Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: John Romita Jr. (p), Klaus Janson (i), Christina Strain (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: The premiere superhero teams of the Marvel Universe take on a BIG problem. Fists fly, collateral damage abounds, Dr. Strange acts strange, a rubber man meets the road, reason does not win out and the strictly human element arrives like the cavalry.
Commentary: Greg Pak gives us all we could expect and love from a Hulk comic. Fittingly, this epic began with a bang and just keeps on going in this issue. No decompressed story telling, infinite flashback sequences or tedious drawn out build up to an underwhelming payoff which seem to be the norm in todayís comics. Pak gets what Ang Lee didnít get in his approach to the Hulk. We want desperate slugfests not yawning introspection. The Hulk returned to Earth as an unstoppable Juggernaut and hasnít let up since his arrival. The desperate reactions of Earthís heroes are appropriate as the Hulk just hasnít given them time to think. He has the power to throw the balance of power amongst these normally unbeatable heroes in array, and he does just that. He can take the beatings and the heat and still come out swinging angrier and thus stronger than ever. Thereís not much the heroes can do, but what they do makes perfect sense:
The opening salvos are Gamma powered. If anyone could have a chance, these characters would because of their power and history with Bruce who they try and appeal to. It avails them nothing.
Brawn doesnít work so theyíve gotta give brains time to work. No one can think as fast as the Hulk can smash however. Next comes elemental fury against unstoppable force. These too are ultimately snuffed out. Whatís left is a great cliffhanger with a testosterone injected arrival of an airbound cavalry led by none other than Thunderbolt Ross! And heís never looked more driven against his lifelong thorn in the side. Itís just one shot for now, but it says it all.
Pak has taken the dynamics of a Hulk battle and turned it on its head. In the past weíve seen the U.S. military conduct their opening salvos to little effect and then the super-powers show up. Here Pak reverses it with Earthís Mightiest and The Fantastic Four (or 6 here if you want to include Tíchalla and Storm) as cannon fodder and the army under Ross showing up for cleanup. Youíre left wondering, ďWhat the hell can they do?Ē Well, we donít know yet exactly but it made for quite a dramatic entrance and makes you salivate in anticipation over the next episode.
Thatís not to say the issue doesnít have its lower points. Doctor Strange is one of them. Heís beenÖ well, acting strange for awhile now ever since Civil War and joining the New Avengers. He really hasnít done much for anybody other than camouflage the New Avengersí new HQ. I echo Danny Randís comments in the opening pages, ďDude, youíre Earthís Sorcerer Supreme, what gives?Ē Shouldnít Strange be much more powerful and focused than heís been portrayed recently? Is he really a Skrull Sorcerer posing as Strange? Who knows. Obviously, Marvel or Bendis have some undisclosed plans for the character or else Bendis just doesnít know how to write him or what to do with magical characters. Strangeís actions are very cryptic here. Who is the random ďheroĒ who can both stop and redeem the Hulk at the same time that heís referring to and trying to reach with his spell? Could it simply be heís trying to reach the long missing Bruce Banner in the Hulkís subconscious? Whatever heís up to, Rick Jones gives him the opening heís looking for and then the Hulk is whisked off to battle Hercules as recounted in The Incredible Hulk #107.
I like the way Pak is balancing the different aspects of World War Hulk here in the main series of books and over in The Incredible Hulk. This book is focused on the straight forward slugfests with the major heroes, and the other is focused on those who would ally with the Hulk and their efforts. In neither book do we get wasted pages of recap. Here we get a birdís eye view and commentary on whatís going on in Hulk #107 in just a few panels. Thanks, Pak. On a final story note I like the fact that the Hulk seems to be destroying the symbols of heroic presence in NYC one by one in his ďGodzillaĒ like rampage. The Stark Tower, demolished. The Upper floors of The Baxter Building and neighboring building, obliterated. The Hulk is truly being portrayed as a classic monster here, albeit with much more ability and craft than ever before.
The art? Címon people, itís John Romita Jr. at the top of his game. A feast for the eyes all around, and my favorite is perhaps the Thunderbolt Ross reveal on the last page. Donít believe me? Check it out and see.
If there was anything readers felt was missing from the first issue of World War Hulk, they are probably going to find it in the second. Greg Pak is in high form, writing some fast action with good dialogue, both of which are married to a strong understanding of the characters involved. Considering just how many characters of the 616 are involved in this issue, thatís saying a great deal. However, and I donít think Iím giving away too much here, the She-Hulk and the Thing steal the show.
Picking up right after last issueís cliffhanger, this issue starts with the Hulk stepping out of a buildingís wreckage carrying the crushed shell of Iron Man. Iím sure it will come as a huge surprise to tell you that the heroes of Manhatten are quite distressed at this outcome. Regardless, it is the She-Hulk who has the presence of mind to attempt to speak with the green giant. Pak picked this perfectly. Obviously, she cares about Bruce and has an empathy with him. Perhaps more importantly, though, She-Hulk is one of the few characters that always seen past the illusion that the Hulk and Banner are separate individuals. These two things put together make her the perfect choice for someone who would have the bravery and faculties to speak with Banner. When she realizes just how far things have gone, the reaction is priceless. In a sadistic kind of way, that is.
Given the number of characters that dot this issue, very few of them get any sort of significant dialogue. However, this issue proves the truism (pardon the paraphrase) that there are no small parts, only small characters. Black Panther, Storm and even the panicked Mr. Fantastic all have small moments that define their characters very well, while delivering to the reader a heaping portion of satisfying action. But as mentioned previously, the Thing, with less than a hundred lines of spoken dialogue, steals the show. This issue shows that, while other (perhaps bigger) super-heroes have fallen into pits of moral ambiguity, the Thing continues to be the great, straight-shooting hero that he always has been. Itís all there: his toughness, his humor, his insight and the man in the monsters shell that is willing to stand by his friends even when he knows he is going to lose. The writing and art manages to capture all of this in a very limited space.
A question that is bound to come up, again and again, is why are the heroes standing beside those that cast Bruce into space? While there is more than one answer to this, perhaps one for every hero, the answer for The Thing is obviously, ďIf youíre only their friend in the good times, then youíre not their friend.Ē Needless to say, the second issue of World War Hulk is extremely well done and a great read.
If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of the authorís work at http://madbastard.hypersites.com
Very simply put, this issue is nothing but pounding fists and useless words. Sure, the pictures are pretty, and Iím all in favor of watching Reed get whatís coming to him, but we got 39 pages of a fight.
We get an interesting reveal in the end, and donít even get me started on what it could mean for the end of the series, but is this really compelling story telling?
Hereís where each book involving Bruce Banner always begins to falter. Itís great fun watching him wreck havoc all over New York. Itís great to see the villains of the last big events get the crap kicked out of them. Itís even entertaining to see the two characters that could decide the outcome, Strange and Sentry, do absolutely nothing when they are needed. Entertainment can come in the form of unintentional comedy too, you know.
Why does Marvel continue to put Bob in books that he does nothing in? Has it been so long since Civil War wrapped that we forgot how completely useless he was in that series as well? Iím not going to pretend to know the whole history of Hulk and the Sentry, but for Reed Richards to attempt to mimic his powers to calm Bruce down, it has to be significant. The same goes for the Sorcerer Supreme. If people could die and the world as we know it hangs in the balance, why is Strange trying to do cutesy spells to attack his mind?
So now that the most powerful people in the country have failed to stop the Hulk, the American military led by General Ross is going to bat clean up? This changes the scope of the war a bit, bringing puny humans into the fray and directly put into harmís way. From the looks of it, writer Greg Pak may be setting the Hulk up to give up in similar fashion to Capís surrender in Civil War, and wouldnít that make for a great clunker to end the series on. Ross is entering the field of battle most likely out of some sick hubris mixed with one hell of a vendetta against Big Mean Green. If I possessed hatred for an individual like the General does for Banner, Iíd burn every last bridge and call in ever favor to get the chance to stick that oversized lab experiment in the ground.
The question I have is, how does that make this Hulk story any different than others weíve been given over the years? Surely, Iím not the only reviewer that thinks ďHulk smashĒ just gets old after a stretch. The only thing that makes this story different to readers is the fact that he is going after costumes that we love to hate after the last war.
I certainly donít have a difficulty appreciating Romitaís artwork. A personís sanity would need to be called into question for that. It takes a very special artist to draw the kind of scale of fight scenes needed for this book. Yes, I will say the battles have seemed very small in scale so far, but weíre only two issues in. Overall, I would say I am enjoying JRjrís work much more than Steve McNivenís work in Civil War. Weíre less likely to see delays in this series, and the panels feel more fluid. Iíve enjoyed the composition used by the artist. Extreme close ups are quite the rarity for this mini, much to my enjoyment.
At the near halfway point in this series, itís exactly where I expected it to be. The story is an enjoyable assortment of ass-kickery on the part of Hulk and his Warbound, but thatís all it is: one, big fight. The story will grow stale in my mind very soon and some crappy ending that puts Hulk into a weird predicament, maybe even powerless, and changes the status quo for a while. Thatís Marvelís M.O. right now, and itís selling them a ton of books. No reason to see that end anytime soon.
I just donít have to think itís great storytelling.
Second verse, same as the first.
However, in the case of World War Hulk, thatís not necessarily a bad thing. Following on from last issueís explosive opener, the Hulk continues to exact his revenge on the superheroes that he feels are responsible for his exile and the death of his newfound alien friends and family. Ploughing his way through handfuls of top-tier Marvel characters, the Hulk is just as unstoppable here as he was in the first issue - although writer Greg Pak does give us a few more character moments to get our teeth into here, imbuing the Hulk with a certain humanity in scenes such as the emotionally charged confrontation with She-Hulk, or the encounter with Rick Jones (who brings news of Capís death) which provides a moment of hesitation and potential redemption which is unfortunately interrupted by the well-meaning intervention of Dr. Strange. Still, thereís plenty of action for those readers who have come to this series expecting it to make good on the premise of an angry Hulk battling the Marvel Universeís best and brightest heroes, and itís the Fantastic Four and the Avengers (both New and Mighty) who bear the brunt of his rage this issue. Itís thrilling, non-stop stuff, and in terms of sheer spectacle, this is a series which is going to be hard to top.
That said, the book isnít without its flaws. The closing moments of the issue see the Illuminati continuing to be as cynical and manipulative as ever - and if I have any complaint with the book, itís that (like Civil War) it occasionally over-eggs the pudding in its contrivance of a reason for the heroes to fight one another to such a brutal extent. However, considering that the entire story premise is less rickety than that of Marvelís last big event (the Illuminati's desire to deal with the Hulk ďproblemĒ is a far more sympathetic and logical motivation than Civil War's pro-registration movement, for example), this isnít too much of a distraction. Thereís also a surprising lack of reference to last issueís cliffhanger - the apparent defeat of Iron Man - as the Hulk moves onto his next target, reinforcing the occasional sense that things are happening a little too quickly to really make the impression that they should. Some of the moments in this issue which are over in a few pages (such as the head-to-head with The Thing) could have used a little more attention and space to breathe, but in an age of rampant decompression, thatís a refreshing complaint to have about a high-profile series like this one. I therefore have to commend Pak for keeping things so tight and fast-moving, never allowing readers to catch their breath.
John Romita Jr. is given the opportunity to really cut loose with his artwork here, and it makes the book a pleasure to read. An action-packed story like this one is an obvious gift for a superhero artist, but Romita tempers the sheer spectacle of the ďHulk kills the Marvel UniverseĒ premise with more subtle character beats and emotional content, featuring quite a few telling close-ups of the Hulk which let us in on the thoughts of a character who could seem simple and two-dimensional under a lesser artist. Despite what must be a strong temptation to always go for a dynamic, exciting image, the book doesnít opt for constant all-out anger and carnage. Indeed, Pakís Hulk is often surprisingly restrained, making him seem even colder in his mission to take out the Earthís heroes. Iíve often considered John Romita Jr. to be Marvelís natural heir to Jack Kirby, and he proves that here several times over: Reed Richardsí gigantic gizmo is a wonderfully Kirbyesque piece of over-the-top machinery; the throwdown between the Hulk and the Thing is a crisp, clear, visually powerful moment; and if you need any further evidence of Romitaís skill as a sequential storyteller, just check out the smoothness of the sequence in which the Hulk takes out Ares. This is comic book art which flows so well that it almost feels like animation, and thatís surely one of the highest compliments that I can pay. Yes, Klaus Jansonís inking is a little loose, but I think that thatís an intentional stylistic choice, reinforcing the rough nature of the story. I certainly think it suits the book, and even if Romitaís art has looked slicker with tighter inking, I donít think that slickness is what Janson is going for here.
Considering my complete disinterest in the book in the lead-up to its publication, World War Hulk is turning out to be a surprisingly satisfying and enjoyable series. Part of its success is undoubtedly the fact that it hasnít been over-hyped or marketed with a false premise: as readers, weíre getting exactly what we were promised, and weíre not being made to wait until the end of the series for the core concept to pay off. If anything, Iím concerned that the book wonít be able to maintain this level of excitement for all five issues without becoming repetitive or one-note, as a lot of ground has already been covered in these first two issues - but the final page of this issue promises something a little different for the next, and suggests that the battle isnít over by a long shot. This might not be the most thought-provoking or intelligent title on the stands, but itís one of the most all-out entertaining superhero books that Iíve read in quite a while, and makes for a perfect summer blockbuster for Marvel. Kick back, grab a cold beer, and enjoy the smashing.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!