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

Carlo Pagulayan

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


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

*CONTAINS SPOILERS*

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

 VARIANT COVERS:


RULK PREVIEW : HULK Issue 50 by Jeff Parker and Carlo Pagulayan!

Courtesy of Newsarama.com


RULK PREVIEW : A Closer Look at the amazing art of Carlo Pagulayan coming in HULK ISSUE # 50!

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RULK REVIEW : HULK Issue # 47

Where IS HE??  Come on out, old man!  I KNOW this is where you stay!  Come out and face ME!” – Red She Hulk

What a fantastic read.  In HULK Issue #47 “Red Sky at Morning“, the Life Model Decoys stationed at Gamma Base : Death Valley, Nevada pick up a signal that indicates there’s an incoming Hulk on his way back to base.  “About time!” Annie rejoices with almost giddy excitement. “Let’s go welcome back our Hulk” But as she surfaces to greet her incredibly missed, favorite Big Red guy, the Red She Hulk is the what she finds… demanding that her father shows his face… or else!

Writer Jeff Parker pens an outstanding reunion between the estranged father and daughter Ross, who haven’t seen each other since the events of “World War Hulks” one year ago.  It’s fascinating to see them interact while adjusting to their still relatively new transformations… something Thaddeus clearly has a better handle on.  And when the Red She Hulk violently runs from Ross (or rather runs from her emotions), it’s incredibly touching to watch her secretly return and hide near his presence… not in an eruption of battle… but seemingly compelled just to be close to her Dad.

Annie is charming as ever.  Between her excitement to welcome Ross home and her intuition and understanding of exactly what makes Ross happy is a pure delight.  From not forcing Ross to dwell on the “touchy-feely stuff” to allowing Ross to finally be the captain of the ship, it’s these little moments that somehow become the biggest… and shines a spotlight on how Jeff Parker is truly gifted at making these characters feel real, like flesh & blood.  He makes you care so much… and what is a better compliment than that?  Add the return of the refreshingly now more menacing Zero/One, her intriguing Lab 7, and what she is doing to every ship that crosses her path (which is so cool) and there’s no debate:  Jeff has outdone himself!

After reading this issue, who wouldn’t become an official fan of artist Elena Casagrande.  While previously impressive with her rendition of M.O.D.O.K. in her earlier contributions to HULK, her talents shine extremely bright in this issue.  Elena is extremely gifted in drawing women in a very natural way.  And she excels in facial expressions so well.. whether it’s anticipation, anger or joy.. you can tell what every character is feeling before reading a single word of dialogue.  Plus she is now the creator of my favorite rendition of Zero/One.  And after Patrick Zircher’s artistic run, Casagrande has returned the Red Hulk to his true form:  Eyebrow-less.

 

 

Finally, a special nod must be given to artist Carlo Pagulayan for his amazing cover of this issue.  It’s a stunning eye-catcher, that enjoyably incorporates the HULK logo into the scene’s action.  It may just be the best HULK cover yet!  Bravo!

Buy this Issue and read it at least twice!

5 out of 5 Stars 

-A.J. 

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

Follow the RED HULK BLOG on Twitter @ RedHulkBlog


RULK REPORT : CBR recommends HULK # 47 as a great jumping on point!

Not only did Comic Book Resources give the latest issue of Jeff Parker’s HULK a glowing review recently, but they also recommended HULK Issue # 47 as a great jumping on point!  Here are the highlights:

“This book is consistently a treat. Jeff Parker not only delivers fun, adventure-filled stories with believable characters, but he finds a voice for every character and, every single time, it’s the right voice. The string of issues that Parker has delivered is the longest I’ve read any Hulk title. While Parker has been crafting a continuous story all the way through that run, he’s accomplished enough to make every issue a decent spot for newer readers. This issue is more than simply a decent entry point: it’s the best spot since “Hulk” #42. The story is just going to continue to ramp up from here, so you may as well give it a go right now”

Click on the link to read the entire review : http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=user_review&id=4330

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