiguous to this reader.

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