The 3 plus years since the start of the Red Hulk’s series have been a interesting journey. The series started out as another Jeph Loeb mystery in style of some of the his other works became a story that was dragged out for far too long. Fans were certain of the identity of the Red Hulk very early but Marvel chose to drag the mystery out for over two years. Reaction to the series first 24 issues showed disappointment both with Loeb’s story and the Red Hulk character himself.
Starting with issue 25, Jeff Parker replaced Loeb as the new writer of the series. He had already tried to salvage the plot and continuity problems with the series nine months earlier in the four part Red Hulk mini series, and he did a good with the difficult task he was given. His challenge now is to make the ongoing series character interesting to readers. In this he has had some success. His plotting is far tighter than Loeb’s, and he does not drag his stories out with unnecessary action or padding.
Issues 25-29 were interesting. They served as sort of epilogue to last summer’s Fall of the Hulks tie-in. The odd things about the first story arc was that despite a interesting plot, the Red Hulk was still not a character I liked.
Issue 30 was a light whimsical issue not to meant to be taken seriously.
Now with 30.1-33, we have the final issue to another story arc. In this new story, a role reversal has taken place. General Ross, who is the Red Hulk, now finds himself on the run from Air Force General Fortean, a former solider taught by Ross. General Fortean, like most of the public, is unaware that Ross is really the Red Hulk. In fact he believes the Red Hulk murdered Ross and is out for revenge against him.
To add to this another new villain was created, the cyborg called Zero/One. She was created from the incident in issue 25, Parker’s first issue as writer. Red Hulk has also made a friend with one of the life model decoy robots who has now become a regular character. Zero/One has her plans for conquest and also wants Red Hulk out of the way. The last few issues have jumped between these two plots. Plus the Omegex, a planet-destroying robot, similar the Doomsday Machine in the original Star Trek, is coming to Earth.
While all of this is interesting, I wonder if Parker is maybe trying to do too much at one time. Parker has created several new characters and he deserves credit for that. But there has not been enough time to really develop any of the personalities of any of these new creations. The story keeps jumping between subplots where time for character could have been used.
The other problem is with General Fortean. How long can this go on until he finds out that Ross is the Red Hulk? Second, if the Red Hulk is now working under Steve Rogers and the United States, someone would and should try to get the truth out to the General that the man he thinks is dead was not killed at all. I had hoped that by the end of this issue Parker would have resolved this, but the issue ends with Fortean still unaware that Ross and the Red Hulk are one and the same. Plus the Zero/One subplot has not advanced much further. We still not do not know much of her motivations. Yes, the Red Hulk defeats her plot but nothing has really changed. In fact things with the expectation of one important development dealing with the Red Hulk’s transformation, things have not changed that much since the start of this story.
Jeff Parkers does have some good moments in this issue. The part where the Red Hulk finds the old planes and compares the relics to his own feelings about where his life as a general had went is a good moment. The story needed more scenes like this. Parker has tried to make the reader see this character in a more sympathetic light. Unfortunately, he has inherited a lot of back story that makes this difficult, as the Red Hulk Ross did questionable things for what he thought was the good of his country. And as General Ross in the Hulk’s own title, he has often been treated as a villain himself.
If Parker wants to make him a more likable character he will have deal with some of this.
If we could see his point of view and understand why he chose to do what he did, particularly in working with the bad guys to become the Red Hulk then that help make him more understandable as character. This is something I hope Parker chooses to explore. Perhaps sometime down the line he could even go into the character’s personal history as Bill Mantlo tried before.
The series is still much better than it was under Loeb but, there is room for improvement.