The Bruce is Back!
The Story: In the aftermath of Secret Wars, Banner stopped a nuclear meltdown off the coast of Kenya by absorbing the radiation. Unfortunately, it was more than even the Hulk could handle, and Amadeus Cho had to step in and save Banner, stripping him of the transformative Gamma radiation and transferring it to himself, becoming the Totally Awesome Hulk. For the full story on how Cho handles being the Jade Giant, read TAH 1-6, available at a comic shop near you.
In this issue, Bruce Banner makes his return for the first time (short of a flashback scene) in months. He’s lost in the desert, with no memory of how he got there, and a bar fight puts him at risk of letting the beast out. Except it doesn’t. Banner doesn’t hulk out, and just before an angry bar patron smashes his face, Cho steps in to stop the fight and fill in the blank spaces for the very confused and relieved doctor.Banner, free of the monster, is still racked with guilt for the actions of the Hulk, and even though he is no longer laced with Gamma radiation, the anger is still there. Its always still there. Bruce begins a string of dangerous activities, risking life and limb, as if he has nothing left to lose. The issue end in Las Vegas, a city where Banner/Hulk is persona non grata. Tony Stark, who has been keeping tabs on Banner, steps in to deliver an intervention of sorts to his emotionally raw friend and former teammate, and help him cope with where his life has brought him.
The Scribe: Full disclosure, in all of comicdom, there is no character that I enjoy reading more than The Incredible Hulk, and in the long list of writers who have taken the helm, Greg Pak is in my top three favorites. From his Incredible Hulk story to taking the series back to the original numbering, Pak has penned some to the most entertaining, heart pounding tales featuring the Green Goliath. In this story, Pak is doing something that readers haven’t seen before. He’s redirected the spirit of the Hulk title away from the Jekyll/Hyde plot device to one more relatable to that of Tom and Huck. So far in the series, TAH has been a coming of age story for Amadeus Cho and his sister, Maddy, showing readers that so much of what they have seen in Hulk continuity is specific to the way Bruce Banner reacts, and not a commentary on all of human nature. Pak highlights the way different life experiences can mold personalities, and that young people see different avenues through situations that perhaps adults do. This younger Hulk seems to have a much more lighthearted tone than previous Hulk books, which allows for several “LOL” inducing moments of comic relief and levity. However, Pak ends the issue by deftly showing the other side of the coin and looping Banner back around to the psychological tropes of old, reminding readers that guilt and PTSD are always just under the surface of a Banner featured Hulk story, and many Civil Wars are inside the minds of men (and women) who have lost part of themselves.
All of this being said, you would do well to go back and read issues 1-6, because Pak doesn’t do a good job connecting this issue with the previous. He doesn’t have to spend three pages being repetitive, but the book feels like it needed a little more fluidity.
The Style: This issue caught me off guard. I had gotten used to the similar styles of Frank Cho and Mike Choi. So when the art took a complete left turn I had to flip back to the credits page. Who is this, why does it look familiar? Wait. DAVIS? ALLAN DAVIS?? THE ALLAN DAVIS??? Then came the feelings of fanboy guilt…because…blasphemy…I don’t like it. Take a moment, prepare the hate you want to throw at me. Take a deep breath, Ill explain.
I love Davis’s work on all things Infinity as well as his run on DC’s Legion Of Super-Heroes (68-119). His cosmic work is beautiful and well drawn out. Unfortunately, while he masters the face of Thanos, Davis can’t draw a Korean teenager. Cho’s face throughout this book is neither anatomically recognizable nor cohesive from panel to panel. For example, turn your floppies to page seven, and look at the differences in panel 3 vs. panel 7. It doesn’t even seem to be the same person. On a positive note, Davis’s flashback scenes on page eight is reminiscent of the Savage Hulk series and perfect for what the page depicted, and his historical montage of The Hulk’s history (most of which are depictions from Pak stories) is a masterful spread in which Davis channels Kirby and I would love to have the pencils hanging on my office wall.
The Sentence: I give this book a C+. While I was readily entertained, and Banner’s return should be celebrated, this book suffered a few bumps in the road. Missteps in the art-work combined with what felt to be forced inclusion to the Civil War II event simply didn’t lead to what could have been the best showing of this book. However, its far from bad, and the series is very much worth the read. At the end of the day, Pak is telling a great ongoing story and Allan Davis is better than most on his worst day. But seriously, fix the eyes man.