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No Comics Needed, But I Have Them Anyway – Hulk #2



Posted by Steve

hulk2cov.jpgI 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.

No Comics Needed –

The State of the Comics



Posted by Steve

Somewhere in the vast reaches of comics there is a place where fans and creators meet.  It is that well to which creators go to draw inspiration.  It is that moment in time that always makes the fanboy giggle with glee.  It is the very heart of what keeps people going to comic book stores and what keeps the characters fresh and new month to month or week to week.   It is magic, it is adventure, it is fun.  Sadly, there is a green shadow that has shrouded this place of mystery. 

Beyond the power of our favorite creators, it is the kryptonite of every comic collecting fanboy.  Yes the land of inspiration and love for our favorite super heroes is under attack by the giant known as….The Company-Wide Crossover.  (Cue loud foreboding music now.)

Is it just me or does it seem like Marvel and DC have both gone crossover crazy in recent years?

Crossovers have been a part of comics for years and will always be a part of comics.  I have no problem with that.  When done well, the crossover event is an amazing spectacle of wonder.  The crossover used to be the Wrestlemania of comic-dom.  It was the event where all questions were answered, the climactic battle took place between good and evil, and as a collector, you knew you were gonna have to save up to be able to be a part of the amazing event.

Marvel had a couple of years in which the crossovers were contained in annuals.  One of my favorite Annual crossovers was Atlantis Attacks.  Silver Surfer Annual 2It started out in Silver Surfer Annual #2 and concluded in the Fantastic Four Annual #22. FF Annual 22  Throughout the series an evil force attempted to call on a more powerful nearly omnipotent evil force, some of the top heroines of time were kidnapped to be used as brides and carriers for the evil force, and all of our heroes had to battle side by side in order to save the planet.  This wasn’t a huge company-wide crossover where you had to buy the annuals and fifty issues of other comics to know what was going on, all you had to do was drop a little extra on the annuals.  It was a great way to introduce casual readers to other characters they may not be familiar with and tell a fun story of good vs. evil at the same time.  Other annual crossovers included the Evolutionary War (which was the first annual crossover that Marvel used), Days of Future Present (a sequel of sorts to Days of Future Past from the X-Men books), The Return of the Defenders, The Lifeform Storyline (Which had a disturbing story told in the Incredible Hulk that year), The Terminus factor (was a good one) and others that I know I’m forgetting.  After Atlantis Attacks, (huh, alliteration.) Marvel went the route of containing their annual crossovers to four or five parts and would often crossover books that seemed otherwise unconnected.  That was a neat chance in some cases to get to see characters who seldom interacted work together.

Secret Wars # 1One of my favorite Marvel crossovers of all time is Secret Wars.  Now, I know there are some people taking a collective gasp of unbelief, but I loved the idea of heroes and villians being trasported to a planet for the sole purpose of fighting to the last man standing.   Marvel kinda slipped up as they started Secret Wars and had a year to go, but in the regular books that were affected, the aftermath of the Secret Wars came about 11 months too soon.  I loved Secret Wars though.  It was just pure unadulterated fun.

Today, though, Secret Wars would hall prey to variant covers, delays, and storytelling so dark you need a flashlight to read the book.   (But I guess there are a lot of people who like that stuff.) 

D.C. had the penultimate crossover event in Crisis on Infinite Earths, in which they completely reworked their continuity.  It was a gutsy and hugely successful move for them and the continuity they created worked well for years…until Infinite Crisis…which has once again shifted the continuity of DC and set up 52 which gave way to their current crossover event Amazon Attacks and Countdown which are apparently only the set up for Final Crisis. (no telling what that will do.)

Marvel stepped away from crossovers when Joe Quesada stepped in as editor-in-chief.  A great move at the time considering they had a lot of work to do with individual titles, but then House of M came along…I’m still not sure what that was all about.  Then we got Avengers Disassembled which gave way to Civil War.  While Civil War was going on, Annihilation was taking place in space (And most people seemed to prefer that to Civil War), Hulk was off-planet becoming a king and leading to his return to start World War Hulk, and here we are with both companies planning and working to shove the next big crossover on us.

They just aren’t special anymore.  Even when Captain America is shot and killed.  To me (because I don’t get to read comics much anymore) World War Hulk is one of the funnest rides in comics in a while.  It’s not being very well recieved though.  Nor is Amazons Attack in DC.  Come to think of it, Countdown isn’t the most critically-acclaimed series ever.  The problem is…the fans are burnt out.  The green fog that has shrouded the land of fanboys and tainted the inspiration of some of the most talented creators out there, I’m afraid, is money. 

I’m not calling anyone a sell out, I’m just saying that maybe we should go back to the days when crossovers were special and didn’t require a second mortage to follow.  That’s just me though. 

No Comics Needed –

World War Hulk



Posted by Steve

So, what am I doing?  What does “No Comics Needed” mean? 

To put it short and sweet, I love comics and I’m broke.  So….I have to keep up with what’s going on with my favorite superheroes through podcasts, blogs, friends, and even wikipedia.

For a list of the blogs and podcasts I listen to so that I can keep up, check my blog roll. 

One of the events in comic books that I have been looking forward to for months now has kicked off:  World War Hulk.

Just for some background, and for those of you who may not be aware, the Hulk was off planet for about a year or so.  That’s right, The Incredible Hulk, going boldly where no man has gone before.

How does the Hulk become a spacefaring Jade Giant?  A group of heroes that call themselves the Illuminati got together and voted that they should get the Hulk off planet to try to curb the mounting support for the Superhero registration act.  The Illuminati consists of Reed Richards, Proffessor X, Dr. Strange, Namor, Tony Stark, and Blackbolt of the Inhumans. 

They tricked the Hulk into going into space to take care of a rogue satellite.  Once their, they launched his spaceship toward a distant planet where the Hulk could live out his days and cause harm to no one.  There was a navigational error though and the ship got swept into a wormhole and landed on a planet where there was a violent civil war going on. (Not Earth)  Through a series of events, the Hulk became a king on this planet.  He was married to a woman and was getting ready to enjoy a good life where he would be accepted and understood.  Then his ship blew up.  The explosion caused some damage to the tectonic plates of the planet and a chain reaction started that destroyed the planet. 

At this point, I’m not sure exactly what the Hulk did to get back to Earth, but get back he did.  On his way he stopped at the moon and kicked the snot out of Blackbolt.  Then he broadcasted to Earth giving civilians exactly 24 hours to evacuate New York where he wanted only Tony Stark, Nick Fury, and Reed Richards to be.

Let the war begin. 

As the Hulk landed, Tony attacked him in Hulkbuster armor.  In short, the Hulk won.   The other heroes (especially those still angry with Tony over the whole Superhero Registration Act) kind of just say back and let him get beat up.

This is (of course) a cross over event offered by Marvel, but I have to say it’s something I’ve looked forward to even more than the whole Civil War thing.  Anytime we get to see “Hulk Smash” (So to speak) I love it.   Especially now, I mean he lost his wife for crying out loud!  And one could make a valid point that it’s the fault of the Illuminati that he’s hurting as much as he is.

This also does a lot to help bring the Marvel Universe back to a good status quo.  While I like to see heroes go at it, I feel like Civil War left things in an unfixable way.  I don’t mind heroes being flawed, but I don’t like to see them completely devoid of morality or even just scruples and that’s what it feels like has happened to Tony Stark.   I don’t want to see the Hulk villified, but if his rampage can help redeem a hero, then I’m all for it.

This event has just started, but we will see how it unfolds.  I’m hoping that it has a more satisfying end than Civil War.  But, as I said, anytime we get to see some good Hulking out, I’m all for it.  So keep me updated.