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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hulk 1

Furthering my mad plan to catch up with all the major Marvel Universe titles by the middle of 2010, I've now read Hulk #1-15, Incredible Hulk #600-603, Dark Reign: The List - Hulk, and several other Hulk one-shots and specials. Here are my quick takes on these comics...

The Jeph Loeb/Ed McGuinness Hulk is little more than a yawn-inducing video game on paper. The issues consist primarily of the Red Hulk getting into punch-ups with an assortment of Marvel heroes and villains while demolishing the buildings and landscapes unlucky enough to be in his path. The mystery of this new Hulk's human identity and the intrigue behind his creation did interest me initially, but, after 15 issues with nary a meaningful revelation to be had, I just don't care anymore.

Incredible Hulk 600

Loeb and McGuinness teamed for the lead story in the monster-sized Incredible Hulk #600. There was a plot development in that one, albeit of the "illusion of change" variety: the Red Hulk syphoned all the gamma radiation from Bruce Banner's body, leaving the scientist free of his rampaging other self. Until, of course, Marvel brings back the original Hulk.

However, after that anniversary issue, Incredible Hulk does get interesting. Bruce Banner proves to be so scary smart I have to wonder if he's more dangerous than the Hulk. Knowing the original Hulk will return sooner or later, Banner is determined to train Skarr, the son of the Hulk. Because Skarr has vowed to kill the Hulk and Banner wants to make sure the kid is up to that task when the scientist once again goes green. Written by Greg Pak with art by Ariel Olivetti, this series is much more entertaining than its Loeb/McGuinness counterpart. Backing up the Banner/Skarr lead feature is the "All-New Savage She-Hulk" by writer Fred Van Lante and artist Michael Ryan. Sadly, even for a secondary feature, it's merely so-so.

Dark Reign: The List - Hulk

I don't completely buy Norman Osborn as the bulletproof "top cop" of the Marvel Universe, but the plot development did inspire my decision to get current with the MU. Besides appearing in darn near every major title, Osborn is the central player in the Dark Reign: The List one-shots.

To its credit, Dark Reign: The List - Hulk does give its readers a major Hulk development in its story by Pak and artist Ben Oliver. It's a development that more properly should have been in Incredible Hulk, but I can't deny that it shows Osborn at his most conniving. If Normie had been this good during his first years in comics, he would have taken out Spider-Man before the web-slinger graduated from high school. Backing up the new story is a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #14 with the first appearance of the Green Goblin and this panel:

Green Goblin Panel

Am I too late to claim a no-prize for noticing the Goblin has a bit of a math problem here?

The remaining one-shots? Giant-Size Incredible Hulk has an entertaining new story written by Roger Stern and a reprint of a Stern-written annual featuring the Angel and the Iceman and drawn by John Byrne and Bob Layton.

Hulk: Raging Thunder has a mediocre new story in which Thundra seeks the Hulk's DNA, backed up by an equally mediocre FF reprint notable solely because it was pencilled by Ramona Fradon. The new story has some bearing on the current storylines, but not enough to make it worth buying.

Hulk Vs. Hercules has both a long new story featuring a battle between...figure it out...and a reprint of their original meeting with finished art by Bill Everett. It's an okay read, but nothing special.

The 104-page King-Size Hulk #1 has new stories by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Art Adams, Frank Cho, and Herb Trimpe, as well as the reprinted first appearances of the Wendigo and Wolverine. The new material is "missing scenes" from early issues of Hulk; the Len Wein-written, Trim-e-drawn reprints are both entertaining and historically important. I think there's enough value here to justify the one-shot's $4.99 price tag.

Of the two Hulk titles, I'd recommend Incredible Hulk, the one with Banner and Skarr. Incredible Hercules spun off from "World War Hulk" and I expect to catch up with that title in the near future.

There is - was? - an ongoing Skarr title, but I haven't seen either it or the four-issue mini-series starring the new She-Hulk. Of the two, I'm more likely to seek out the Skarr book.

I'm not thrilled that Hulk-related events are spread out over so many different titles, especially since the info running on the "Previously" pages in the two main Hulk titles could probably fit into a Twitter post. One of the most basic things we were taught by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas back in the 1970s was to make out tales accessible to new readers. It's a skill that should be taught to the Marvel writers of today.

Coming up soon: Amazing Spider-Man and Thor. They both made their debuts in the same month, so I'm not sure which of them I'll write about first.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 12/15/2009 | 12/16/2009 | 12/17/2009 >>

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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