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

General Ross

RULK REPORT : General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross turns 50!

Although on the shelves a few months earlier, this past week officially marks the historic benchmark of 50 YEARS since the publishing date of the first issue of the Marvel comic “The Incredible Hulk”.  While the world celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the big green guy (while Marvel released shamefully little to no fanfare for him) , we here at the Red Hulk Blog will recognize another important 50th birthday…. that of the hard assed, red-blooded American military General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross.

In honor of the Thunderbolt’s Birthday, we present you Thad’s very first scene appearance in 1962’s “The Incredible Hulk” Issue #1.

Happy Birthday Ross.  You’re finally getting the respect you deserve.  And as you would say…  “It’s Ding-Dong Well About Time!”

 

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RULK REVIEW : KING-SIZE HULK Issue # 1

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

VARIANT COVERS :


RULK REVIEW : HULK Issue # 44

The Red Hulk fights a Manticore.

Just those six words alone should be enough to sell this issue.  I mean how cool is that?  The Red Hulk fights a MANTICORE! – The legendary mythical beast with a face of a human, a body of a lion, and a tail of a poisonous scorpion!  Of course, it feasts on human blood… and when the giant creature begins its assault on Rulk and The Machine Man in HULK Issue # 44 “Hulk of Arabia Part 3: The Shifting Sands“, we know they’re in for one hell of a fight.  It’s an awe inspiring matchup that leads to a rip-roaring action scene which ends with the Red Hulk oh so satisfyingly tearing off the Manticore’s head.  Yes, I repeat, tearing off his head.  Simply awesome.

With an average writer, an event like this would feel forced, sacrificing the integrity of the story for the sake of the title bout.  Yet here Jeff Parker has given the mythical creature’s purpose and plausibility, likely created not only to guard the hidden city of Sharzhad with force, but to also fuel the superstitious fears of the people loyal to the surrounding opposition… much more effective than any “keep out” sign could provide.  Parker writes some good exchanges here as well, especially between Ross and Arabian Knight (who surprisingly reappears to join Rulk’s and Machine Man’s recon of Dagan Shah’s mysterious land very late in the game).  Ross and Knight defend the predictable sides of their home country’s policies and ideologies, a sore point for both that would result in blows if their intuitive machined companion didn’t continue to intervene.  It’s well thought out dialogue by a writer who really has the gift to channel the essence of the characters he writes.

Artist Patrick Zircher knocks another one out of the park with his fantastic illustrations.  His characters are superiorly drawn (especially the Red Hulk) and you can’t appreciate enough the emotional weight he gives their accompanying faces.  And wow, if someone has previously cornered the market on drawing amazing mythical beasts, Patrick Zircher must now be considered in the running.  His menacing Manticore is a thrill to behold and also adorns one of the best covers of the HULK series to date.  With the wonderful saturated colors of Rachelle Rosenberg, it’s all really fantastic.

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 # 43

Sometimes you just get it right.  Sometimes the stars align and all the pieces of creativity symbiotically fit into place like it was meant to be… resulting in a slice of perfection that is just heavenly to behold.  And that’s exactly what HULK Issue # 43 has with this artist, this colorist, this writer and this storyline.

Hulk of Arabia Part Two” resumes exactly where Part One left off:  Red Hulk fending off an intervention lead by Secret Avengers’ War Machine, Valkyrie & Black Widow.  The assembled heroes are trying to prevent Rulk’s personal war in the name of vengeance for the killing of a soldier… a fellow warrior… ex-Colonel William Krugauer.  They know the thirst of revenge the formal General feels can voluntarily blind one to the global tension an unsanctioned attack can create, which is why Steve Rogers orders and supervises the counterattack to stop Ross’ personal vendetta before it’s too late.  Provided a self serving opportunity to assess his unknown enemy (Dagan Shah), Rulk sees the interruption as strategically sound and agrees to temporarily cease his attack and meet with the Avengers (and local hero Arabian Knight) to gather as much intel as he possibly can before resuming his attack…. sanctioned or not.

The pure excellence of writer Jeff Parker has not shined brighter than in this amazing work, the “Hulk of Arabia” story arc.  The way Parker masterfully interjects the Red Hulk into today’s political hotbed that is the Middle East and saturates the event with all the realities of the hyper-sensitive fear of ramification that surround it, is outstanding.  It all feels real and resonates with a low underlying tension like an unrelenting pulse… suffering from a dangerously high blood-pressure.  Parker continues to understand and exploit the appeal of Red Hulk like no other, superbly stressing that the arrogance and self-righteousness that swells in Ross had multiplied tenfold upon gaining his new found crimson powers, superseding all respect for that ol’ chain of command he followed so religiously (to what benefit?). And just when you think it can’t get any better, Parker enters a new character into the fold.  Machine Man!

 

When Parker’s brilliance is equally matched with artistic brilliance, it’s time to revel in all the goodness with the realization you have one hell of a comic book in your hand.  Patrick Zircher’s art is glorious.  His characters are stunningly drawn.. and with such a flare of realism that fits superbly with very realistic story such as this.  The angles and perspective he chooses are elaborately intense… while his character poses are so extremely dynamic yet perfectly formed (a testament to his craft and his ability to properly keep the human anatomy proportioned, no matter where the point of view.)  What about his layouts?  Zircher is the King of Layouts… which are cinematic and exciting.  And while many colorists have been guilty of diminishing great artwork (Hulk #22 – #24 anyone?), the talents of Rachelle Rosenberg have proven to be an excellent compliment to Patrick’s work.

 

If you haven’t picked up this issue, do so now.  This is truly great work.

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

RULK REVIEW : HULK Issue # 6

HULK Issue # 6 It was the legendary Albert Einstein who coined the phrase that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.   Yet it’s apparent that in writer Jeph Loeb’s universe, this principal does not exist… maybe a display of temporary insanity on Loeb’s part while drafting “Blood Red” HULK Issue #6.   Unfortunately, Rulk’s first story-arc “Red Hulk” ends on a weaker note because of it.

 

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. 

Hulk versus Rulk, Round Two

Hulk versus Rulk, Round Two

 

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 worse, you failed yourself"

“…and worse, you failed yourself”

 

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

 

VARIANT COVERS:


 

HULK Issue # 6 Variant Cover A HULK Issue # 6 Variant Cover B

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