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

Machine Man

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 

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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 REVIEW : HULK Issue # 46

This is it.  This is the final battle between Red Hulk and the all-powerful Sultan Magus, ruler of the mysterious city of Sharzhad and the man indirectly responsible for the demise of ex-Colonel William Krueger.

When the confrontation begins, the Sultan clearly has the upper hand, empowered by being in close proximity to the alien technology that transformed him from the rebel Dagan Shah into the unstoppable titan of the Middle East.  But as the battle rages on, the Red Hulk eventually has his enemy on the ropes and is one breath away from putting Magus out of commission… permanently.  Then, suddenly, the magic carpet is pulled out from underneath him.

In HULK Issue # 46, writer Jeff Parker writes a frustratingly good conclusion to his “Hulk of Arabia” story-arc.  It’s satisfying to see the end of the Sultan’s rise of power within the Rulk’s grasp, yet frustrating that he can’t squeeze the life out of it, especially when it doesn’t require a fortune teller to foresee the city of Sharzhad will not stand quietly.. but will likely cause terror in one form or another for years to come.  But sometimes, things just don’t end clean and that’s reality… and Jeff Parker’s point.  At least readers get to relish in the devastating blow the Arabian Knight deals to the Sultan Magus, albeit brief.  Either way Parker does a bang up job here, and will make it that much more pleasureable when Red finally is able to pluck one of the thorns from his side (M.O.D.O.K., Zero/One, Black Fog, Sultan Magus) and be able to deliver that gratifying knockout punch.

It’s been such an enjoyable feast for the eyes ever since illustrator Patrick Zircher took over the art for this book.  Paired with the unique coloring of Rachelle Rosenberg , the realism Zircher puts in each and every character has been a grand dose of brilliance, perfectly matched with Parker’s very mature storyline.  As other artists take over the next few chapters of the HULK book, Zircher’s work will certainly be remembered by Red Hulk fans everywhere with the utmost delight… and as the best artist to grace this series’ pages since Ed McGuinness.

 Thanks Patrick.  Amazing work.

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 # 45

“Can’t even show some mercy for your own kind, huh?” – Rulk

Everything you say betrays you as American.  He (Arabian Knight) is Afghani.  I am from this region.” – Dagan Shah.

In HULK Issue # 45 “Hulk of Arabia Part Four”, the captured Red Hulk and Machine Man finally get to confront Dagan Shah, the man Ross holds responsible for the death of the ex-Colonel William Krugauer.   As a result of Shah being able to interrogate simply by reading one’s memories, their confrontation  doesn’t last very long.  And once the enemy is pulled away to demonstrate his might in a mideastern conference, Rulk and Machine Man free themselves and uncover the secret how rebel Dagan Shah became the all powerful Sultan Magus of the mysterious city of Sharzhad.

Writer Jeff Parker works overtime on this issue setting up quite an elaborate and intriguing story explaining where Dagan Shah’s power originated from, that literally spans thousands of years.  It’s a sophisticated and intelligent read that caters to an audience that can appreciate thought provoking intricate tales as much as the pure reveling in the action and smashing by our favorite red behemoth.  Of course, Parker is at his best when he effectively balances both in a single issue, but this is still a pleasure to read.

Dagan Shah probes the Red Hulk’s memories

Parker is on mark with the dialogue as usual.  It’s enjoyable to experience Rulk make a sweeping “you people” generalization to Dagan Shah suggesting that everyone from the Middle East is the same, no matter what their region of birth… which is what one would expect come out of the mouth of the red-blooded American General Thaddeus Ross.   Red’s exchange with Machine Man was also thought provoking, especially when Ross was extremely interested with the mechanical hero’s ability to dream.  “You seem inordinately interested in the mind of androids” Machine Man commented.  Ross’ excessive interest comes across as a subtle suggestion that the Red Hulk is actually trying to learn more about his companion L.M.D. Annie rather than androids in general, someone which (he’d deny) he has developed feelings for.

It can’t be stressed enough that the artwork of Patrick Zircher’s is wonderful in this issue.  Once again his characters are realistically well drawn, and the points of view he selects are thrilling and a testament to his talents in perspective.  Zircher’s layouts are very interesting here too.  In the pages that feature the history of the alien technology, his use of circles and other geometric shapes are really quite unique and reek of creativity.  What a pleasure.

A hat must also be tipped to colorist Rachelle Rosenberg.  This couldn’t have been an easy issue to color, with hardly a precedent to follow in the deep alien underground of Sharzhad.  Usually joyfully saturated, she made some very interesting fading artistic choices and uses of glare that gives the issue a very unique, rewarding look.  Only the cover appears off… which just might be that shade of green.

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 # 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