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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