28 October 2008

The Hulk: A Review of Marvel's latest story arc

My daughter took up comic books a few months ago so she is to blame for this. By this I mean my own revitalized interest in the medium. She begged and pleaded for me to buy her a huge omnibus, called Planet Hulk (written by one of Marvel's most talented writers Greg Pak) which compiled nearly a year's worth of the Jade Giant's travails in exile on a world called Saakar. It culiminated in another graphic novel (itself a collection of four issues, also written by Greg Pak, and pencilled by the incomprable John Romita Jr. and inked by Klaus Janson) called World War Hulk. The experience of reading those to works reminded me of what comic books can do. Since that time, the brat and I have begun collecting all the Hulk related comic books. Hulk, She-Hulk, and Skaar: Son of Hulk are all on our to read list.

Grek Pak no longer writes Hulk and mores the pity. He brought depth, imagination, and daring to a character that can in the wrong hands be terribly one dimensional. Pak currently brings his considerable talent to Skaar(Skaar is the monster atop the dragon on the right). Peter David currently writes the witty She-Hulk.

This all brings me to the current creative team for Hulk, Jeff Loeb and Ed McGuinness. Loeb has historically impressed the hell out of me with his masterful work on Batman (see The Long Halloween, Hush, and to a lesser extent Supergirl. Loeb, along with his frequent collaborator Tim Sale, has also been an incredible creative force in shows like Heroes, and Smallville. However this turn on Hulk has been singularly unimpressive to say the very least. It is jumpy, the dialogue is unremarkable, and the art is inconsistent. It is either very good, or it is skirting a mark below mediocre. And if fails to deal with the past year and a half of story. And that makes the trials the Hulk and his friends face barely interesting.

The story thus far involves the introduction of a new character, the mysterious Red-Hulk. We don't know much about him. Except he seems capable of maintaining his intellect while transformed, uses guns, and hates Bruce Banner and his not so mild-mannered alter-ego. Oh, and instead of getting stronger as he gets madder like his green counter-part, he gets hotter. Okay this is all fine and good. However it is all just too easy for him. He beats every one as if it is child's play, even including the Hulk. Okay maybe this is okay, since everything in super-hero comic books stretches the bounds of verisimilitude who am I to find it a little convenient for this sub-par story arc? Where was this guy when Hulk was about to destroy Earth? When he had imprisoned the Avengers? Eh? Okay I am not going to go too geek here.

My main problem is with the poverty of character. Jeff Loeb ignores almost entirely all the character development of the past year, and in its stead gives us paper thing story, punctuated every pages by fights, and almost a constant repitition of the phrase, "THIS ENDS NOW!" No reflection, no explanations, no exploration.
In a word.....Boring.


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