Editor's Note: Hulk #10 arrives in stores tomorrow, February 25.
I have not been a fan of Jeph Loeb's current Hulk series. While the artwork is phenomenal in every issue, the stories are juvenile, have no bearing on the greater scheme of the Marvel Universe when they really should, and have a complete disregard for continuity or the fantastic event known as "World War Hulk." I'll tell you straight out, I pick up this book because of the artwork; I just get sucked into reading the book out of habit. I'm not a fan of ripping into a title I don't enjoy, but the quality of Hulk has severely degraded since the epics known as "Planet Hulk" and "World War Hulk."
So apparently and seemingly out of nowhere, even after the deaths of Betty Ross and his most recent love interest Caiera, all of a sudden Hulk wants Jarellla back. Remember Jarella? She was the Hulk's queen on the first Planet Hulk, the sub-atomic world of K'ai. Her first appearance came in Incredible Hulk #140 from back in 1971. Be warned, there's a bit of a spoiler here, but it's really nothing Earth-shattering. Basically, Hulk has a dream about how great his life was with Jarella and suddenly the Grandmaster offers to give him Jarella back if he forms a team and battles the Red Hulk… *ahem* Rulk's team. This is essentially a wager between the Grandmaster and his brother, the Collector.
This book honestly makes no sense. I mean really, what the hell happened to the Hulk? When Greg Pak was in charge, he shot the Hulk into space, had him reign as king on the planet Sakaar, and then after the death of his queen, he returned to Earth to wage war on those who wronged him. He was then subdued, defeated and locked in a vault deep underground. That's where he should have stayed. Regardless of whether the character had a movie coming out, the ending of "World War Hulk" would have been the perfect way to leave the Hulk off the radar for a few months, or at least until the Skrull invasion where Bendis could have borrowed a page from The Ultimates. Or even a moment where Bruce Banner would be watching the invasion, or if he knew about it but no one would listen because he was the Hulk. That would have been pretty solid.
And then there's the matter of "Dark Reign." If the Hulk was still imprisoned, what if Osborn was running experiments on him, or if the Hulk had escaped, why wouldn't Osborn hunt him down? In fact, why ISN'T Osborn hunting down the Hulk? Does this book just not exist in the realm of what's going on in the Marvel Universe?
But now instead of Hulk on the run from Norman Osborn, or the Red Hulk being a Dark Avenger on the hunt for the Hulk, or this title appropriately having anything to do with "Dark Reign," we get a random "game" between two cosmic beings and the set-up for a battle between the Defenders and the Rulk's group, the aptly titled "Offenders." Sure, there's some action in this issue of Namor throwing a few punches, but compared to Namor's appearance this week in Captain America, his appearance a few weeks ago in Black Panther and his appearance in the Uncanny X-Men Annual, this is really just trite and silly.
So in other words, the Hulk, who tore up Manhattan and is easily the most dangerous and volatile hero in the Marvel Universe, had nothing to do with "Secret Invasion" and thus far has nothing to do with "Dark Reign." Once again, instead we get a story better suited to the Marvel Adventures line. It's bizarre, and I really can't wrap my head around any of this. Oh, and let's not forget the "multiple personality" twist at the end of this issue. Once again, a trite and probably even cornier development than bringing back Joe Fixit a few issues ago.
Well, the good news is that Ed McGuiness’ artwork is fantastic. If it wasn't for the artwork, I wouldn't even bother with this book. The Hulk is one character that Ed McGuiness seems born to draw. The big, muscular physiques and hard hitting action sequences are perfectly tuned to his distinct style. Every character he draws, not only just the Hulk, looks fantastic. Fans of McGuiness get a real treat as he draws a fantastic Silver Surfer, Galactus, Namor, Grand Master, Tiger Shark and Terrax amongst a few others. If anything, next issue should have a big fight and it should be good thanks to McGuiness' artwork. In fact, the cadre of artists, including McGuiness, Arthur Adams and Frank Cho, is the only reason I even give this book the time of day. Let's be clear about that, each artist's work has been phenomenal. McGuiness gets the bulk of the bullet score here.
Instead we are left with this mess of a book that has nothing to do with continuity when it really should and a really juvenile method of exploring the Hulk's multiple personalities. I don't dislike Jeph Loeb. He's written masterpieces for both Marvel and DC that will stand the test of time, but between Hulk, Onslaught Reborn and the atrocity that was Ultimates 3, he's striking out. I will, however, give credit where it's due: Ultimatum isn't as bad.
With the fantastic themes and events taking place in the Marvel Universe, the Hulk, one of Marvel's most popular characters, needs to be involved in some capacity, not be wasted away in a book that seemingly has no direction or purpose besides finding the identity of the Red Hulk. This book needs to be involved in the grand scheme of things, and as long as it's not, it's very hard to take it seriously. But then again, maybe that's the point.
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