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

Annie

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 REVIEW : HULK Issue # 48

Jacob once had a dream… a dream now replaced with a living nightmare.

The horribly burned and disfigured Jacob, assistant to the formerly brilliant and beautiful project leader Parul Kurinji, once fantasized spending a romantic life with Parul.  But in the fantastic, action-packed HULK Issue # 48, Jacob never could have imagined the macabre reality that would come to pass, ever since Parul changed into the threat to humanity known as Zero/One.  Her creations… twisted acts against nature like horrific aquatic beasts, reanimated corpses and a juiced serial killer… were all manifested to extinguish lives for the woman he once loved.  It had to stop before it was too late.  So Jacob risks everything to bring Ross and his team the data needed to finally stop Zero/One.

Writer Jeff Parker continues to be on fire, this time delivering a spectacular thrill ride in Part Two of the  “Red Sky At Morning” story-arc .  In contrast to the final confrontation of the “Hulk of Arabia” climax between the Red Hulk and Dagan Shah that left a feeling of unquenched satisfaction, Rulk’s pulse pounding assault on Zero/One’s base (with the help of the Red She Hulk and Machine Man) ends with such gratifying results that it feels like the battle has been won… regardless if one eye must still remain perpetually fixed on the war.

Zero/One’s demise would have not been possible without the efforts of Jacob.  Her reluctant and terrified assistant that has seen enough horror to push him into the fray of insanity, became not just a victim… but a savior… quite possibly for the entire human race.  And Parker fleshes out his ironic circumstance so masterfully, it feels deeply tragic when it becomes evident that Jacob may never be able to escape the devastating fate that has befallen him.  Ever.

While it would have been icing on Parker’s oh so delicious cake to witness the Red Hulk’s thunderous blows successfully sink the synthetic island of vessels down to the ocean floor… as well as relish in Zero/One’s betrayer not holding back and watching him actually stick it to her… this hearty dish was simply a feast for the senses and concludes Jeff Parker’s most gratifying story-arc yet!

 With the artistic talents of Elena Casagrande and Rachelle Rosenberg on the job, there is some serious Girl Power in this issue, which is fitting for a story filled with such powerful women.  Where the drawing is concerned, it seems the work and ability to dazzle the readers by the best Zero/One artist hands down Elena Casagrande increases with every panel.  From her eye catching unique aquatic beasts to her downright impressive sinister Black Fog, and her uncanny ability to draw a natural female form to a robust Red Hulk that keeps on getting better and better, Casagrande’s delightful imagery has developed into a wonderful unique style.

 Now with coloring, unfortunately a colorist can sometimes have a thankless job.  But if anyone is deserving recognition in this department it’s the beautiful work by Rachelle Rosenberg.  Talking about it doesn’t do it justice. Let’s let some of her wonderful brilliance in coloring speak for itself. Take a look:

 

I would love to see this creative team work full time together.  This is an excellent, excellent comic.

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 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 REPRINT : HULK Issue # 42 Review

HULK Issue # 42Back on August 13th, 2011 I posted an advance review of HULK Issue # 42 “Hulk of Arabia Part One”.  Considering this terrific issue finally hit comic book shelves this past Wednesday, I felt this post was deserving of a second printing.  At the bottom of the review I also added the variant cover, and some results of the beautiful coloring work by Rachelle Rosenberg. 
 
Other than a few minor detail complaints… (the Rulk should be drawn without eyebrows)…  (Rulk’s eyes shouldn’t appear white in some panels, only yellow)… I am extremely pleased with this new creative team!  And it’s terrific to see the Red Hulk back in action with an artist who knows how to draw action. 

Here’s the review: 

 

Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of being able to read the 42nd issue of the HULK comic series “Hulk of Arabia Part One“.   Due to hit comic stands October 5th, advanced copies in the form of an ashcan became available via this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego.   Smaller than a traditional comic with only black & white interior art, this marketing tool was distributed to a select few and I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy.   What I found is the best Jeff Parker HULK issue to date.

General Fortean is out hunting Rulk again and it is not surprising that Ross is finally losing his patience with him.   At any time the Red Hulk can put Fortean out of commission permanently, yet he still pulls his punches, out of compassion for the obsessed General that so mirrors his formal self.   Yet, that compassion is slipping because his former comrade doesn’t let up.   Then, suddenly, General Fortean lets up.   He not only backs off… he retreats.   Rulk ponders “he’s not one to retreat in battle“.

Are we done here General?

Are we done here General?

 

It’s not long before Annie, his life model decoy companion, calls the Red Hulk back to base camp with some news to report.   General Fortean received a transmission that an ex-Colonel, current mercenary Will Krugauer was killed in the Middle East.   Fortunately the transmission doesn’t concern Ross, Annie concludes. Ross responds “It concerns me“.   Krugauer was his friend, and after gathering some intel, the Rulk abruptly leaves to enact revenge on the army who killed him.   Annie can’t stop Ross and fears the worst.   She has no choice but to put a call through to Steve Rogers… “This is exactly what he’s always feared would happen.”  
 

Rulk seeks revenge

Rulk seeks revenge

 

Writer Jeff Parker masterfully strikes all the right chords with “Hulk of Arabia Part One“, a tale of good but flawed intentions, a tale of revenge and regret.   Parker understands and utilizes that it’s the General’s brash and arrogant selfish actions (which keeps him on the outside of the hero community looking in) that makes red giant so compelling.   Just when you think you can trust the Red Hulk, you can’t, and Captain America is forced to send in the Secret Avengers to stop him.

Learning that artist Gabriel Hardman’s last days of drawing the Rulk are approaching won’t be troublesome one bit with Patrick Zircher on the job.   His superior art in this issue results in one fantastically drawn Red Hulk and associated characters.   The art is so well done that part of me wishes this book would stay in black and white, in fear that the coloring would diminish Zircher’s beautiful work.   His use of silohettes are terrific and his action scenes are outstanding, especially the panels drawn in the Red Hulk’s perspective… like when his fists smash the Earth under some soldiers feet sending them flying into the air.

Parker’s and Zircher’s work combined has resulted in a perfect issue.   Can’t wait for Part Two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

 

HULK Issue # 42 Variant Cover

HULK Issue # 42 Variant Cover

ESSENTIAL RULK : Review of HULK Issue # 41

HULK Issue # 41HULK Issue 41 “Omegex 3: Finality” marks the last issue of artist Gabriel Hardman’s run as the penciler on this series.   While he’s incredibly gifted with a classic pulpy style, my relationship with Hardman’s work has been strained at best, specifically when it comes to his incarnation of the Red Hulk.   Drawing him with a stocky, swollen looking frame with a face often greatly lacking in detail, Hardman’s Rulk often looked like one of those giant helium balloons you’d find in a Thanksgiving Day Parade down the streets of New York versus the powerful visual feast past artists have accustomed (maybe even spoiled) fans to.

 

But as the Red Hulk is about to meet his demise at the hands of the cosmic Omegex, this issue reveals it has really nothing to do with the Red Giant and everything to do with the man… Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross. So it’s fitting that Hardman’s swan song is an issue that allows him to draw what he draws best: Humans. Unequivocally, Gabriel Hardman draws a wonderful General Ross.   It’s a fantastic artistic rendition, drawn full of heart. 

Ross and Annie

Ross and Annie

 

And Ross is the heart of this issue, the centerpiece of a superbly crafted story written by Jeff Parker that explores the emotional underpinnings of the man within the beast.   As Essential Rulk Issue #23 “Who is the Red Hulk?” masterfully chronicled the life changing events that drove a man down the road to become a monster, this gem of an issue works as a companion piece that explores how the boy became this man.   The results are sad, even poetically tragic, that will spur sympathy towards the long misunderstood hard ass General. 

We finally learn what happens to that mustache!

We finally learn what happens to that mustache!

 

This is a tale that is most difficult to relive by Ross himself, who can no longer hide within his forever cold and hardened shell.   Buried memories so easily exposed by the advanced being Zero-One haunts Thaddeus, yet he proceeds because he realizes all of humanity.. not just his repressed emotional safety.. may be on the line.   So he tries to win Zero-One over for us, knowing he won’t win against the Omegex just like any other challenge he’s faced.   As Zero-One puts it to the Red Hulk… “This is all cyclical. cyclical loss.   You lose to the hulk.   You lose your daughter to him.   Year after year, you lose.”   But thanks to Parker, issue after issue, the readers win.   This one’s essential.   Pick it up.

 

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


RULK REVIEW : HULK Issue # 40

HULK Issue # 40

In HULK Issue #40 “Omegex: Part Two“, writer Jeff Parker spins an unexpectedly interesting tale.   The battle between the two incredible titans Red Hulk and Omegex trumpeted on the cover are never in the forefront, but daringly become the backdrop to something a hundred times more subtle.   All the focus rests on the Red Hulk’s enemy Zero-One and her struggle with her own identity, hinged on finding the answer to a single question that has eluded her purely logical mind:   Was her humanity worth losing?

 

Zero-One’s appearance comes at a time when the Rulk is in grave danger of losing his life.   Onlookers Annie and the Watcher Uravo know it, General Fortean (who joins in on the Omegex’s beat down of the Red Hulk) knows it, and even Ross knows it.   At the hands of the “walking apocalypse“, this may be the Red Hulk’s last stand.   But to understand herself, Zero-One feels she needs to understand the Rulk.   Both her and Ross have clearly evolved to greater beings. Yet, after effectively eliminating all their imperfections, why does the Red Hulk refrain from using his cosmic absorption powers in fear of losing his frail former humanoid self?   Why does he value the weaker state of being?   Why does he value humanity?   This does not compute with Zero-One, so she temporarily pulls Ross out of battle to comprehend his illogical ways.

Omegex has the upper hand

Omegex has the upper hand

 

It’s hard not to admire the risky, yet exceptional story writer Jeff Parker has written in these pages of HULK.   Zero-One’s attempt at comprehending the value of humanity and all its frailties is a tale that feels worthy of a classic Star Trek episode, at its refreshingly best.   Will all fans of the Red Hulk enjoy this type of story? I’m not sure… but it’s brave… and it would be difficult to imagine anyone not feeling moved when the Red Hulk pleads with Zero-One to be released back into battle to save his fallen former friend, while knowing the tremendous price he will pay for it.   And how cool was it finally understand Zero-One’s presence at the Ross family farm in the opening of the previous issue?    Bravo Jeff.

When it comes to the art, this issue highlights artist Gabriel Hardman’s biggest weakness.   While he’s a terrific talent, and his panel layout is creative, battle scenes are just not Hardman’s specialty and it clearly shows. His expertise is definitely more suited for the quieter moments and just doesn’t give the monsters nor their carnage the power they deserve.   It’s like a great pair of shoes that… while they’re extremely well made… just doesn’t quite match the outfit.

 

4 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 # 39

HULK Issue # 39In HULK Issue #39 “The Stand-In“, General Thaddeus Ross revisits his past… and shows a side of humanity rarely seen by the man as rigid as the military code of conduct he has so long lived by.
 
It’s all spurred on by the need of finding a new safe base camp, one that his growing arsenal of enemies (M.O.D.O.K., General Fortean, Zero-One, Black Fog) are completely unaware of.   The Red Hulk’s answer to that need is finding refuge in his childhood home, a now rundown and abandoned farm.   As one would expect, upon his arrival, old memories flood the General’s thoughts.   He feels compelled to share, something Annie (his only friend) is more than willing to embrace.   Ross’ tender reminiscing ends abruptly though when the all-powerful cosmic Omegex finally catches up with the Red Hulk and attempts to annihilate the crimson giant once and for all.  
 
Enter the Omegex

Enter the Omegex
 
Writer Jeff Parker delightfully pens a story full of charm as Ross strolls down memory lane.   It’s touching to see the L.M.D. Annie so eager to listen to the tales of a man she is essentially programmed to accompany.   They are clearly fond of each other… Annie so pleased to watch Ross finally enjoying himself… and Ross so apologetic for going on so much about his deceased wife… something one would typically do in concern of offending a new girlfriend.   Is their bond only friendship?   Or is their budding relationship developing into something more?   It’s all a joy to watch unfold.
 
There are some quibbles one could make regarding the logic of the story.   Why would Ross, being so concerned with hiding his identity in an effort to keep his great military record untarnished, select the family Ross home as a hideout?   Isn’t that a place that can easily expose his identity if discovered hiding there?   And the Omegex (who surprisingly doesn’t seem that far removed from a common enemy or deserving of the “walking apocalypse” readers were excitingly teased with) why would the cosmic killer be wasting valuable time hiding is his barn waiting to sneak attack?   Would such a destructive beast concern itself with the element of surprise and wait in the shadows (a tactic more suitable for the likes of Black Fog) after blatantly looking for the Rulk out in the open months before?   Wouldn’t such a creation lock in on his target and drive menacingly forward until grasped?
 
Those problematic details aside, Jeff Parker still more than delivers a great issue as well does artist Gabriel Hardman.  While I’m not a fan of his Red Hulk interpretation, everything else (especially the environment) is drawn extremely well. Hardman’s art always has a classic style that fits very well in an issue filled with flashbacks of our favorite General.
 

4 out of 5 Stars 

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