I was going to do this on Twitter but figured I would need more than 140 characters to express my feelings on what's been going on over in the Hulk title, so without further ado...
Now, I should start by qualifying that I haven't actively purchased or read a Hulk comic since Bruce Jones and John Romita, Jr. were doing the book a few years ago. I'm not even sure how the whole Mr. Green/Mr. Blue thing panned out, unless you count what they used in the second Hulk movie. I was not overly familiar with the "World War Hulk" storyline that ran for a while, and I pretty much ignored the Red Hulk material that Loeb and McGuiness were on about, so it had been a while since I knew what was going on with the guy. To say the least, I was surprised to find that the, along with the new Red Hulk (who was, in actuality, General 'Thunderbolt' Ross - Oh, the irony!), pretty much every other character in the Hulk universe got Hulkified by The Leader and...M.O.D.O.K., I think.
All kinds of crazy stuff has been going on since I've been gone, and the Hulk's single Incredible book has branched out into a family of books: Hulk, Incredible Hulk, & Incredible Hulks. Let me know if I've missed any.
Normally, this is not the kind of storytelling that entices me into picking up any book, especially when it's one that I've already taken off my pull list years ago. So, you ask, why am I fretting so about it?
That would be because of Jeff Parker.
I've always enjoyed Jeff's writing and still tell anyone who will listen that he is responsible for one of the single most enjoyable super-hero books I have read in my almost 30 years of reading comic books. So, you tell me he's going to be writing the book after Loeb departs and you have most certainly grabbed my attention. This is a guy who can handle the super-science, the monsters, the action, and the drama. You pair him with a talent like Gabriel Hardman who has a keen eye for visual storytelling and can draw the most outrageous action sequence or people eating soup with perfect aplomb and you have me adding it to my pile and I'm out the door with my LCS owner a few bucks richer.
Sounds like I'm loving this book like a fresh pair of socks on a cool September morning, doesn't it? Unfortunately, this is where I get conflicted about the whole shebang.
I want to like Hulk more than I do, but I'm finding it hard to fully embrace the darn thing. Oddly enough, I'm finding the character of the Red Hulk fascinating when I was certain that I wouldn't. I couldn't be bothered to even look at Loeb's issues on the shelf but I'm intrigued in these stories by how Ross is handling being the Hulk. It is so different from Banner, yet strangely similar, too. There's the alienation because he's a monster and the thrill that comes with so much power, all the things we are used to seeing with the Banner Hulk over the years. The main difference, though, is that Ross doesn't feel sorry for himself and whine about it constantly. He's a soldier and he deals with his new situation whether he likes it or not. A good example of this is in one of the early scenes of #25 where Steve Rogers is giving Ross his assignment. Steve is honestly trying to help Ross make good and have him be an asset. The tone of the dialogue, the staging of the scene, it's originally what sucked me in.
In that same issue, however, we are given an example of why I'm conflicted about this series, for as much as I am loving the character of the Red Hulk, this issue spends a great deal of it's 'running time' on a tired old super-hero team-up cliché; the fight-brought-on-by-misunderstanding-before-realizing-we-are-supposed-to-be working-together schtick. In fact, this is a cliché that gets played out for the following 2 issues, if I remember correctly, with Iron Man being followed by Thor and then Namor. Everyone wants a piece of Red Hulk, apparently, but I feel like every time they go down this road they kill all the momentum they've built up. I like my share of smashing in a Hulk comic, don't get me wrong, I just think there's more to mine here and these sequences are not adding anything useful to the overall narrative.
I remember in the '90s when Garth Ennis was writing Helblazer. I hated his run for a number of reasons I won't go into here but, without fail, every time I was going to drop the title once-and-for-all Ennis would drop an amazing single issue that had everything I needed in a Hellblazer story to make me happy. Every. Single. Time.
There's kind of a similar phenomena happening here minus the hating part. After reading #27 I was going to stop buying Hulk and move on but then #28 came out and I loved that issue. Then I read #30 and figured, okay, #30.1 would be the last one if I didn't like it but I did (although I don't think Tom Palmer should do finishes over Hardman anymore - it seems like a no-brainer but it really isn't a good thing). And in some of the cases where the main story was not grabbing me, I kinda dug the back-up featuring A-Bomb (Rick Jones) or the Watcher back-ups that are now starting to pay off in the main story.
I guess the fact that I'm bothering to take the time to write this does prove that these guys are doing something positive with this series because I'm interested enough to care. To want to see more interactions between Ross and the LMDs, to see the Fortean/Ross/Red Hulk triangle develop, and to see where sleep deprivation will eventually take the character. That, and the fact I obsess over books and movies I can't fully embrace/endorse. Really, I'll probably spend more time rereading and staring at Hulk pages than I ever will Atlas ones.
So, now I'm waiting to see what #32 will bring (I hear it's a corker) and I continue to live with this series issue to issue.