RULK REVIEW : HULK Issue # 52 by Jeff Parker and Carlo Pagulayan
WARNING : There is a MAJOR SPOILER in this review, so stop right here if you’ve yet to read this outstanding issue. Get your @#$ to the comic book store now, enjoy all the goodness that is Jeff Parker’s HULK and we’ll wait for you here! Now, without further ado…
In this oh so enjoyable issue of HULK #52 “I am Legion“, the Red Hulk takes on the final lap of his quest to rid himself of the evil apparition that has latched onto him ever since the events of Circle Of Four. After successfully ridding himself of the “haunts” that were unleashed upon him in the last issue, Dr. Strange now leads the Rulk through a subterranean network called Monster Metropolis to find the underground lab run by the Legion of Monsters, a team of creatures that do their best to enforce law in the monster world. With the help of some “strange” enchantments, a key member of the Legion may be able to trap the menacing apparition that wants Ross dead… and even identify it. And once its identity is revealed, Dr. Strange is confident the excavation of this menacing spirit will be elementary, finally relieving Ross of his supernatural burden.
Writer Jeff Parker crafts a simply wonderful conclusion to his “Haunted Hulk” storyline, an issue that gratifyingly has it all. The opening is all action, where Parker throws monster upon goulishly delicious monster at the Rulk… and at the Legion’s Manphibian and Werewolf who quickly come to the Red Hulk’s aid when the situation starts looking bleak. Much like how L.M.D.s and androids appeal to Thad’s cold and efficient human side, it’s terrific how Ross relates to the Legion team with his alternate monstrous side.. leaving only interaction with humans and their super powered freaks as undesirables. Parker also recognizes that Ross is the ultimate comedic straight man, a fact that Jeff exploits wonderfully thanks to some sadistic humor by Manphibian which results in a more than hilarious payoff. It begs you to wonder how many other writers in comics can actually make you laugh out loud like this?
We’ll get to the satisfying conclusion momentarily, but the amazing “wow factor” spurred on by the numerous wonderful beasts that artist Carlo Pagulayan creates reaches a heavenly critical mass in this issue. His genius talent of bringing such glorious monsters to life almost has me convinced these ghoulish creatures actually live in Pagulayan’s basement, only to pose for the mighty Carlo for panels in this very arc! They’re all so brilliant, as well as Pagulayan’s rendition of the Red Hulk (that already has garnered tons of praise.) His Legion of Monsters is superb too, proving when Carlo is drawing various monstrosities… look out… because this talent is really in his element! Now while some of the color choices are odd and confusing (a green colored hand that appears to be Manphibian’s swipes at the throat of a banshee… yet reveals to be the Werewolf’s) Val Staples hits more than he misses. These monsters are colored beautifully.
The conclusion of this issue finally reveals the long awaited identity of the ghost that has plagued the Red Hulk for so long, with absolutely thrilling results. Shockingly… the spectre is revealed as no one other than… Dark Samson, the evil alter ego of Dr. Leonard Samson!
The big reveal brought a level of anticipation and excitement to the read that has been rarely matched in comics today. And the fascinating nature of Dark Samson’s return asks more questions than it answers, a testament to writer Jeff Parker’s craft. What are we suggesting here when a shadow of Samson’s evil alter ego (that should have passed on with his spirit) was actually capable of latching on to traces of gamma radiation left by Rulk’s brief visit to the underworld, allowing him to begin reconstituting himself? Could all gamma beings have this capability, a chance at immortality? Does it only apply to gamma beings who haven’t passed on peacefully? Why couldn’t the gamma infused Abomination attempt the same feat, or did the essence of Dark Samson simply get to the traces of gamma radiation first? Enquiring fans want to know, and will be debating the implications for years to come.
Jeff Parker’s magnificent decision to return the dead Leonard Samson into the fray (as well as the method behind the evil doctor’s resurrection) is drenched in brilliance. Issues like this reveal Parker at his best: A story telling mastermind… especially when his tales draw from the distant echoes of the past. Much like re-exploring the mental reconnection between Ross and Zzaxx to the repercussions of assaulting a Watcher, when Parker weaves in threads of the Red Hulk’s past into today’s storied tapestry, Jeff reaches a new level of awe, excitement and fascination. It pours the reader a glass full of comic wonder… and craftily reminds us why we loved comics in the first place.
5 out of 5 Stars
A general falls. A red monster rises. Stay tuned.
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