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


RULK REVIEW : HULK Issue # 53 by talents Jeff Parker and Dale Eaglesham!

Rick Jones is always getting into trouble.  The same young man who was responsible for unleashing the world-breaking Incredible Hulk upon the Earth (and paving the way for the genesis of every Hulk currently in existence) is now responsible for freeing some evil, dormant Mayan Gods who might just bring our age to a burning apocalypse… or some other fate equivalent in nastiness.  Yes, someone at S.H.I.E.L.D. should strongly consider locking this Jones boy up and throwing away the key!  Yet along with the Red Hulk, Machine Man and the Alpha Flight team, Rick (transformed into A-Bomb) instead tries to remedy the fate befalling us due to his ineptitude… and put a stop to the Mayan doom he brought upon the world.

Writer Jeff Parker sets up an interesting story-arc in HULK Issue # 53 “Mayan Rule, Part One: Bloodletting“.  Taking advantage of the timely concerns held by some that the end of the world is coming based on the Mayan calendar, Parker craftily strikes while the iron is hot when public awareness is at its peak (regarding this real world upcoming Mayan cataclysmic event.)  Chock full of magic, bloodletting, human sacrifices, mystical mind control and a heaping load of superheroes, there is plenty of excitement to be had… which reads more like a Marvel “The Next Big Thing” Event (than a character book that focuses on the chronicles of the Red Hulk.)

Yet there in lies one of this issue’s problems.  Ross and his red alter ego takes a major backseat to the events and the characters that surround him.  Replacing the main Hulk logo with an “Alpha Flight” title might even seem more applicable here.  And while Jeff Parker remains the ultimate weaver of well constructed stories, the way the events leading into this issue’s present day can be uncharacteristically confusing.  In this order… the story contains a flashback, followed by a later flashback, followed by the A-Bomb in real time describing too briefly the events that occurred prior to both flashbacks… all based on an old A-Bomb backup story one may have trouble recalling told back in HULK Issue # 31.  You won’t be alone if you find yourself skipping back a few panels asking yourself “what did I just read?”

Artist Dale Eaglesham is quite a talent. While he seems to alternate back and forth from a properly drawn Rulk (one without eyebrows) to a Red Hulk with scraggily gray hairs above his eyes, the powerful frame he gives the crimson beast is quite delightful and imposing. Dale also gives the Red Hulk a military cut of hair that really suits the Ross alter ego, and looks extremely sharp.

Dale Eaglesham definitely seems to be born to draw Alpha Flight. The way Dale draws these underappreciated characters is outstanding, and he may just well hold the prestigious honor of drawing the best Sasquatch and Puck to ever grace a comic book page. And who could not love the double page splash of this team, accompanied by the Rulk and crew as they ascend upon the mysterious new Canadian Mayan temple?

The unique borders Eaglesham adorns around various panels of this book is spectacular.  They resemble Mayan aged-old hieroglyphics which demand recognition for its sheer creativity, as well as the fascinating cover for this issue.

Sadly however, in an unfortunate move, the solicitation trumpeting the next installment’s cover (issue # 54 hitting stands in two weeks) prematurely revealed this issue’s shocking ending, ultimately dulling the blow of Jeff Parker’s otherwise dramatic and climactic punch.

3.5 out of 5 Stars

A general falls. A red monster rises. Stay tuned.
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That’s all you got?  COME ON!  I’m not that’s green MAN-CHILD you’re used to bullying!” – Rulk

In the one-shot HULK SMASH AVENGERS Issue # 5, the spotlight shines on a villainous Red Hulk in the final installment of a five issue smash fest that celebrates new yet era-inspired “Hulk versus Avengers” tales uniquely told within different timelines of the Marvel Universe.  Designed to take place between the events of the Red Hulk demolishing the new S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier [HULK Issue #2] and the battle between Rulk and the A-Bomb in the desert of Death Valley, Nevada [HULK Issue #3], the story revolves around Iron Man’s belief that uncovering the identity of the crimson giant will be the key to his defeat… and the imprisoned Bruce Banner holds that very key.  And as the mysterious, seemingly unstoppable, crimson Hulk keeps hitting and pilfering S.H.I.E.L.D. installations, Iron Man understands he needs answers… right now.

This issue’s script penned by writer Fred Van Lente portrays a spot-on villainous Red Hulk.  Lente superbly symbiotically captures the quintessential Jeph Loeb Red Hulk… a brash personality that is constituted more of “bad-assed” than “bad”. The story is balanced well, moving back and forth from a suspicious, tense yet restrained conversation between Bruce Banner and Iron Man to a rip-roaring battle between the Red Hulk and the Avengers.

Lente’s writing works in spite of Michael Avon Oeming’s disappointing art. While Oeming is very capable of designing interesting layouts, his caricature drawing ability needs improved structure and polish before achieving a favorable level of his professional skill set.  However, interesting new revelations woven into this story offsets the issue’s shortcoming, especially when we learn that the Red Hulk has been hitting and stealing various goods from S.H.I.E.L.D. and obviously supplying it to the Intellegencia, in an effort to reach their mutual goals.

The only thing frustrating other than the art is precisely fitting this story in the Red Hulk continuity.  The only logical place this addendum can fit is between the Helicarrier attack (where Tony Stark realizes the new Hulk is red) and the battle with A-Bomb (that ruptures the ground unleashing the Banner Hulk from captivity). The problem is both the conclusion of issue #2 and opening of issue #3 suggests Rulk’s rumble with A-Bomb and Iron Man dealing with the Helicarrier wreckage occurs at the same time.  The ability to overlook this error in continuity will be the deciding factor if fans ultimately adopt this one-shot event and integrate it into the timeline of their favorite Red Hulk lore.

2.5 out of 5 Stars 

A general falls. A red monster rises. Stay tuned.  
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RULK PREVIEW : HULK Issue # 53 by Jeff Parker and Dale Eaglesham!

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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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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RULK PREVIEW : Artist and Red Hulk Co-Creator Ed McGuinness returns to drawing Rulk in AVENGERS vs X-MEN : VERSUS # 3!

In AVENGERS vs X-MEN : VERSUS Issue # 3 (which hits comic stands everywhere on June 13th), not only will this AvX battle book feature a bout between the legendary assassin Black Widow and Magik, but will also feature the return of the Red Hulk creator duo… writer Jeph Loeb and artist Ed “Born to Draw Rulk” McGuinness!
Loeb and McGuinness will take on the other title bout on the card, a Colossus versus Thing smash-fest that will feature an appearance by no one other than the Red Hulk himself! 
Check out the preview art:

RULK REVIEW : HULK Issue # 50 by talents Jeff Parker and Carlo Pagulayan!


This is truly an achievement.  When a comic title reaches a 50 issue milestone it is a really big deal.  For over the past twelve months we have seen plenty of casualties in Marvel comics, where other well known title properties struggled to find an audience and ultimately (and rapidly) were met with cancellation.  Alpha Flight was cancelled after 8 issues.  Moon Knight survived only 12. Ghost Rider was axed after 8.  So it is quite an accomplishment for a new character… a Red Hulk title… in a marketplace where even the famous Green Hulk historically struggles with readership longevity to begin with… has flourished, reached and will certainly surpass the 50 issue benchmark.  It’s even more astonishing when one reflects upon the protagonist of this comic is actually a 50-something gray-haired stubborn, arrogant ex-military man who has embraced and cherished the right to bear arms more lovingly than his own flesh and blood.  There is simply no one else like General Ross in comics today, which makes this success a direct testament to the great character Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross himself as much as the great writer Jeff Parker who expertly channels him time and time again.  So once again, this is truly a great achievement… and a medal of legitimacy and success that Red Hulk fans can wear proudly.

Packed with an interview “Catching up with Jeff Parker”, a Red Hulk timeline, a Rogues gallery, a reading chronology and “The Objective” bonus story written by Parker and illustrated by the talented Dan Brereton that fleshes out Ross’s road to the rank of General, the 50th issue of HULK is a stellar book even without the meat and potatoes headliner storyline.  But in the excellent feature story “Haunted Hulk Part One“, the Red Hulk has come to the home of Dr. Strange in dire need of assistance for a problem that is supernatural in nature. It appears after the events of Las Vegas being totally overcome by Hell itself (see the VENOM “Circle Of Four” story arc), some sort of apparition has latched on to Ross and wants to see the Rulk’s demise by any means necessary. And if those means requires unleashing any dead vengeful soul that has died at the hands of Ross (directly or indirectly) so be it.  Will the Red Hulk be able to stop this retribution of the dead before they make him join the dead?

Writer Jeff Parker returns to stellar form in this celebratory issue, masterfully channeling the true essence of classic General Ross.  And how much more classic can you get than the Rulk muttering “I hate magic“… or in response to Dr. Strange’s induced misty seance in attempt to probe key memories from Ross’s mind, the Red Hulk remarks “I knew this would turn into some hippie smoke-up.”   Simply wonderful.

After perfectly setting up the father daughter reunion in the conclusion of issue 48, Jeff Parker also finally treats the readers to a slice of the Thad and Betty reconnection that fans have hungered for, yet was missing from the previous issue.  Parker shines the brightest at these quieter poignant moments, and the tender discussion about Betty’s inheritance of the old Ross family home struck all the right chords.  We can only hope, after shockingly finding out the L.M.D. Annie and Ross are now sleeping together (literally and assuming figuratively), that Parker explores their relationship too and how it reached the next level.  Considering we never saw them even kiss, it would be fascinating to learn the details of their courtship.  It certainly must have been awkward, with Ross naturally struggling with the fact she is a L.M.D. and not human.   And can an L.M.D. feel sexual arousal, let alone love?  Enquiring minds want to know.

Even with all this Red Hulk goodness, the best part of this comic (especially for readers who have been there since Issue #1) was to see the 50th issue come completely full circle and mark the return of the Abomination in spirit form, taking the opportunity to seek revenge for his murder at the hands of the Rulk.  It’s one of those moments where you can feel the adrenaline shoot through your veins, and I only wish the battle (or more precisely torture) the transformed Emil Blonsky began dishing out could have lasted longer than a single page.  Alas, it’s a minor complaint… one that could be compared to wishing you had a little more whipped cream on top of your ice cream sundae, but it’s not enough to forget what a damn good sundae it is.

When it comes to the art, Carlo Pagulayan is a master at drawing both the Banner Hulk and the Red Hulk.  Pagulayan’s art is fantastic across the board, but his ability to capture the sheer power of the Hulks is simply amazing to behold and a true feast for the eyes.  And unlike many other talented artists before him that have drawn the red behemoth, Carlo Pagulayan actually draws the Rulk significantly different.  Not just drawing the Red Hulk trademark pupil-less eyes, the hairless brows and the spiked out hair (which is all important)… but readers can really see Thad’s age in Carlo’s Red Hulk rendition.  You see, facially, Pagulayan draws the Red Hulk tremendously different from the Green Hulk, so much so that you can view his art in black & white and still immediately recognize which Hulk you are looking at.  And who can ask for more than that?  Pagulayan puts so much care and integrity in his work and this character that it is simply a privilege to have him do art duties in this book.

It can not be stressed enough that Pagulayan  also draws a wonderful Red She Hulk… and the emotions he skillfully conveys when she looks back at Ross one more time before leaving him is as powerful as any balloon of dialogue could provide.  Bravo Carlo!

What a great time it is to be a Red Hulk fan!

4.5 out of 5 Stars 

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