What started out strong as a classic “whodunit” tale and transformed into an even stronger “who’s next” thriller, Loeb finishes the arc in a somewhat anticlimactic, head-scratcher sort of way. In the previous issues #4 and #5, we witnessed an all powerful, unstoppable Red Hulk that was capable of (and executed) the defeats of both the Incredible Hulk and the all mighty Thor. What was most fascinating was the Rulk didn’t just overcome his opponents… he dominated them.. and conquered these titans with the simplest of ease. What would decimate the most common enemy, Thor’s repeated blows of his mighty hammer fell upon the Red Hulk with the impact of a mere nuisance versus the destructive force one would expect from the Thunder God. And Rulk’s ability to overcome the Banner Hulk so quickly and break the arm of the atomic powered beast was equally jaw dropping and impressive.
Yet, in issue #6, not long after defeating the son of Odin, both Thor and Hulk come looking for some payback… certain to be a second helping of another Red Hulk beat down right? Wrong. Thor attacks the Red Monster with the same strategy as before, yet somehow achieves a different result. Suddenly, without any reasonable explanation from Loeb, the Rulk is no longer trouble for Thor regardless of the cosmic powered absorption ability that gives him quite the edge. Inexplicably “nerfed“, Thor gets devastatingly close to causing the Red Hulk’s demise until the Green Hulk gets in his way.
“Unbelievable.” Rulk confesses to Hulk. “I’m big enough to admit that Thor had me on the ropes .. and in your stupidity, you may have just spared my life. ”
It doesn’t make sense. At least when the big green conquers the big red in his rematch, there is some reasoning applied to the different outcome: Hulk recognizes the Red Hulk is much like a radioactive core that can overheat with time, and uses that to his advantage. But the hits the Hulk takes while waiting for Red to reach that boiling point are now much more ineffective. Unfortunately, it would have been more logical (and gratifying) to simply see Thor and Hulk work together to bring the Red Hulk down. Gratifying indeed.
Sweeping those frustrating gaps of logic aside, the plot does enjoyably thicken as we finally learn the mysterious Red Hulk is not working alone. After the crimson giant’s defeat, both General Ross and Leonard Samson surface showing their displeasure with Rulk’s lack of progress. They also stunningly reveal to have a hand in Red’s creation. “We gave you everything you needed to destroy the green monster. Everything. Still you failed.” Intriguing.
And there is no faltering in the artwork of Ed ‘Born to draw Rulk’ McGuinness. While I don’t feel this issue is among his best work, his art remains a joy to behold. His consistency in maintaining such a high level of quality is simply tremendous. I just wish this story arc’s conclusion matched that quality.
2.5 out of 5 Stars
A general falls. A red monster rises. Stay tuned.
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