The finale of the Omegex cycle, the latest issue of the Hulk (red) is full of fisticuffs but also features plenty of character moments and drama for Gen. Thaddeus ‘Thunderbolt’ Ross. Since taking over the series, Jeff Parker has successfully transformed what was a plot gimmick into a fully developed Marvel character.
For traditionalists looking for a more straight forward Hulk comic, this series has been a dream come true. During the off-the-walls Loeb run, the Red Hulk was shown to be extraordinarily powerful. As depicted by Ed McGuinness, these scenes of explosive action are stunning but in retrospect readers had to ask ‘is he really that powerful?’ At the time it felt more at home in a Warren Ellis book with its over-the-top imagery. Following that run, Jeff Parker has taken to honing and defining the limitations of the Red Hulk and even directly addressing the KO of Utatu the Watcher.
Uatu is one of the oldest cosmic characters of the Marvel Universe. Often shown as a benign being, seeing him get knocked out was absurd. In recent issues, Uatu has set events in motion leading to the release of the deadly Omegex, a being created as the absolute engine of destruction in an alien war long forgotten. Gaining the ‘scent’ of the Red Hulk from his punch on Uatu’s jaw, Omegex hurtles toward Earth to perform his duty. Omegex is essentially a ‘Doomsday’-type villain for the Hulk, an unstoppable powerhouse that challenges the Red Hulk’s abilities.
Adding to the mix of trouble is the fact that the Red Hulk has become infected with devices that would kill him should he revert back to his human state. Additionally, a trio of monstrous villains led by Zero/One is on his path. Ross has had something of a crisis lately, looking back at his failure as a man and a career military officer. Revisiting his family farm, Ross wistfully talked about his early days as a pilot before Omegex arrived and began their titanic battle.
During Fall of the Hulks/World War Hulks, Loeb attempted to paint a rich and full portrait of Ross in a single issue detailing what drove him to take the Leader’s offer and become the Red Hulk. While I liked that issue and enjoyed the break in the action, Parker achieves far more with less effort in this comic. Ross is out of his depth fighting Omegex, but just as he faces definite destruction with no regrets, Zero/One forces him to justify his humanity by revisiting past moments of his life. It’s terribly touching to see a rock-solid persona like Ross humbled into sobriety, watching his marriage dwindle by and his daughter fade from his grasp.
In the end, it wasn’t breaking his knuckles that defeated Omegex, but Ross accepting himself, faults and all. In the hands of another writer, this would have been sappy and dire but Parker has such a strong relationship with the character and a skill with character-driven stories that is unparalleled. Next month sees the arrival of a new artist, but for a farewell storyline, Omegex saw Gabriel Hardman off in style.
Black Panther #523.1
A friend of mine recently spotted the ‘Black Panther- the Man Without Fear!’ headline online and asked me what the Sam Scratch was going on. I answered by saying that it was complicated and left it at that. To be honest, there really is no reason why Black Panther should have taken over Daredevil’s place as protector of Hell’s Kitchen other than the fact that Marvel Editorial had no idea what to do with him. However, author David Liss and artist Francesco Francavilla have taken lemons and made champagne (if you’ll forgive me murdering an adage). A vigilante and cunning crime-fighter, Black Panther has risen from being one of the best heroes of Marvel Comics to an exciting street-level hero. This is significant because Black Panther has often existed in his own little bubble, far away from the rest of the MU. While he has always been a great character, as a Wakandan king, the Black Panther’s adventures often deterred readers not sold with that kind of story. By placing him on the street with no resources other than his own intelligence and physical prowess, he is instantly relatable.
In effect, he’s Marvel’s Batman.
The Black Panther book has received rave reviews for months by fans in love with the rich pulp novel feel of the series. It was a rough road getting used to it, but after getting past the barrier of ‘why is this happening?’ I recognized how great this series has become.
Without his enhanced abilities or high tech gadgetry, Black Panther has recreated himself as a protector of the innocent. Living a double life as the manager of Diablo’s Kitchen, a dilapidated diner in the heart of the city, Black Panther attempts to keep in touch with the common people around him, often becoming ensnared in their lives in the process. Investigating a series of murders, Black Panther finds that a social worker living across the hall has been killing parents abusing or neglecting their children. Hiring an out of work Russian emigrant, T’Chala finds that he has brought an ex assassin into his little world. It’s all very complicated.
This point one issue is a great opportunity for new readers to catch up and also enjoy an excellent detective/adventure story. Black Panther has been one of Marvel’s rarely respected luminaries for ages. Seeing him gain acclaim has been a fun experience, but I hope I’m not the only one reading. All too often these critically acclaimed books get canceled for lack of sales.
So buy a copy today!
The major X-Men event of the ages is coming to a head.
For decades, Cyclops and Wolverine have led the X-Men with a strained kind of respect. The limited series opened showing that even they were shocked at how far they have come, from wanting to kill each other to proudly supporting each other in their leadership of the mutant race. It’s all the more saddening to witness that hard won friendship coming to an end. The schism of the story has, to this point, been one of ideologies. Cyclops has accepted that the X-Men is an army fighting a never-ending war while Wolverine views his teammates as family. This conflict heightens as a global army of malfunctioning Sentinels take to the skies, killing humans and mutants alike. Attempting to save face at the opening of a mutant-related museum opening, the X-Men become targets of the new Hellfire Club led by brutal children bent on domination.
I have always been attracted to the X-Men by their facing impossible odds again and again. There has been no the book showing its cast beaten and battered time and time again like the X-Men. Hated and feared by the world at large, the X-Men are at risk by supervillains and the public citizens as well. It’s a lose/lose situation. Add to that the friction inside the team itself and you have the makings of a powder keg going off every month.
In the latest issue, a mega-Sentinel is bearing down on Utopia island. Cyclops is determined to fight with what he views as his final stand army of children. Wolverine, however, recognizes that they are facing extinction and must evacuate. Unfortunately, Cyclops doesn’t agree, so Wolverine has to force his hand by lacing the island with explosives. On an island about to explode, a massive Sentinel nears with enough power to wipe the entire mutant population from existence.
Then… things get bad.
The friction between Wolverine and Cyclops has always centered on one thing, or person to be more precise… Jean Grey. As soon as she is brought into the argument, things get brutal.
The art chores have strangely shifted each month with this issue drawn by the impeccable Alan Davis. Familiar to comic fans from his work on numerous books, seeing Davis’ art on X-Men again after so long is like a trip down memory lane (a long trip in my case).
Cyclops and Wolverine have had disagreements before but this is bad. I’m very interested in seeing how things shake down in the final part (out today).