Incredible Hulks #635
by Greg Pak, Paul Pellitier and Tom Grummett
The Greg Pak era of the Hulk is at an end. It’s strange to think that Pak started on the book back in 2007 when his issues attracted a new insurgence of readers to Hulk’s adventures. World War Hulk was a dynamic story that shook up the status quot of the Hulk, placed him in an alien environment where he was weak and in exile from the Earth and challenged him to crawl back. Since that time, the Hulk has been a major hit for Marvel Comics and (good or bad) was the focus of reader’s attention.
Pak has said the relationship between Banner and Hulk was key to his run on the book. In this, his last issue, he touched upon this approach in an afterward that put his entire run on the book into better focus. The problem here is that there was a big red colored road block in the middle of Pak’s run by Jeph Loeb. This interrupted the story that Pak set out to tell and I have to admit that it seemed to me that he was desperately trying to make up for lost time in the subsequent Banner and Son, Fall of the Hulks, World War Hulks and later issues. However, the series still centered on the Hulk’s relationship with others and his desire to be left alone while seeming to accumulate a massive following of family members. So what is the Hulk to Banner and vice-versa? The Hulk is Banner’s bottled rage, but when Banner lost the danger of transforming into the Hulk, readers got a glimpse of a cunning and often times cruel genius.
It may be difficult to find an once of Banner in the Hulk, but there is certainly more than a little of the Hulk in Bruce Banner!
The final issue is the last part of ‘the Wishing Well War’ in which the central characters are doused in waters that grant them their deepest wishes. If I was very wary of a magical wish granting water, I grew paranoid when a wishing machine appeared. It all ended up with more bashing and smashing I have ever seen this side of a Herb Trimpe issue. Surrounded by monsters, the Hulk destroyed everything around him only to see it recreate in the blink of an eye. The artwork by Paul Pellitier is just amazing as always. I can’t imagine anyone else drawing a mystical realm of exploding monster better. But it was all very… odd. The Hulk fought against an army of foes, but his greatest was his wife (ex-wife?) Betty, who rallied against her lover as Red She-Hulk and the question of ‘should we just leave them to it?’ arose.
In his afterward Pak talked about his vision of the Hulk as a hero, but I can’t help but think of his run as the Hulk as a problem. In World War Hulk, our ‘hero’ is shot into space and becomes a threat to another planet. After he conquering Sakaar, he returns to Earth to unleash his rage. Finally beaten, the gamma radiation is drawn out of the Hulk, but even in his weakened state he is kept in close observation. This trend continues to the moment where Doctor Strange considers just leaving the Hulk to his own fantasy of never-ending violence. In the end, the Hulk is called back as the only solution to a radioactive threat, but everyone involved recognizes that they could be making a massive mistake by releasing him from his prison. I just can’t see the Hulk as a hero for some reason. He’s more of a force of nature in human form that just cannot be stopped.
While I can see the grand goal of Pak’s run on the Hulk and appreciate that he has that rare gift of actually finishing what he set out to do, it feels like a let-down. The build-up of the final few stories has been progressively more and more intense. The more Hulk-like heroes that surrounded him, the more alone the Hulk seemed to be. His rage grew stronger with each month and Betty drifted further away from him. This final confrontation seemed to be far more meaningful than it appeared to be as Hulk glowed with gamma radiation and struck at his grinning beloved who took it on the chin and delivered it back to him. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, relationships in comics are complicated.
I did quite enjoy Banner staring down Amadeus Cho, telling him that he’ll never understand… but the following story ending with Hulk and Betty destroying a car and smashing out of it all smiles toward the reader was very corny even for me. I will definitely miss Greg Pak who remains one of the finest writers that has ever worked on the Hulk. Perhaps the resonance of this issue will grow over the years, especially after the new series by Jason Aaron debuts. I look forward to revisiting this run in the near future, but for now I just miss it.
Secret Avengers #16
by Warren Ellis and Jamie McElvie
Secret Avengers has taken up the mantle of the Dark Avengers, a monthly book that focused on over the top action. A covert ops group formed by former Captain America Steve Rogers consisting of Moon Knight, Black Widow, the Beast, War Machine, Valkyrie, Nova and more, Ed Brubaker and Mike Deodato’s run had a definite Roy Thomas/Neal Adams vibe going on. Incoming writer Nick Spencer was saddled with the Fear Itself cross-over and a Point One issue in addition to his work on Iron Man 2.0 and Thunder Agents. All things considered, his short term consisted of character-driven stories that not only fleshed out the team bur progressed the plot of the ongoing book. The Beast-centric and Valkyrie issues were especially good if the previous #15 disappointed slightly. Even so, Spencer’s issues featured characters almost as old as Marvel itself, all sounding and acting in character and engaged in exciting adventures.
The fan favorite writer Warren Ellis is hardly known for character-driven plots and more specifically his Marvel work veers more toward the absurd and bombastic. Since the success of Transmetropolitan, his followers are legion. I have read a healthy amount of his work and as for his ‘men in tights’ material I was especially happy with his work on Thunderbolts, a series that featured mainly vaguely written characters and sharply written action sequences. It’s a great run that is coincidentally available in collected form. When I discovered that Ellis was taking over Secret Avengers I was very happy. This month’s issue was heavily hyped, even by Brevoort himself who claimed that it was the best book on the racks.
Well… color me disappointed.
For his first issue, Ellis not only throws characterization out the window but he also commits the cardinal sin of writing by having characters provide their own profiles. Ugh. Thusly, the team is not only trimmed down to just four members but also trimmed from sophisticated to cartoonish. The Beast is a chatty know-it-all, Black Widow is a sharp-tongued vixen, Steve Rogers is the square jawed hero and Moon Knight is just plain nuts. The issue is a ‘done in one’ which is quite enticing for new readers and old, but it’s so goofy and silly that it flies in the face of the previous 16 issues. There’s something involving the Secret Society (why don’t THEY get any exposition?), a mega city and an atomic sports car.
The artwork is stripped-down and more at home in an indie book than a Marvel series. That of course has pluses and minuses, but it’s a bold move. For fans of Next Wave (of which I am in the minority in calling crap), this is the ideal book of the week. It’s fun, silly and explosive with lots of gun play, goons in helicopters and witty dialog. I just wish that it also honored the characters as they were written rather than presenting them as gags. Maybe my opinion will change in coming issues.
Iron Man 2.0 #8
by Nick Spencer and Ariel OlivettiThe ‘sister book’ for the Invincible Iron Man starring Jim Rhodes (formerly War Machine) had plenty of teething pains. A well written and drawn series, it nonetheless seems to have difficulty in actually using its lead hero.
The opening adventure deals with Palmer Addley, a brilliant yet twisted programmer and engineer who has become tied to terrorist acts after his own death. Assigned to the US Military, Rhodes is charged with solving the Palmer Addley mystery and given a team of experts to accomplish that goal. Nevertheless, the death toll continues to climb and Addley is still at large. But where’s Rhodey, you may ask. He has donned a newly designed Iron Man suit and is dishing out robot justice… only not in time to stop the destruction.
The series took a side-step with an Iron Fist and the Immortal Weapons plot that, while immensely entertaining, had nothing to do with Palmer Addley or Rhodey. It’s very frustrating because the book has maintained a high quality all the way through.
For some reason, I thought that the Palmer Addley story was going to be resolved in the Point One issue, but no dice. The latest #8 seems to be trying to get the series back on track, but it still feels like Rhodey is playing back-up in his own book. The previous War Machine monthly book by Greg Pak was very focused on Rhodey and progressed the character in just 12 issues. The new Iron Man 2.0 is still very much worth reading but as far as Rhodey is concerned, the character is treading water at best.
I should mention that I am fighting a nasty cold and as my day job involves advertising and there’s a three-day weekend coming in the ‘States, it has been a tough week.
I have noticed some new readers to the blog and would like to open up the floor to what they are reading in terms of comics and what-not as well as what TV programs and films they enjoy. This site started as a ‘guide’ of sorts so let me know what you like and maybe I can better guide you to new material!