The Incredible Hulk #7.1
Gamma radiation brought out one man’s inner monster, a green-skinned Goliath known as the Hulk. Misunderstood and hunted, he is perpetually on the run from the military… no wait, that’s the Red Hulk. The Incredible Hulk is the green-skinned guy, the one everyone knows and loves (especially thanks to his outstanding appearance in the Avengers movie). No, the green Hulk is a character tossed about from writer to writer as Marvel Comics editorial struggles to find a way to make their most recognizable hero work.
Part of the Point One initiative put forth by Marvel to attract new readers with an ideal jumping on point (who exactly are these ‘new readers’ that comic book publishers are so eager to win over? why not concentrate on making the existing readers happy?), Incredible Hulk 7.1 doesn’t really work at all. It’s the next step in the narrative between 7 and 8 and Stan help the person who picked this up on a whim. That’s not a knock against this book alone as there are many such examples in the Point One line that make no sense at all… most of them only make sense to dedicated readers rather than operating as a jumping on point.
I cannot honestly identify myself as a die-hard Hulk fan. I like him sure enough and have collected the title on and off over the years, through the Byrne material and the early McFarlane stuff, into the Ron Garney and Kyle Holtz issues, etc. Even so there are those out there far more dedicated to the Hulk than I am, and they have endured pains that would make One More Day a walk in the park by comparison.
The arrival of Greg Pak was a big deal as it struck gold with the Planet Hulk storyline. An excellent adventure that really let the character grow and develop, it also inadvertently started a weird spiral of confusion as far as what to do with the Hulk. That’s no mark on Pak, it’s just a strange coincidence that after he took a break and Jeph Loeb arrived, the Hulk became a very very odd comic book.
The introduction of several gamma-powered monsters made the Hulk not all that unique. It was also just a wacky thing to do. It started with the Red Hulk (revealed to be General Ross, the very same man charged with catching the Hulk with all of the military’s resources), but then the Red She-Hulk (the sometimes deceased Betty Banner, daughter of Ross), A-Bomb (an irradiated Rick Jones), Skaar (Hulk’s son from another world) made their debuts. It was lots of fun, but it soon became clear that this was going to blow up in someone’s face and it ended up being the Hulk fans who ended up being the butt of the joke.
What is so hard for me to believe is that the Hulk series by Jeff Parker is consistently excellent. It is also a very traditional Hulk book only he’s red… and General Ross. The villains are bizarre and new, the plots are clever and full of melodrama and the action is big. So… what happened to the other Hulk? Why is a book that is essentially a spin-off better than the main series? And why is it purer to the concept as well? Imagine if the Red Hulk starred in a series as goofy as Incredible Hulk and it becomes much easier to handle.
Maybe I should just mentally photoshop the Red Hulk series so that he’s green.
I quite enjoy Jason Arron’s writing in Wolverine and the X-Men. Quirky and weird, the series is very charismatic and lots of fun. However, the same technique tried on the Hulk is… an awkward fit. The Point One issue starts with the burial at sea of Bruce Banner’s ashes as Hulk along with Amanda von Doom and her monkey watch. Yes, they are two individuals somehow. There’s some odd jokes about Amanda von Doom wanting to get it on with old jade jaws… but that’s just the beginning and the biggest stumbling block that this issue has.
You would think that the massive amount of back-story and the fact that Banner was somehow not only separated from the Hulk but also dead would be the pain points of this issue, but in my opinion it’s the humor that is so off-putting. Aaron is a very funny writer and his material is decent… but it’s so very out of place with this title.
No longer weighed down by Banner, the Hulk has a montage of happiness before he ends up at a bar drinking all the beer that sunken treasure can buy. That is, until the Red She-Hulk stops by and fights him until they start rutting in the street.
… yes, that happens.
In the midst of all this a third-rate villain from Ghost Rider called the Orb is robbing a bank, but not of money… no! … he’s stealing their eyes. Why? Because he’s crrrrRRRrrrrRRaaaaAAAaaZZzzzzZZZzYYYyyy! He even tries to steal Hulk’s eyes but gets pummeled.
The conclusion sees Hulk revert into Banner, somehow, and that’s apparently a very bad (and hard to explain) thing, leading to the next storyline ‘Stay Angry’ which sounds a lot like a Nic Cage movie.
So… a weird book that is just so off the wall that I honestly don’t know what to make of it. It has gotten some good reception online as being hilarious and smile-inducing (esp. the montage) but I just find it puzzling. The artwork, by Jefte Paolo who worked with Aaron on the outstanding three issue Black Panther Secret Invasion tie-in is good, but just as out of place as the jokes.
The Hulk is possibly as popular today as he was back when Lou Ferrigno painted himself green and assaulted balsa wood in slow motion. I want a good Hulk comic book, many people do. I’m just not convinced that this is it. With news of ever-dwindling sales, I don’t think that I’m alone.