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

Zero-One

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

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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


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 


RULK REVIEW : HULK Issue # 38

HULK Issue # 38

Manhattan is going down.   As waves of Sin’s invasion army push through the city leaving complete utter devastation in its wake, the massive forces of evil drive forward to finish what the Worthy Thing has started.   The Red Hulk failed to stop them… the Avengers Tower has been destroyed… and it’s estimated that the city will fall in 2.3 hours.   Then all of it will be gone.   All of it.
 

No. It. Will… NOT!!!!” M.O.D.O.K screams as he stands his ground and creates a frontline!   “All Life Model Decoys!   Report to my location with PLASMA RIFLES! And Discharge ZZZAX!!

It is simply thrilling to see the new M.O.D.O.K. finally get a hell yeah moment in HULK Issue #38 “Planet of Fear Part Two“.   Writer Jeff Parker enjoyably has our favorite mental organism designed only for killing taking names and kicking ass, saving New York and its citizens in the process.   His deeds are justified (of course) by concluding that no one should conquer the world but he and no one should kill the Rulk but he, which is why M.O.D.O.K stops Zero/One’s assassin Black Fog from dealing a final death blow to a vulnerable Red Hulk moments before.   But for whatever the reasons, his actions are ultimately heroic and his come and get some attitude is just plain infectious and so much fun.   By the way, the new M.O.D.O.K digs chicks now too.   After sharing a quite logical mind merge with Zero/One and coming to the realization that it was his evil actions that created her, the large headed villain becomes quite infatuated with his shapely counterpart.   “I think I’m in love“.   A new M.O.D.O.K. indeed.

M.O.D.O.K. saves the Red Hulk

M.O.D.O.K. saves the Red Hulk

 

Where the previous issue felt like filler and manufactured, designed to lure new readers following the Fear Itself Marvel cross-over event into the fold of the Red Hulk saga, Jeff Parker manages the second tie-in to continue his terrific story and actually benefit from it.   Waving away my previous complaints, Fear Itself no longer felt forced upon this series, rather just woven and symbiotic, something that is hardly achieved in cross-overs like this.

Parker’s great work is complimented by the artistic talent of Elena Casagrande.   While her renditions of the Red Hulk leave much to be desired, Casagrande seems she was born to draw the new M.O.D.O.K.   And considering the killing organism was the centerpiece of this issue, she was definitely in her element of excellence.

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 # 37

HULK Issue # 37Cross-over tie-ins have one ultimate purpose: to boost sales. Marvel creates universe event after universe event in an effort to encourage readers to buy comic titles that they wouldn’t usually purchase, in order to grasp the entire, often cataclysmic unfolding story. With any luck, a new reader will find the added title so interesting that they will continue to pick up the book, long after the cross-over event has ended. You’ll be hard pressed to find a comic more blatantly obvious in serving this purpose than HULK Issue #37 “Planet of Fear Part One“. 
 
 

Thinly disguised as a new story, the recap of the entire recent history of the Red Hulk is mostly told through the words of the villainous M.O.D.O.K., who comes to the obvious (and conveniently timed) conclusion that knowing your enemy is the key to defeating your enemy. So what do we learn in this book? General Ross was so obsessed with destroying the Hulk he conspired with M.O.D.O.K. to become one? Check. Banner ultimately stopped the Rulk and now he works with the Avengers towards redemption? Check. Ross feels isolated? He cares deeply for the female LMD Annie? He’s worried if he continues to absorb the power of his enemies, he’ll never be able to return to his human form? Check. Check. Check. Writer Jeff Parker covers every aspect of the Rulk’s past so well that new readers will feel “up to speed” and in great shape to stick with the HULK comic long after the conclusion of “Fear Itself“. With the great lack of new material, the already loyal Red Hulk fans are the only ones who will feel slighted here.  
 

"I expect you would not"

“I expect you would not”

 

When it comes to the actual “Fear Itself” storyline, it’s practically non-existent. Except for some meaningless filler where Hawkeye and Mockingbird spectate the ensuing attack of Sin and the Worthy Thing, there’s really nothing of substance here that wasn’t told substantially more in AVENGERS Issue # 14. 

Fill-in artist Elena Casagrande does a solid job with this book. While there’s nothing terribly inspiring about her work, there’s nothing terrible either and she’s certainly at her best when drawing the sinister M.O.D.O.K.. Carlo Pagulayan does a nice job with the cover, which makes me miss his work after the spectacular two issue run the artist served HULK several months back. But none of this takes away from the “been there, done that” retread feel of this issue. 

After “Fear Itself” and assumingly “Planet Red Hulk“, we’ve been hitting many corporate mandated speed bumps as of late, breaking up the flow of Parker’s well crafted story. Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of them for a while. 
 

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