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

Abomination

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 : 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 :


ESSENTIAL RULK : Review of HULK Issue # 1

HULK Issue # 1‘’If you hadn’t acted so irrationally we wouldn’t be in this situation” – General Ross

“Don’t be ridiculous Ross.   This isn’t about me.   This is about you General.” – Doc Samson 

 
No one knew how telling those words would be, when HULK Issue #1 hit comic stands across the world with a mysterious, daunting, new symbol of unbridled power and rage on its cover:    A roaring, fiendish, electric devil of a beast, fearsome and magnificent to behold.   It was a different Hulk.   It was a new Hulk.   And he was red.    The Red Hulk was nowhere to be found in the pages of the premiere issue of the HULK, but the cover was so profound…   he didn’t need to be.   What was shockingly found was the corpse of an evil, well known nemesis of the Hulk.

The body of Emil Blonsky, the Abomination, was discovered dead in a rural part of Russia.   Savagely brutalized, chunks of flesh missing from his head and chest, the carcass of the monster was sprawled disturbingly on the ground.   And surrounding Abomination’s lifeless body was an array of aggressive, oversized footprints hot with gamma radiation.   Surveying this grim scene, there could only be one logical conclusion: The Incredible Hulk murdered the Abomination. 

Yet, there was one glaring problem with that theory.   Bruce Banner was currently imprisoned in a S.H.I.E.L.D maximum security cell with no possible way to escape.   How could it have been him?   It also became quickly obvious to the investigative team led by Doc Samson that this killing was not your ordinary Hulk ‘beat down’, a furious rage that perhaps went too far.   This attack on Abomination was very different.   Very calculated.   And it looked like revenge.   ‘’This was punishment” Samson assessed.   A very different kind of Hulk was among them now.      
 
 

Bruce in Captivity

Bruce in Captivity

 

HULK Issue #1 exploded onto the comic scene in January of 2008, intriguing readers around the world with the question… ”Who was the Red Hulk?”.   Combining the magnificent cover and interior art of Ed ‘born to draw Rulk’ McGuinness and a solid whodunit story by Jeph Loeb, the debut of the rip-roaring Red Hulk catapulted to the top of the sales charts, ranking #1 as the best selling comic book of its month.   It was a huge success for Marvel and a landmark issue that gave birth to a new Marvel legend… a legend who’s appeal has still not waivered.  Even after three and a half years since its debut, the Red Hulk comics continue to outsell the Green Hulk comics to this day and has built up quite an arsenal of books, posters, video game appearances, action figures, statues, t-shirts and other collectables all in his image. 

History had been made.   A new major character had joined the best of the Marvel Universe lore and he was here to stay.   The Red Hulk cometh… and this was the issue that started it all.   It’s a ”must have”.  

4 out of 5 Stars 

-A.J. 

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


 VARIANT COVERS:

HULK Issue # 1 Variant A

HULK Issue # 1 Variant BHULK Issue # 1 Variant C
 
HULK Issue # 1 Variant DHULK Issue # 1 Variant EHULK Issue # 1 Variant F 2nd Printing
 
HULK Issue # 1 Variant G Marvel's Greatest Comics Edition