Hulk, v. 1: Red Hulk
Collects: Hulk (v. 2) #1-6, stories from Wolverine #50 and Mini Marvels (2007-8)
Released: February 2009 (Marvel)
Format: 176 pages / color / $19.99 / ISBN: 9780785128823
What is this?: Who is the Red Hulk? And who will he beat up / shoot next?
The culprits: Writer Jeph Loeb and penciler Ed McGuinness
We finish our fortnight of Hulk reviews with Hulk, v. 1: Red Hulk. If you have any hopes of this troika of reviews ending on a high note, please wad those hopes up and drop them in the nearest recycling bins now. 36
After World War Hulk, Bruce Banner is imprisoned, but a new Red Hulk stalks the land, pummeling and shooting the Hulk’s enemies … or anyone else who gets in his way, or meets, for that matter. Writer Jeph Loeb asks the question, “Who is the Red Hulk?” The follow-up question is, “Who the hell cares?” The Red Hulk is a snarling force of nature that only destroys and doesn’t have the magnetism or even simple charm of the “Hulk-Smash!” Hulk. An earthquake would have been more efficient and has more character. He uses guns, for heaven’s sake; Hulk punches harder than guns! Even the best SHIELD tech can’t compete with the Hulk’s punches.
The trouble is, I am curious who the Red Hulk is. God help me, I want to know. Loeb is blatant about not revealing who the Hulk is, having people knocked over the head or whisked off stage just as the Red Hulk’s identity is revealed. The Red Hulk’s identity can’t be withheld forever; it isn’t revealed here and hasn’t been revealed yet, and there’s only so long a writer can keep the mystery alive without alienating the audience. This sort of obvious dangler (Who is Stryfe?) is simultaneously what kept the X-Men at the top of the comics heap for so long and caused its popularity to dip in the new millennium.
When it comes down to it, the Red Hulk is stupid. He punches (and shoots) everybody: Iron Man, She-Hulk, Thor, even Uatu the Watcher. (Why? Since when has punching the Watcher been a mark of might?) He rages throughout the story without betraying any emotion other than smug vindictiveness. That’s not a character: that’s a character note, something the writer reminds himself to work in or refer back to while doing more worthwhile things with the character. I’m not about to get into “A-Bomb,” the new gamma-spawned halfwit monster who’s really Rick Jones, but rest assured the idea is even less rewarding than you’re thinking. And who thought, “The madder Red Hulk gets, the hotter he gets” was a bright idea? And why would overheating be a problem for the Red Hulk?
I don’t know. But plotting isn’t an important consideration for Loeb. He wastes most of the first issue with a pointless “investigation” into the Abomination’s death and a fight with the Winter Guard, Russia’s superheroes. Space is wasted on heroes trying to shore up San Francisco and save its residents while the Hulks fight; I can do without that. Loeb could have used that space for … something interesting, if he could find it. Uatu shows up out of nowhere just to get punched. So does Thor, for that matter. And I don’t believe for a second that Red Hulk can pick up Thor’s hammer.
There are a few bits of dialogue that are amusing, and the extra touches on the Gamma Base are interesting — robot guards and robot harpies that look like Betty Banner as the Harpy — but mostly it’s smashing and dumb Hulk (and dumb A-Bomb) talking in broken sentences while the Red Hulk is insufferable. It gets irritating quickly.
Penciler Ed McGuinness is better than the material he’s given. His work is larger than life, gleefully dynamic, and fun to look at. Really, he’s almost the perfect fit for this storyline, and there’s not much negative to say about his pencils. However, I will anyway: either he has a dental fetish or he really enjoys drawing teeth; the Hulks look like supersized PSAs for dental care. I’m not sure what emotion the final panel is supposed to inspire: the incapacitated Red Hulk grits his teeth and glares at the reader in front of a featureless background after he’s been berated by puny humans. Fear? Amusement? It actually managed to confuse me, so that’s an emotion right there. There’s also a small error in that he draws the Red Hulk’s gun in two different ways: humongous revolver and ginormous automatic. Well, I say it’s an error; it could be Loeb doubling his idiotic idea by having the Red Hulk steal two Hulk-sized guns. (Why would SHIELD even make one? What possible advantage could that give them?)
There are also some interesting extras at the end of the book. The three Red / Green / Blue Hulk Mini Marvels strips, by Audrey Loeb and Chris Giarrusso, are reprinted from the second Mini Marvels collection. They’re fun, as is anything Mini Marvel related. Loeb and McGuinness’s backup from Wolverine (v. 3) #50, “Puny Little Man,” is also included; it retells the story of Wolverine’s first confrontation with the Hulk, although Wolverine admits he doesn’t quite know what’s true and what’s story (and for good measure, the Hulk tearing Wolverine in half from Ultimate Hulk vs. Wolverine is included to muddy the waters). Decent backup, although it’s more Wolverine related than Hulk.
Still, neither McGuinness nor the extra features should be enough to induce buyers to pick this up. Stay away, save your money, and keep watching comic-book news sites and Wikipedia for the revelation of who the Red Hulk is.
Rating: (1 of 5)