This past week, Marvel kicked off their non-event event entitled “Generations,” featuring my favorite character in all of comicdom, The Incredible Hulk, as well as his younger counter part, Amadeus Cho: The Totally Awesome Hulk. Its also written by one of my all time favorite Hulk writers, one Mr. Greg Pak, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t shine a little light on it. This first book brings readers to the heart of what Generations is, a collection of one-shots that rectify the division of long standing heroic mantles between a classic persona and a younger individual co-opting the title. Now, as most people know, there has been mixed reception to Marvel’s strategy of duality, but what can’t be said is that it hasn’t had an impact on the industry. It has, and Greg Pak is far from stranger to the Hulk canon, in fact he penned some of the most well known Hulk stories in recent history, one of which is a direct inspiration on the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok film. Pak also created Amadeus Cho in Amazing Fantasy vol. 2 no. 15. Needless to say he has an vast understanding of these two characters and I personally cannot think of a single person better equipped to helm the mantle of the Incredible Hulk vessel, short of a resurrection of Mr. Herb Trimpe. What Pak brings to the table on any Hulk title is a decade long intimacy with the psycho-analytic nature of the Stevensonian trope that is the Hulk, be it Banner or Cho. I mention Pak’s history because it is integral to that of the Hulk, both current and historic, which is in turn integral to the book at hand: Marvel Generations: The Strongest.
This book opens with Cho seeming to phase into a reality apart from the mainstream universe in which he exists. It’s fitting that he has questions, because so do the rest of the world reading this comic. First, let me make something crystal clear, I loved this comic. Full stop. I may be left puzzled and befuddled, but I absolutely love it. I’m a fan of fiction and the question of “What happens next?” doesn’t impact me the same way it seems to effect the nerd culture corner of twitter. I don’t mind not having the full story right now, or ever. Open endedness is a virtue we all would do well to except. So, establishing that, what the hell just happened? As I said, Cho bounced into a reality that wasn’t his own where he finds Banner, alive and Hulking, being bombarded by the full might of the U.S. Army lead by none other than general Thaddeus Ross. Surely you can see where the questions start…but I digress, for now. What unfolds is readymade Who’s Who of Hulkanomics. The crux of this story is a “Get to know me” of both Hulk personalities. We see the man-on-the-run trope of Banner who is constantly at battle with himself as well as the world around him. Readers are also treated to a refresher course on the Amadeus “Totally Awesome” version of Hulk, as he strives to maintain his innocence in battle by saving each and every life, regardless of friend or foe. Now, some critics have already been seen opining that this is a rinse and repeat version of the dynamic seen between Amadeus and Old Man Logan in the recent crossover between Totally Awesome Hulk and Weapon X (both scribed by Pak). In response to those opinions, I offer this: It’s the essence of the Cho-Hulk character. There are some things about the fictional characters that will always be reiterated. “I’m the best there is, Darkest day and blackest night, With great power comes…” These things should be touched on every time the character appears, and this is true of Cho, despite the fact that he is a newish character. If any reader came out of this issue without a basic understanding of each of the title characters, I have to assume they weren’t trying.
Now, I said I was left with questions, and they are thus-
- Who is this Banner? As I said Banner-Hulk is one of my favorite characters ever created, and right now, he’s supposed to be dead. In Civil War II, Hawkeye, by way of Cpt. Marvel, killed Banner. If you don’t know how, I invite you to read the first few issues to Totally Awesome Hulk. In the most recent event, Secret Empire, a Banner character was featured, but this isn’t the same guy. How do we know? Lettering. The most under valued talent in all of the industry. Check it out to see what I mean.
- What Hulk is this? This version of the Banner-Hulk seems to run the gamut between mindless brute and intellectual savage. Sometimes he queries, some times he grunts. But hey, at least he’s always green.
- What timeline is this? This is obviously not Marvel Prime, but quite frankly, what do we know about Marvel Prime right now? Gen. Ross is alive and significantly less Red Hulky than we are used to, Betty and Rick are both mentioned as being alive and kicking. Kind of a big separation from recent events. Banner’s parents: there is some art suggesting that Bruce’s dad indeed became a monster himself.
And last but not least…
- What’s the point? Why the in depth review of Banner? Is he coming back full time or not? What is the longevity of the Totally Awesome Hulk? How does this fit into the forthcoming return to Legacy numbering on the Incredible Hulk title (sidebar: Greg Pak wrote Hulk the last time they returned to OG numbering, and that’s just cool.) So, is this comic, and the Generations event in general, just to ensure that readers, both old and new, have a basic understanding of the multiple characters related to the title or is something tangible coming from this? Only time can tell at this point, but I for one, am dedicated enough to the nostalgia and the Hulk persona that I’ll be here to find out.