A general falls. A red monster rises. Stay tuned.

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.J. 
A general falls. A red monster rises. Stay tuned.  
Follow the RED HULK BLOG on Twitter @ RedHulkBlog 

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11 responses

  1. Zombie-Wolf

    Man I couldn’t wait to read this (read it in the car before going home lol. My sis was pissed about that.)

    But my issue looked like someone in the coloring studio poured their coffee in places; watermarks abound. X__x

    Other than that, frikkin’ loved this. Plus the monsters could be another team Red might look into if the Avengers have their way and kick him out (or he ends up leaving, if Cap decides his “community service” has been going on long enough)

    I’m still bummed that the ghost wasn’t Karen, but here’s hoping for an epic Mayan Ruin come June. ;P

    Also, I dug in deep with the Ross Rulk in ‘stache mid-transformation. Only Carlo can make a hybrid morph look that intense.

    (oh, writing a fan fic about Red Hulk on Comicvine. You can check it out if you want *goes to finish writing her first paragraph…*)

    May 26, 2012 at 1:38 AM

    • David

      Red Hulk would make a good addition to these monsters. I do not think the rest of the Avengers like him anway. Does anyone know if the Legion ever had their own comic series or are they always guest stars?

      May 26, 2012 at 6:46 PM

      • I’m no expert, but I believe The Legion of Monsters had several of one-shots through the years… and they did have a limited series last year. It only was a handful of issues though.

        May 27, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    • I was still rooting for Karen too ZW. I always thought it was possible if Thad’s deceased wife wasn’t the one actually haunting Ross, that she could still return from the “other side” to help Ross fight off the spectre. Guess there’s a hundred ways we can go with this… 🙂

      I liked your fan fic. Looking forward to reading Chapter Two! “Well, lucky for you Rags-A-Plenty” 😉

      -AJ

      May 27, 2012 at 3:35 AM

  2. Sniper77

    HELLZ YEAH!! THIS ISSUE WAS MINT!!!!!! A++++ Marvel should sell framed posters of that cover cuz Id put that baby right over my tv

    May 26, 2012 at 7:32 AM

  3. Gamma Grey

    This is a very well written review A.J.

    Dark Samson may have found the path that the Leader uses to come back from the dead. Now we have a proper explanation for it.

    May 26, 2012 at 9:36 AM

  4. “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?”

    It’s happened before! (Twice, at least. I don’t know how the Leader’s resurrection[s] happened) At the end of Hulk: Future Imperfect, the Maestro was sent back to the time and place of the original gamma bomb detonation, and was killed. Then, at the end of Heroes Reborn, the Bannerless Hulk ended up at the old site, uncontrollably emitting huge amounts of gamma radiation. The dry bones of the Maestro had been soaking up gamma all that time, but the Hulk’s presence and condition gave him one last, big boost to regenerate!

    http://www.leaderslair.com/noexcuses/hulk2-460.html

    … Then he promptly died again next issue, and hasn’t been seen since…

    This issue made me wonder about a couple of things. Despite all the Hulk/Banner distinctions and seperations over the years, I’m still not convinced that alternate gamma personalities are a whole ‘nuther person (Out of all I can think of, only Banner, Betty, and Samson have had the split personality problem!), so I have trouble with how this is the ‘ghost’ of Dark Samson, rather than Samson as a whole.
    ‘Course, the vengeful spirit bit wouldn’t really suit if it was Samson proper. In fact, before I turned the page for the reveal, and with all the talk of absorbing gamma radiation, I thought it was the Maestro. Seemed to fit nicely.

    And then there’s the fact that Rulk was able to consciously hold onto his stored gamma! Though I’m probably getting my wires crossed – it was only his ability to absorb *cosmic* energy (consciously or unconsciously) that was removed, right? It would be a bit odd if he lost his ability to consciously absorb gamma radiation too, what with all I’ve been waffling about in this comment.

    Great issue, though. 🙂 And great review. Plenty to agree with there.

    May 26, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    • David

      I enjoyed your comment. I think the difference is Maestro was still bones. It is like Hulk [THE END] where those monster bugs kept eating all the Hulk’s flesh and organs away but the Hulk would still grow them all back. On the alternate hand Samson had no flesh, bones, organs, and all. He was just a ghost but he could still come back to life from the spirit world which is really interesting.

      May 26, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    • Great post and research Warren. Well, we always knew the Hulk and Maestro (which is Hulk) could do some “incredible” things, but now it seems any of these Gamma heroes can come back from the dead (if there is a strong other worldy desire and a gamma trace to latch on to).

      A-Bomb had a split personality as well, albiet for a little while…

      No, you make a good point. Rulk’s absorption powers were BOTH Cosmic and Gamma radiation affecting. Banner Hulk doesn’t have a trace of cosmic power in him yet the Red Hulk drained all the gamma out of him, returning him to human form. But Rulk clearly lost his power drain ability as a whole so…. maybe Ross only lost the ability to WILL his absorption power. Maybe Ross lost the absorption power soley as an offensive weapon when he’s in Red Hulk form, but his transformation itself naturally pulls from energies around him and all Ross had to do is will his transformation again… and with the help of the Legion of Monsters device… rip Dark Samson in half. Pure speculation I guess… 🙂

      -AJ

      May 27, 2012 at 3:56 AM

  5. Stephen

    I agree with much of your review but you were too easy on the colorist. The colors should have been murky and dark. These are monsters not Smurfs.

    May 26, 2012 at 4:25 PM

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