It’s been my experience that Giant Size issues (or in this case King-Size issues) are more often miss than hit. Rather than getting a worthy addendum to a character’s current story arc, readers were too often “treated” to pointless new shorts that felt like useless filler surrounded by a sea of reprinted stories… leaving one at best unsatisfied and at worst with a feeling that the reader has just been “had” by a publisher’s money grab. Fortunately, for Red Hulk fans, this is neither.
Beyond the classic comic reprints including the overplayed first appearance of Wolverine with the legendary villain Wendigo, KING SIZE HULK Issue # 1 features three new stories written by Jeph Loeb, two that are very good reads which actually flesh out the first half of the Red Hulk story arc.
It begins with “Where Monsters Dwell” drawn by the one of best artists in the business: Arthur Adams. Six miles beneath the surface in a gamma base reinforced cell, Bruce Banner is drafting a report on a dossier S.H.I.E.L.D. asked him to review. They have been tracking a mysterious new Hulk… a Red Hulk… heading west through Canada on his way to Russia. No one knows at that point he was on a path to murder Emil Blonsky a.k.a. the Abomination, but Red ran into some trouble along the way in the form of a Wendigo and apparently there is more than one. So Banner hypothesizes what happened that lone night with the details and evidence that was provided to him.
If any penciler could match Red Hulk’s sheer power conveyed by artist Ed McGuinness, it would likely be Arthur Adams. The over abundant muscled frame he creates joyfully oozes a raw power few talents can match. You can almost feel the Rulk’s core radioactivity simmer off the page.
Jeph Loeb finishes the tale at the offices of General Thaddeus Ross. Sitting at his desk, Ross finishes Banner’s analysis by reading a postscript that seemingly is a heavily nuanced warning to the General himself. It’s very well done.
The second story is the weakest of the three. “Wait until dark” explores what happened to She-Hulk between the moment she was ripped from the bridge of the Helicarrier by the Red Hulk until she was thrown back at Iron Man’s feet in a state of unconsciousness (in the beginning of HULK Issue #2). The problem is not with the story selection, but with Jeph Loeb’s odd need to interject an overdose of humor in She-Hulk’s narration of the event. I know a witty sense of humor is not out of place with her character, but it feels severely out of place here. All the appropriate fear and emotional impact in recounting the crimson hulk state he could kill the She-Hulk at any time, and her realization he was truly capable of that feat, is immediately dulled by the attempt at humorous narration. Like when the Red Hulk makes this threat while pressing close and choking the life out of She Hulk, we read her comment “I wanted so badly to make a joke, like “worst breath, ever”.
Artist Frank Cho does a serviceable job in this story. He is truly gifted at drawing a sexy female form, but many of She-Hulk’s erotic poses he draws feel forced. Often a loss of subtlety is interpreted by some as gratuitous, but his gifts (and hers) show never the less. Unfortunately Cho’s Interpretation of the Rulk is less inspiring. Undoubtedly it’s well drawn, but his Red Hulk looks less like a Hulk and more like a linebacker who plays professional football.
In Loeb’s third and final entry “The Death and Life of the Abomination”, we return to the lonely underground cell of Bruce Banner for a quieter, more poignant moment. On the edge of his bed, Bruce sits and reads an analysis that was drafted by his nemesis, General Thaddeus Ross. Ross was asked to render this opinion as an envoy of S.H.I.E.L.D. on the brutal murder of Abomination. Under the premise that the more one understands a person’s life… the more one will understand their death… Ross delves into the life of the Abomination, the monster that murdered his daughter, his one and only child.
Understanding that he never lets a weakness (a.k.a. his true emotions) show, Ross and his cold and guarded analysis actually makes his words that much more touching because of it. And unbeknown to the cold and war hardened father, the writer General actually shares a tender moment a thousand miles away with the reader Bruce.. the only other man his daughter ever loved. It’s all a credit to Jeph Loeb, who teams up with the legendary classic artist Herb Trimpe who returns to drawing the Hulk after fifteen years.
Anyone who felt the Red Hulk’s first story-arc was lacking depth and needed a little more emotional resonance, should be pleased with what they find here. This collection is not a complete delight, but contains enough enjoyable addendums to warrant a read.
3.5 out of 5 Stars
A general falls. A red monster rises. Stay tuned.
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