RULK REVIEW : HULK Issue # 51
In HULK Issue # 51 “Haunted Hulk Part Two : The Blood Curse of the Forgiven”, the Red Hulk has embarked on a quest that has taken him deep into the Pyrenees Mountains of Catalonia, searching for the redeeming body of water called the Penance Pool. According to one of the mystic texts obtained by Dr. Strange, legends dictate that this pool is a form of holy water, with magical properties that can cleanse the former General of the onslaught of apparitions that have been haunting him as of late. Of course, the mysterious shadowy figure that unleashed these ghosts upon the Rulk knows this baptism suggested by Dr. Strange will work most effectively to stop the dead from attacking… so through deception convinces a team of the living (or rather undead) to dispatch and make sure the Red Hulk never reaches the pool alive.
Like its predecessor, Part Two of writer Jeff Parker’s supernatural tale is a pretty enjoyable ride. The army of haunting apparitions of numerous fallen soldiers along with the villain Abomination all return, now accompanied by the fallen ex-Colonel William Krugauer (a death he tried to avenge in the “Hulk of Arabia” story-arc). The dead continue their goal to try to penetrate the impenetrable psyche of Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. Albeit less horrific than the previous issue, their ghostly words are penetrating, and resonates deeply when they finally threaten to haunt his daughter Betty as well.
Will Krugauer Returns!
Yet unlike its predecessor, this issue’s installment digests with an underlining flavor of being somewhat insubstantial to the pressing story at hand. Dr. Strange is still in the United States, working feverishly with an unnamed assistant for a cure to the Red Hulk’s plight (or at least to uncover the identity of the shadow that severely has it out for Ross) and Strange already has proven in the last issue he has the power to keep the dead “haunts” away from the crimson giant in the good doctor’s proximity. Yet Dr. Strange strangely sends the Rulk out of his protection anyway to a legendary (possible fictitious) pool that may or may not drive the spirits away. What will not be resolved by this quest however is the reveal nor the ability to conquer the evil entity that unleashed the vengeful spirits on the Rulk in the first place. It all slightly feels like a forced plot device to simply make room for an appearance of the vampire reborn clan The Forgiven, which all becomes mildly distracting.
And Jeff Parker’s coolest creation, a monstrous guard that protects the Penance Pool (summoned into action by an eerie screaming skull) was delightfully grotesque and chilling, yet unfortunately appears only briefly. And its gruesome battle with the Red Hulk (resulting with one of its heads ripped off) was only left to our imagination. This battle unfulfilled feels like it would have been much more rewarding to witness than the sparring we were served featuring a street gang like of renegade vampires (that found their redemption in the very same pool.) However frustrating, Jeff Parker’s writing is still sharp and leaves you looking forward to the next installment.
The next panel we see featuring this awesome creature, it unfortunately has been long since dead.
Artist Carlo Pagulayan, the talent who also superbly drew the Planet Red Hulk story-arc, continues to impress. His rendition of the Red Hulk is pure genius, not merely for the sheer massive, raw and powerful frame (which showcases maybe Carlo’s greatest gift), but for his uncanny ability to give the red hot monster such a recognizable look facially, which is unique to every other character in the Marvel Universe. And when the Rulk is in the heat of battle, Pagulayan’s art explodes with all the crushing dynamic one could hope for in a book like this, with panel layouts incredibly easy for the eyes to follow. And whether grabbing his chin after the Rulk is slugged with a weapon or reacting to the ridiculous offer the vampires make in their half-assed apology, the poses Carlo draws makes Jeff Parker’s sharp Red Hulk dialogue even that much more impactful… as only great artists can do.
It will take much more than ‘The Forgiven’ to bring this Rulk down!
The grotesque guard monstrosity was amazingly realized, drawn beautiful yet horrific… leaving me even more disappointed we saw such little of it. And Val Staples did a decent job coloring it, but the pallet (especially the chronic pink skies) felt like a disservice to the “Haunted” tone Parker established and was trying to maintain. The cover however was pure brilliance by all talents involved. Simply stunning, and one of the best we have seen in a while. Outstanding!
3 out of 5 Stars
A general falls. A red monster rises. Stay tuned.
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