So, yes. Today I have two special treats available to you. From Aspen Comics, I've been able to read an advance copy of Greg Pak and Tony Parker's Dead Man's Run #0, which I'm told will be available this Wednesday, October 26. Many thanks to Greg for the advance peek. (I'm not the only one--NYCC attendees could score their own copies of the book, right at the Aspen booth on the show floor, complete with an exclusive cover by the very talented Tony! Did you get yours?)
The other treat? As many of you may have seen on Twitter, I attended Sunday's "Incredible Hulk" panel at NYCC, hosted by Marvel Director of Communications Arune Singh and featuring guests Jason Aaron (new Incredible Hulk writer), Jake Thomas (new Incredible Hulk assistant editor), Bill Rosemann (editor of the new Hulk Smash Avengers weekly event), and C.B. Cebulski (Marvel SVP - Creator & Content Development). They showed off exciting new projects (like the announcement of that weekly event featuring Hulk fighting the Avengers across different eras, all with delicious Lee Weeks covers), and talked up future happenings in both Aaron's Incredible Hulk and Jeff Parker's ongoing Hulk series. A select few fans in the audience saw something more special: a printed color proof of the entire first issue of Aaron and artist Marc Silvestri's Incredible Hulk #1. And guess who got his hands on it for a read?
DEAD MAN'S RUN #0 - Aspen Comics, $2.50
By Greg Pak, Tony Parker & Peter Steigerwald
Created by Ben Roberts
"Jailbreak from Hell." Those three words, as Greg Pak states in his text piece in the back of this issue, were all he needed to spark his imagination. In this issue Pak introduces readers to the world beneath the Andrew Jackson Federal Corrections Facility. Captain Frank Romero is a prison guard who's about to get in way over his head when an explosion rocks the prison, leading to the catastrophic revelation of what exactly lurks below.
It's a "zero" issue, so readers have largely accepted what such an issue entails. In this case, it's a twelve-page prologue story by Pak and his artistic collaborators, Tony Parker (fresh off BOOM!'s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and Peter Steigerwald (who subs for regular colorist David Curiel). Following the lead story are the aforementioned text piece by Pak and a four-page peek into Parker's sketchbook, with designs for many of the lead characters. Aspen delivers the goods with these materials, providing ample incentive to find the first issue when it premieres in January.
So, what about this first story? I don't want to spoil too much here. Not that there's much to spoil, mind you--only twelve pages, remember? If the sketchbook at the back is any indication, we get one page of introduction to the story's leads, surrounded by eleven pages where Pak and Parker skillfully begin to present their vision of creator Ben Roberts' world. Comparing Hell to a jail may have been done before--the comparison is nothing if not apt--but the creators immediately establish enough texture so as to avoid the obvious pitfalls. Pak is always skilled with words--never a word out of place. And what about Tony Parker? While Androids may have been a powerful artistic statement, Dead Man's Run will--hopefully--be the project that puts his name on everyone's lips as one to watch. While colorist Steigerwald helps, Parker brings a terrific sense of style to every page, matching Pak's script.
Supernatural overtones, check. Fascinating, if slightly goofy, high concept? Check. Terrifically fitting, "Twilight Zone"-type ending for this prelude? Check. A killer creative team to propel us along this insane journey? You bet.
THE INCREDIBLE HULK #1 - Marvel Comics, $3.99
By Jason Aaron, Marc Silvestri, Michael Broussard, Joe Weems, Rick Basaldua, Sal Regla & Sunny Gho
Every few years, lately, Marvel relaunches even its biggest sellers. They've done it a few times with the Hulk. Certainly Greg Pak's revolutionary "Planet Hulk" saga counts, followed by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness' reinvention following the conclusion of World War Hulk. Just over a year ago, Pak and a bevy of artists teamed to bring a bi-weekly, 24-issue examination of ol' Greenskin as leader of a team of monsters. Now, although Red Hulk, Red She-Hulk, Skaar and all the rest are still out there in the Marvel Universe, the time has come to again cast sole spotlight on the one and only Hulk.
Cue Jason Aaron and Marc Silvestri's Incredible Hulk, picking up where the bizarre events of the summer event Fear Itself left off. (It's true, there's a four-page prologue to this story by Aaron and artist Michael Choi in the final issue of that series, but it's by no means necessary prior to reading this tale.)
In "Hulk: Asunder," Aaron opens with the Hulk doing what he does best: smashing. It's a Hulk who has sequestered himself apart from humanity, and found a home living on Monster Isle, surrounded by a legion of the Mole Man's subterranean creatures. "Hulk knows how to smash. Not how to dream," he says, long-haired, bearded, wearing a necklace of bones around his neck. "[T]his is where my story ends," he says...and right then, we know it's not, because if there's one thing the puny humans don't know how to do, it's leave Hulk alone. Cue...Commander Doom.
Of course, that's also right when the narrative takes a sharp right turn. That's because this Hulk doesn't change into Banner. "I killed everything inside me that was Banner," he says. If you've read the promotional material, or the ending of Fear Itself, you know this means that Hulk and Banner have been separated, as has happened a few times before. And it seems Aaron is trying to say something different about them than any of the previous times.
From the first narration, it's clear that Aaron is approaching the story from the Hulk's P.O.V. Should it surprise anyone that he sees Banner as his jailer, and himself as a prisoner? Aaron extrapolates well from the end of Greg Pak's tenure as writer, as Fear Itself had the Hulk's image once more destroyed after being possessed by Nul, Breaker of Worlds. While there's some dissonance between Pak's run and where Aaron begins, I have to admit a happy Hulk isn't particularly one that is enjoyable to read.
I've only been a sometime fan of Marc Silvestri, although I've been familiar with his work from the days of Web of Spider-Man and Uncanny X-Men. He's only drawn the Hulk a few times, so it was terrific seeing him do such a smash-up job here. I'm not sure if it's how his style just naturally is now, but he seems to very much root the story in a horror atmosphere, and it works eerily well. Especially eerie are the parts I can't talk about, featuring a scene that is very much out of H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau. The less said, the better. (I have to say, though, that having Silvestri abetted by not one but four assistants doesn't seem to bode well for artistic continuity.)
The back matter in this one consists of some words with Jason Aaron and a look through the Hulk's storied history. A solid way to pad out the remaining pages this month, even if the $3.99 price tag still irks.
Doubts? I still have them. It seems clear that Aaron wants to follow through on establishing the Hulk's animosity for Banner, and developing Banner as villain in the Hulk's mind. I'm just afraid that attitude will be borne out in a way that irreparably harms the character of Bruce Banner. While yes, we've seen a very obsessive side to Banner's personality surface during the time John Byrne separated man from monster, we haven't seen anything on the level you'll see this issue. It's scary and maybe, just maybe, crosses the line that shouldn't be crossed. At the very least, I'll say Aaron hasn't forgotten Banner is an absolute genius.
|Can anybody buy me the Long Beach Comic Con variant to this one?|
Still, for all my doubts, there's a lot to like here. The atmosphere is rich, and Jason Aaron has the Hulk's dialogue--emotionally worn, an undercurrent of savagery--down pat. There are monsters everywhere, and shades of gray abound. The mystery of how Banner and Hulk have been separated is incredibly intriguing and I'm on board. Definitely Buy It, but be warned if you're a first-timer to the Hulk that the depiction you're seeing of one character in particular isn't at all a traditional one.
Both issues in this review are on sale Wednesday, October 26 at comic book shops everywhere.