I have never in my life subscribed to any comic. I’ve always let myself be bound to having to seek them out in bookstores and comic stores, and before that convenience store and grocery store magazine racks. Well, a few months ago, I read that Jeph Loeb was coming to the Hulk title. This on the heels of the Planet Hulk saga and the ensuing World War Hulk.
I got to read like two issues of Planet Hulk, and my knowledge of the events of World War Hulk were relegated to recaps and reviews that I read online. This made me somewhat sad because the Hulk has always been one of my favorite characters. In any incarnation.
The problem with the Hulk is that I don’t know if any writer since Stan Lee (outside of Peter David) has really had a good grasp of the Hulk. Of course, after the amazing 13 year run that Peter David intitally had on the title, it was going to be hard in the following years for anyone, no matter how talented or passionate, to come in and write compelling Hulk stories. I think one of the best examples of this is an accomplished writer like John Byrne stepping in and producing what was a pretty poor Hulk story. Later when Bruce Jones came in, he had promise, but I think a lack of understanding just who the Hulk is and what he’s about caused the story, which started with a lot of promise, to drag on too much, get too convoluted and ultimately fail.
While Planet Hulk got great reviews from all over, I couldn’t help but think, “Haven’t they done this before.” In a way they did. Anyone remember Jarella? Rocket Racoon? Anyone?
Then, with World War Hulk, a lot of people thought that Marvel dropped the ball on what should have been a sure thing. I don’t know about that as I didn’t get to read it. However, thanks to ebay, that’s going to change really soon.
Enter Jeph Loeb. There are a very small handful of writers in comics today that I think can do no wrong. It seems that whatever their imagination touches turns to gold…or in the Hulk’s case red. Loeb, to me, is one of those writers. I really enjoyed Loeb’s stuff on Superman, and I really liked his Batman Superman run. His “Hush” story arc with Jim Lee proved that no matter how good the artist is, a good writer is what makes those pretty pictures work together for one heck of a story. So, when I heard that Jeph Loeb was coming to Marvel and going to write for one of my favorites, I got excited. Really excited. Add to that the ole’ one two of Loeb and McGuinness and I my geek senses were tingling so much that I could barely stand it.
As much as I like Loeb’s writing, I love Ed McGuinness’ art. His style is cartoony, but not over the top. In a time where it seems everyone is concerned with uber-realism and making their characters look like they stepped out of reality into the comics, McGuinness’ style boldly reminds us that this is a comic book…and there is nothing wrong with that. His style is a fun style that seems to be lacking in othr books. It’s got a cartoony feel, but it’s not too cartoony to be distracting. It’s fun. It’s what comics should be. As much as they are compelling and dramatic and full of action…they too should be fun. McGuinness brings that to the table with his style.
Then I heard about the whole red Hulk thing. Wha? Waitaminute? Red? I was a little iffy on this point, but I was willing to give Loeb the benefit of the doubt.
Quite frankly, as far as issue number 2 of HULK is concerned, it paid off.
The issue opens quietly enough. Tony Star is discussing the weapon used to murder the Abomination with a S.H.I.E.L.D. commander and She-Hulk. Out of nowhere, the Hulk grabs She-Hulk and the issue cranks up to 11. The Hulk utterly demolishes the new Hellicarrier and beats the snot out of Iron Man. The interesting thing is that while all of the action is going down, we learn that files on the Hulk have been erased from the S.H.I.E.L.D. database, the Hulk spoke coherently and rather threateningly to She-Hulk while only growling at Stark, and Leonard Samson is presumably in a bad way somewhere in the bowels of the hellicarrier.
As quickly as he attacks the hellicarrier, the Hulk is gone. Then we are treated to the next little surprise. Rick Jones, thought to be dead, is still alive. The Hulk shows up and tells Rick that he doesn’t like to be surprised, and he HITS Rick!!! The final surprise of the issue? Rick turns into a new (?) Abomination that talks like the old green Hulk.
Yep. Jeph Loeb retains his place in my fandom. (I’m sure he’s breathing a sigh of relief somewhere.) Loeb is doing with the Hulk what he has done best in other titles. He’s taking what we know and love and turning it on its head all the while making it feel like an old friend.
This is also the first time that I can remember when the Hulk has undergone a significant change and we’re not really privy to all of the details. Why is the Hulk red? How can he be so brutal? This goes beyond the realm of the snarky, rude, bullying of the grey incarnation of the behemoth. This is something completely new, and I am completely sold on it. I cannot wait until issue 3 shows up in my mailbox. Why? Well, there’s the new Hulk, new(?) Abomination face-off. What more do I need?
I have a couple of theories about this new Hulk. I think that either:
1. It’s not really the Hulk, which would mean that before this story arc is over we’re gonna get treated to a showdown between old Jade Jaws and Big Red. Or….
2. Knowing Jeph Loeb’s attention to the history of the characters he writes, the Devil Hulk could finally have made his way out of Banner’s psyche. I know he was yellow and lizard-ish when we first saw him, but he could very well have chosen this as a physical appearance for reasons that he will reveal later.
Both of those theories are probably wrong. But, I’m sure I will shift and change theories as the story progresses.
Following my two fold theory, I have a two fold recomendation:
1. If you’re a fan of the Hulk in any way, pick up this book starting now. Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness have not disappointed and I don’t think they will.
2. If you don’t live near a comic shop. Subscribe to a comic. Not necessarily Hulk, but the comic of your choice. It’s neat feeling to open your mailbox and find a comic book.
All in all, I have to give this issue (after reading it like three times) a 5 out of 5 whatever I give 5 of. It’s just that good.