"Who--who are you guys?" (Musta Been Translated From K'aitian!)

Before I start talking about other things I've been reading lately--chief among them Grant Morrison's run on Batman that has me enjoying the character for the first time in ages--I figured I would reread the first Incredible Hulks storyline, "Dark Son," which spanned issues #612-617. I did this because while I enjoyed the single issues, I've seen certain criticisms leveled against the series, and even thought of some myself. I can't level all the bad stuff directly at writer Greg Pak, and you'll soon see why. Still, the narrative is less impressive in relation to what came before in the legends of the Sons of Hulk.

The first point I have to raise is the characterization of Hiro-Kala himself. He has previously (in my "Dark Son" primer) been characterized as a boy who recognized the dangers of the Shadow People's Old Power and took it upon himself to rid the universe of it. After feeding an entire planet to Galactus, his dead mother even appeared in a vision to him, excusing his actions as being in service to some greater good! He then attempted to find his brother, Skaar, but was diverted through the Fault (see the Realm of Kings series of mini-series) to the planet K'ai, home to the Hulk's late love, Jarella. There, he used some other energy to tow the planet through the Fault and into the main Marvel Universe. Also, he took the power of the Worldmind, a sentient energy at K'ai's center, and used it to subjugate its people in service to him. Now armed with even more power, he resumed his quest to find his brother, only to ultimately discover that his fragile psyche had created the vision of his mother Caiera as means of assuaging his conscience. He was a child, acting out over the loss of his home planet and his own lack of ability to properly harness the Old Power, so he took information he knew and built lies upon it.

There is commentary out there that suggests that the revelations of "Dark Son" ring false, or that they turn the shaky morals of Hiro-Kala's quest into something of stark black-and-white, merely the ravings of a boy who got mixed up in something bigger than himself. In fact, I had to go back and re-read pieces of "Dark Son Rising," the storyline by Paul Jenkins and Andres Guinaldo, to make sense of this storyline. What I found is that the information about the Old Power being unstable comes from Old Sam, and should be treated, until proven otherwise, as canon. There is some manner of problem with the Old Power; however, the exact nature of the problem remains unknown, or perhaps it is only in the misuse of the power that it becomes a problem. ("Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Thanks, Lord Acton!) If it's the latter, then the Old Power is no different than any other form of energy--if you misuse it, then bad things happen.

I like the idea that Hiro-Kala, afraid of the nature of the Old Power, being so young and in possession of the power for which he has been given no formal training, sought solace in hallucinations to excuse the grisly deeds he performed. Certainly, Bruce Banner indicates in his conversation with Hiro-Kala in #616 that he is aware of some problem with the Old Power, but that he has "already begun to figure out how to contain it." He denies Hiro-Kala's ideas that the Old Power is destined to destroy life as we know it. Was what Banner said a lie? Did he know Hiro-Kala was suffering from delusions? Or is there a real problem with the Old Power that will need to be addressed in, say, upcoming issues of The Incredible Hulks?

The second, lesser gripe I have about the storyline is something that's really endemic in popular fiction and comics in particular. It's what the title of this post refers to, when the K'aitians awaken because of Banner spreading the Worldmind's signal and one of them talks to the Hulks. There are no italics, and nothing indicating it's anything but English that's being spoken. Of course, this point stretches back to Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk - The Conquest of Jarella's World, when the Enigma Force and the K'aitians also spoke English. Now, from what I remember of the old Jarella books, the Hulk needed a spell cast upon him to understand the K'aitians, as did Jarella to be able to understand the Hulk's language. (The same spell gave Banner control of the Hulk's body while in the Microverse, and was revoked in #156.) Of course, I think virtually every other later writer ignored that a spell was needed to translate K'aitian speech to English, including Peter David (in #351-352 as well as Captain Marvel #5-7). Add in that we know the Micronauts/Enigma Force have never needed a translator of any kind to talk to Cable, the Fantastic Four, and the other heroes they've met over the years, and they certainly had no trouble talking with the K'aitians in RoK: SoH. (You could also talk about the Imperials and Hiro-Kala talking with the Hulks being similarly problematic.) It's a big mess, but I can't lay it at the feet of Pak alone. Maybe it was the Worldmind keeping everyone able to understand each other? (But while we're on the topic, there is the matter of how everyone in World War Hulk was able to understand the Warbound, all of whom likely spoke in other languages but understood each other thanks to "talkbots" implanted in their ears.)

Third and finally, the ending of "Dark Son" is certainly ambiguous, in such a way that not even the finale of Enigma Force #3 can clean it up. While the Worldmind has Hiro-Kala inside it, did they go back into K'ai and find a new star? Or did the Worldmind and Hiro-Kala become the new star? If the former, great! I can accept it but it should have been made clearer. However, if the Worldmind is a new sun, well, I've seen a lot of comic book physics in this storyline, you know? With the planet K'ai approaching Earth in a very "Silver Age Superman" kind of way, and the diversion of the planet occurring in an even more improbable way. (How could the volcanoes generate enough power to divert K'ai from its collision so quickly? And just think about the physical effects to both Earth and K'ai!) But stars can't just be located wherever someone decrees they can go. There are fundamental physical laws to follow. And so, I'm left scratching my head until which time this cosmic riddle is solved.

The best thing about "Dark Son" was the human drama and the interaction between the Hulk and his new family. As you can see, the rest of it fell apart rather ridiculously.

Any other thoughts out there?



"Dark Son" Finale: Incredible Hulks #617 Review

While everyone else is taking their little breaks, here I sit, compiling the review you've been waiting for (and how could I deny all of you?). It's true that I haven't been able to put up regular reviews of Incredible Hulks #615-616, but I'll let you know my feelings about those stories throughout this review. I can tell you one thing I'm thankful for--Greg Pak on Hulk! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

The Incredible Hulks #617
"Dark Son, Conclusion: Fratricide"

Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Barry Kitson, Scott Hanna, Jay Leisten, Victor Drujiniu & Sandu Florea
Colorists: Matt Milla & Aron Lusen
Letterers: Simon Bowland
Production: Irene Lee
Assistant Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics

With the final part of the "Dark Son" storyline having been titled "Fratricide," referring to the act of killing one's brother--coincidentally, the first type of murder committed in human history according to the Bible and Qur'an--you might think you know exactly what to expect from this story. You might be right to an extent, although Greg Pak smartly throws in a host of surprises along the way. One thing's sure, my doubts about the first half of this saga have largely disappeared, giving way to even more enthusiasm for the future.

Over the last few issues, the book now named for a team of Hulk has gained a modest degree of balance, involving She-Hulk, Korg, and A-Bomb in the action more than in the storyline's first half. However, make no mistake, the "power triad" of Hulk, his ex-wife Red She-Hulk, and his son Skaar dominate this issue, and that's just the way it should be for the finale of a storyline that chiefly concerns the Hulk's other son, Hiro-Kala.

So, where have we been? Banner and Hulk have forged an uneasy alliance over their sons, and they're counting on the group's unique perspective as Hulks to allow them to accomplish what they feel the heroes of Earth can't. Their antagonism is barely contained, as shown in a terrific scene in #615 wherein a holo-image of Banner demands the Hulk let him out. (One wonders just what Banner has planned if, just once, the Hulk refuses Banner's request.) After the Hulk's meeting with Skaar in #611, finding him to be a decent sort, he meets Hiro-Kala in #616 and finds him to be the opposite of his brother. Hiro is, simply put, the monster Brian Banner always thought his son Bruce was, and that's the thrust of the story. However, Hiro has committed deeds far beyond Brian's imaginings, I'm sure, a fact which raises the stakes all the higher.

The psychology of Hiro-Kala is fitting, as Pak reaches back into Paul Jenkins' original Son of Hulk storyline (now available in the Son of Hulk: Dark Son Rising trade paperback) for a moment of continuity that makes sense, and connects with some comments made by the K'ai Worldmind a few issues earlier. I've always doubted the moment from Jenkins' script, and it's nice to see it exploited here.

Greg Pak's smart script offers a thrilling conclusion that relies increasingly less on fisticuffs and more on the psychologies of all the players. His Banner is complex as he solves the narrative, and you can see he does what needs to be done while his Hulk suffers. The character with arguably the most pivotal role here is Betty/Red She-Hulk, with a strong moment in the middle of the story with Banner, and another, equally strong moment with the Hulk at the finale. Betty's presence throughout ably fulfills Pak's teases that "nobody can save you from your anger like members of your family, but also nobody can drive you crazier." Truly this tale marks her as this team's wild card.

The weakest element of this issue, sadly, is on the art. As is often the case, with an accelerated schedule, cracks appear. Barry Kitson's layouts have been strong throughout, and the strongest art has come when he's been able to give his all, but it's in the finished art by Jay Leisten and Scott Hanna that the book suffers. Hanna just isn't more than a competent artist, and nothing exposes his flaws like having to carry the load on the last few issues.

The issue is rounded out by an incidental story involving the Hulk, Amadeus Cho, and some giant centaurs. New comer Victor Drujiniu provides the artwork, which isn't bad, and Pak's smart script (there's that word again!) illuminates some more of the Hulk's complex psychology when the green goliath talks about his "family" with Cho.

So, one arc into the new status quo of The Incredible Hulks, and where are we? Definitely somewhere I never thought we'd be. It's been a wild ride so far, filled with compelling characters and thrilling situations. While I didn't think Hiro-Kala & the K'ai story was the best place to start, I can't argue the results and the position Banner and the Hulk are in at the end of this arc. The Hulk and Banner always work best when they're emotionally tortured, and there's enough pathos to go around in "Dark Son." The upcoming "Chaos War" crossover only threatens to provide even more heightened emotions (along with the return of fan-favorite Paul Pelletier on art duties). If you're not reading The Incredible Hulks, you're missing one of Marvel's smartest efforts.



2-for-1 Review: Greg Pak's Vision Machine #1 & 2

Howdy cowpokes!

It's been just over a month since I had the pleasure of picking up Pak Man Productions' Vision Machine #1 from the esteemed Mr. Greg Pak at the New York Comic-Con. I attended a panel about the series, and got my "copy" of the first issue on a USB flash drive emblazoned with the Sprout insignia. (Maybe your local comic shop is one of the lucky ones that has received one of these cool little collector's items, but if not, the series is only as far away as Comixology's web site, or Greg Pak's own Vision Machine site!) Recently I received an advance copy of the second issue (available November 17 at the above locales), and so, since I still haven't reviewed the first issue, herewith I bring you a combo review--two-thirds of the series in one shot!


Greg Pak's Vision Machine has an elegantly simple idea at its core: thanks to the wonders of future technology, everyday people can wear the iEye, a device worn like a pair of glasses that functions as a digital editing suite for the world at large, bringing the wearer's visions to technicolor life and essentially making the Average Joe into a moviemaking pro overnight.

Of course, that's just the start of a storyline that is rife with possibilities. In the first story we're introduced to a triad of friends: the aptly-named Buddy, the main "everyman" protagonist, through whose eyes we see most of the story; Dave, the average guy who wants technology to unite people instead of immerse them in their own worlds; and Jane, the "visionary" of the group who sees the iEye as a means of making all her dreams, literally, come true. Rounding out the cast are Liz Evers, the CEO of Sprout, the company that produces the iEye; Secretary Chavez, who sees the iEye as the boost the economy needs; and Senator Gupta, intent on defending and even beefing up existing intellectual property laws which may well be breached by the iEye technology.

Wisely, Pak sets up the three friends as film graduates who see the iEye technology first as the answer to all their problems. By just purchasing the iEye, they have a special effects budget that's virtually unlimited--the only limitation being their imaginations. For Buddy, iEye allows him to host "Buddy's Luv Sho," a political sex spoof that spells trouble for a sitting U.S. Senator who apologizes for behavior seen through the iEye, which Buddy then admits was totally imaginary. Dave treats the iEye somewhat more respectfully, creating a documentary whereby his father, a sheriff on the border between the U.S. and Texas, has his iEye linked with an illegal immigrant whose husband was killed by one of the sheriff's deputies. Meanwhile, Jane's dreaming gifts make her very important to Sprout, and very, very popular to the teeming masses.


The first issue establishes a lot of setup in a short time, and Pak perpetually moves forward in his narrative, introducing concept after concept, each building on the one before. For a story taking place in the future, it certainly deals with many of today's trending technology topics, ranging from the right to privacy, to copyright and licensing laws, to what exactly is in the fine print when you click those "I agree" buttons on any program's End User License Agreement. He leavens the piece with some modest humor (Buddy's show, and section 7 of Sprout's mission statement, for starters) but never loses focus. The first story concludes with an alliance between Sprout and the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to find a missing girl, which subtly brings up those privacy issues and propels the narrative forward in an interesting fashion.


In the second issue, a year has passed, and the long-term effects of the iEye on society are felt. Virtually everyone wears the iEye, and in fact, Buddy gets called out by his boss for keeping the glasses on but not being on the "Sproutville" grid being relentlessly bombarded by advertisements and everything else that's projected through the iEye. Even though he's the "most productive member of [his] unit," culture is so centered around the iEye he's being punished for not doing his part. He talks with Dave, who's enamored with the freedom of the iEye, particularly those concerning the one-click-and-it's-paid-for licensing structure--too enamored to see the developing catastrophe. And Jane seems to be deeper in Sproutville than ever. Meanwhile, Liz Evers finds herself on the outs with Sprout, at odds with Secretary Chavez. Those EULAs everyone clicked through without reading really do come back to bite everyone on the butt in some heartbreaking ways. The storyline really doesn't feel soft through this middle third, but again there is a lot of information being thrown at the reader on every page, this time mostly without the same humor as in the first story. When we arrive at the end of this story, we've seen the rise of a resistance to the Sproutville world, and learn what Jane's really been up to, setting up the climactic third act for next month.

I must say, after reading these first two issues of the planned three-issue miniseries, that Pak has quite an imagination and treats the concepts introduced herein with the gravitas they deserve. Artists R.B. Silva, Alexandre Palomaro, DYM, and Java Tartaglia improve from issue to issue, with a nice, clean style and colors that pop. It's a great premise made all the more interesting by its presentation in the online format, and its distribution under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike License. In layman's terms, it uniquely allows other creators to build upon the work non-commercially, as long as they credit Pak Man Productions. In other words, while the series does a fine job of introducing this brave new world and its inherent conflicts, this could well be only the beginning of the Vision Machine. Conceivably we could see other adventures designed by others, bringing to light other facets of Sproutville, using Pak's original manuscript here as guidepath and venturing out into unknown waters. We could see critical discussions on par with what I witnessed at the New York Comic Con panel. The possibilities are endless!


Make no mistake: Pak and Silva's Vision Machine is top-notch from top to bottom, filled with intriguing concepts and frightening warnings of the not-too-distant future. If the third and final (?) issue of the series is anywhere near as interesting as these first two, we're in for a treat. So do yourself a favor, if you're a reader of Pak's Incredible Hulks, or Incredible Hercules, or Magneto: Testament, or any of his other work, or if you're a fan of speculative fiction, or crazy sci-fi, or technology-run-amok stories, make your way to http://www.visionmachine.net and buddy up with Buddy, Dave, and Jane.


Publicity info for Vision Machine:

Pak Man Productions
Written by Greg Pak
Pencils by R.B. Silva
Inks by DYM and Alexandre Palomaro
Colors by Java Tartaglia
Letters by Charles Pritchett

Follow Sprout CEO Liz Chitkala Evers on Twitter @sproutboss

Follow "Vision Machine" writer Greg Pak on Twitter @gregpak


In the year 2061, Sprout Computers releases the iEye, a pair of glasses that allow you to effortlessly record, edit, and add special effects to anything you see -- and instantly share it with the world. It's all of the insane potential of digital media and social networking at the speed of thought, and three film grads named BUDDY, DAVE, and JANE have embraced the new dream. But now the other shoe's about to drop... Don't miss the second issue of "Planet Hulk" writer Greg Pak's insane new sci fi story, gloriously pencilled by up-and-coming superstar R.B. Silva ("Jimmy Olsen").


"Pak is absolutely on fire here... Meanwhile, RB Silva is creating some of the most intricate and well rounded art of his career."

-- MultiversityComics.com

"Somewhere on the cynicism scale between Warren Ellis and Cory Doctorow, Greg Pak creates a story that makes you reexamine your iPhones and Twitter feeds, wondering, just whose future are they truly benefiting?"

-- FloppyTown

"Book of the Week" honors from Awesomed By Comics


New York Comic-Con and more updates!

Hey folks--

Sorry I've been remiss in updating lately. Life gets in the way, you know? Anyway, you can expect a few things within the next few weeks, the first being my long-delayed review of The Vision Machine by writer Greg Pak. Next week will also see a few more Hulk reviews. I also want to review some old Hulk runs, so tell me whom do you want me to review--Len Wein, Paul Jenkins, or Bruce Jones?

And, oh yeah, there's this--from New York Comic-Con on October 9, 2010:

Ladies and gents, it's the one and only Greg Pak! Greg says he has some very exciting Hulkish things in store in coming months. We've got the book coming out twice a month through at least January, and hey, we're getting closer to the Hulk turning the big 5-0 in 2012! (And he doesn't look a day over...well, we don't want to make the Hulk angry now, do we?)

And yes, friends, I also met Gabriel Hardman, Fred Van Lente, Dan Slott, Scott Reed, Lee Weeks, and some other Hulk-related creators. I do have some sketches to share...another day!

Keep on Hulkin'!



Incredible Hulks #614: Blast Off!

Howdy, folks! I'm back from my great trip east to New York Comic-Con. It was great--maybe I'll even tell you about it someday! For now, thrill to this review of the latest issue of The Incredible Hulks! Next week you'll see a belated Chaos War review as well as an exciting look into Greg Pak's new creator-owned project, Vision Machine. Hang loose, true believers!

The Incredible Hulks #614
"Dark Son, Part Five: Blast Off"

Writer: Greg Pak & Joshua Williamson
Artists: Barry Kitson, Scott Hanna & Mirco Pierfederici
Colorists: Matt Milla & Mirco Pierfederici
Letterers: Simon Bowland
Production: Irene Lee
Assistant Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics

What's this, you say? The cover of this issue states we're on "Part Three of Six," and yet, the title of this story clearly states we're in part five! How can this be? Well, if you haven't been reading the Hiro-Kala stories in both of the previous issues, shame on you! Both #612 and 613 featured two parts to the ongoing saga of the Hulks and their perilous collision course with Skaar's mad brother. Although the last two issues were largely prologue, bringing more casual fans up to speed with all facets of recent Hulk history, this fifth part kicks the storyline into high gear with a battle between the Hulk's "family" and the Secret Avengers. It also features the debut of British artist Barry Kitson of Legion of Super-Heroes fame.

So, how does this part of the saga measure up, now that the team is set to encounter Hiro-Kala? Honestly, at this point, we're halfway through "Dark Son," and we're still hung up on the set-up. The final three issues had better be a slam-bang battle the likes of which have seldom been seen in this title. It's not that the set-up is bad, quite the opposite--but it still leaves one with a feeling of "are we there yet?"-ness. It's methodical, more than anything--first writer Greg Pak established the Hulk family, then the backstory of Hiro-Kala. Then Earth's heroes discovered the threat, and the Hulk didn't care, but then he found out the true nature of the threat. Here he comes needing a way to meet the threat, which leads him and his family into conflict with Steve Rogers and his Secret Avengers. Finally, at the end of this story, I don't think I'm surprising anyone when I say that the Hulk family appears to be headed to finally meet the conflict head-on. We hope.

The key concern I have with this new status quo more than what's in this storyline is that, when you break the story down, it's still predominantly a story about the Hulk, and not a group of Hulk-like individuals. Seriously, although there are six "Hulks" in this story, only three have had any substantial role in the story to date. It's been a tale about the Hulk, his ex-wife, and his son by his alien queen. It's not a story that is inclusive of A-Bomb, Jennifer Walters, or Korg, as is shown by their painfully minimal presence in the script. Oh, sure, Rick as A-Bomb gets a few lines in, but Korg and Jen? Not a line of dialogue, not a meaningful part to be played except to fight some Secret Avengers who themselves similarly barely have any lines. It's largely the same role as they've played in the previous two issues, and I'm getting to the point that I wonder if there's really some point giving the book a title it has barely managed to earn three issues in. If I read a book titled Fantastic Four, all four heroes do their part, and if I read the X-Men, the full team line-up that month has a pretty integral role. Why, then, do we only see about 50% of the Hulks do their thing in any given issue of this book?

Luckily, the Hulk has a nice, meaty part in this story, with he and Banner showing why they are who they are. Greg Pak has such a natural feel for both characters, it's hard to imagine why other writers have historically had such a problem with the dual personality. I must also give props to him for the Hulks' means of transportation--let's just say it should bring back pleasant memories of World War Hulk. And the art, oh, the art! Barry Kitson's first double-page spread (there are three!) is terrifically evocative of the "Planet Hulk" storyline with the Hulk tearing through the side of a ship. His artwork is wonderfully evocative of Sal Buscema in parts without slavishly copying. I've waited for many years to see Kitson draw the Hulk, and with this issue, I'm not disappointed in the least.

So, the story? Not bad, but I want to see Pak kick it up a couple notches next issue. The art? Absolutely astonishing. I'm very glad the next part is only two weeks away.

What do you think, sirs?



San Diego Comic-Con: Too Big To Move?

As I sit in my apartment in the desert southwest, every once in a while loading something-or-other into my luggage for my forthcoming trip to the New York Comic-Con, recent headlines have grabbed my attention and made it necessary I address them. The San Diego Comic-Con International is staying in the town that birthed it through at least 2015. It's a frustrating decision, but at the same time, it unfortunately makes total sense given the relationship between Comic-Con International and the city of San Diego.


A bit of background: I have attended the San Diego Comic-Con International five times, with the first time in 1993 and most recently in 2007. I have seen the show grow from "just" the first major convention I had the pleasure of attending, to an event utterly unlike anything else I've found on this planet to date. The San Diego Convention Center has doubled in size over that time. I still have some sentimentality for the show, but it's been tempered over the last handful of years due to the explosion of popular non-comics media into the convention. And by explosion, do I ever mean the word!

See? Here's what I mean by "explosion"!

(CCI attendance 1970-present, Click to enlarge.)

The growth that the San Diego Comic-Con International has undergone since the Convention Center completed its first expansion in 2001 has been nothing short of mind-boggling. While you can correlate the growth to the expansion itself, keep in mind what else has exploded in popular culture: super-heroes and comic books have become Hollywood's darlings. True, Blade (1998) and the first X-Men film (2000) predated the explosion, but you can argue that 2002's Spider-Man truly broke the barrier and sent comics into that stratospheric next realm. Since then, Hollywood's optioned virtually every worthwhile comic book for a movie or TV show, and even some that are pretty worthless. And Hollywood took another look at this comic book convention that never attracted much of their attention before, and found they could gain a foothold and promote their comic-related projects. And their sci-fi projects. And their horror projects. And some other movies and shows that don't have a damn thing to do with comics? We'll throw them in there, too, and hope nobody notices.

Somewhere along the line, comics fell out of favor with Comic-Con, and the management of Comic-Con International decided they didn't really care so much. Sure, you'll find Marvel, DC, Image, and the other comic companies have a presence there, but they've been eclipsed by Warner Bros., New Line, Miramax, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney, and various other movie studios. And yes, they draw the crowds and put the asses in the seats in the now-legendary Hall H. But is that really what Comic-Con is or should be about?

Now, the door was ajar for years. I've heard many stories about how some film craftspeople would use Comic-Con for their own personal soapbox, but never in the scope as in recent years. The last decade's worth of comic book movies has proven the catalyst for the Hollywood takeover of San Diego Comic-Con. And Comic-Con International (the company who runs the convention) seems all too happy to let Hollywood take over. Revenues have never been so good! Demand increases, prices for booth space go up, and CCI makes money hand over fist to spend on non-profit type stuff. It all comes out great for everyone, doesn't it?

I don't think it does. You see, there's also the flipside of the coin in so many ways. At first, the comics fans enjoy Hollywood as a presence because they're bringing to life their favorite heroes and related projects. Then you have the trickle of fans who come to Comic-Con because of the movies or TV they're seeing, and CCI maybe hoped that those fans would find something they enjoyed of what birthed those movies or TV shows. Only, that doesn't happen, or happens only rarely, and people continue to come for the popular media, the chance to touch Hollywood.

The convention floor now reflects this loss of ground from a primarily comics-centered event to one mainly devoted to Hollywood in its totality, nearly to the exclusion of the elements that founded the event. The comics pavilions have become smaller and smaller as New Hollywoodland is now the fulcrum about which Comic-Con revolves. Booth prices continue to rise meteorically, making it increasingly difficult, especially in the current economic climate, for the very same kinds of comics retailers who began the show to have any kind of presence there. I've had discussions on Twitter about this phenomenon, and the pro-San Diego faction stated something along the lines of, "Smart comics retailers find ways to cut their budgets to attend the convention, even splitting and/or sharing their spaces." (And this is if the space isn't already taken up by the studios.) I found those comments to be truly abhorrent. It's like living in the same place year after year, but when they put in those nice new spacious condos for the top one-half of one percent and property values up, you have to either move out, or start taking on boarders and give up what was previously your own space to "enjoy" your "home"--if you can either call it enjoyable or home anymore.

The dramatic increase in exposure for Comic-Con has translated to greater revenues for virtually all businesses in the area surrounding the Convention Center, including the various hotels at which the tens of thousands of visitors stay, plus the restaurants and other shops making up the Gaslamp Quarter and surrounding Downtown areas. The convention was estimated to bring in over $163 million in revenue to the city of San Diego in 2010. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders freely admitted in a cbs8.com article that "The convention center is a huge economic generator, but it could literally double that economic generation once we expand it," referring to the current plans to increase floor space by another 200,000 square feet in the next few years.

Can you see where I'm going with this? If not, here's a bit more. Per the San Diego Convention Center's website, no other event held at the locale even comes close to the annual attendance of Comic-Con. The event that comes closest according to their 18-month schedule is the "Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Health & Fitness Expo," at about 40,000 people--still not even a third of the crowd Comic-Con attracts annually. And I think to myself, this is the same Convention Center that has committed to the aforementioned expansion? Why else do they need the expansion if not to keep Comic-Con?

I might go so far as to suggest the city needs Comic-Con. With Hollywood largely driving it, and the huge revenues it currently provides only hinting at the even larger revenues that could be drawn from the upcoming Convention Center expansion, and the absolutely insane room rates that are part of that revenue stream, letting CCI take Comic-Con out of the city would be tantamount to dropping an economic bomb in Downtown San Diego. In different economic times, I'd really waffle on whether San Diego would let the convention go, but Comic-Con is that proven sure thing that the city can't do without. Simply put, San Diego Comic-Con has become akin to the big Wall Street banks you heard about the last two years. It's "Too big to move." And as in the banking world, I find this idea truly saddening, considering what the convention has become over the last decade.

So, how do we undo the damage Hollywood has done to Comic-Con? Assuming, of course, that it can be undone--and I'm not convinced at all this is a genie you can put back in the bottle. I think two things can level the playing field a fair bit, if CCI were to seriously consider them. Sadly, I don't think they would, because the demographic for Comic-Con is shifting into that which really wouldn't like the same kind of show that it was before the floodgates opened. Anything that could potentially upset the goldmine the city of San Diego has going is too radical an idea to be considered.

First, I think that the huge displays at Comic-Con, as extravagant as they are, must go. To maximize space and find room for as many retailers and craftspeople as can attend, there should be a limit as to the size of displays. Hollywood's booths are too huge, and they force out those who are just trying to get a corner booth, or some small space. Ten or more smaller booths can fit into just one of the larger studio booths! Bigger is not necessarily better (in fact, hardly ever!), and studios and other companies can most assuredly find better, more inventive ways to use the space they are given.

Second, I don't think it's enough to limit booth size. I think it's also worth apportioning space, which is done a bit with Artist's Alley (which is still too small!). It can be done gradually at first so it's barely noticed, but I think a nice balance can be struck between the different kinds of companies and individuals who attend Comic-Con. Imagine only so much space allocated to Hollywood's setups, so much given to comic companies, so much to small press, so much to Artist's Alley, so much to some specific kinds of vendors. I haven't heard of any such plan, and it would surprise me tremendously if it did exist. It would go a long way toward reversing the unfortunate trend of forcing those who don't have deep pockets (i.e. those who aren't major comic companies or movie studios) to the background or offsite entirely.

There are other options I've heard, each with their ups and downs. I know the idea of making the convention a week-long affair has been floated as a cost-managing or cost-recouping measure, and would allow more people to visit the show on a daily basis, but it would involve radically altering how special guests and talent attend the convention. There is also talk about extricating the "comics" part of Comic-Con from the popular media part and setting them months apart, which is a slippery slope, a prospect that suggests that the two can't rightly coexist.

Is Comic-Con as we knew it dead? It certainly is no longer the show Shel Dorf intended it to be when he organized the very first show in 1970, with Forrest J. Ackerman as its special guest, and a small handful of talent and attendees. It seems the show is stuck in San Diego, a town that will do just about whatever it has to do to keep it there and to keep or increase the extraordinary revenue stream it brings. It's gone mainstream, commercialist, "Hollywood," and the management seems locked into keeping it that way so long as they can shout CCI is a non-profit organization that proliferates the arts above everything else. To make changes--anything other than making the show bigger, making it "more"--would be admitting that somewhere in the intervening years, the show's purpose erred.

I'll be anxious to see what the new round of renovations to the San Diego Convention Center brings. Will the smaller retailers be given a new entry into Comic-Con, or will Hollywood gobble up the space as soon as it's made available? Will a bit of the old Comic-Con find its way back, or will it be pushed aside, buried forever, presuming it hasn't already been? At any rate, it's going to be interesting to see what CCI does over the next few years.



More iFanboy.com Red Hulk Goodness

Ron Richards, Conor Kilpatrick, and Josh Flanagan of iFanboy.com are at it once again, discussing the Red Hulk saga at length on their site. Pay particular attention to the below segment. Hail to the King, baby.

Read or download the whole deal now at the main page for the video podcast at iFanboy.

Here's the link to the original post on iFanboy.com as well as the one Ron read in the first place, if you're not sick of seeing it already.

And if you're not reading Jeff Parker and Gabe Hardman's new run on HULK...what's stopping you?


Hulk Vs. the World: Avengers Micro-sode!

Enjoy, folks! More Hulk and non-Hulk news coming later!



"Thunderbolt" Ross, hit by Cathexis Ray, turns into the Hulk (HULK #25 Review)

You've seen my interview with new Hulk writer Jeff Parker earlier this week! Now that the issue in question is finally out, you had to ask, what did I think of it? Wonder no more...

Hulk #25
"Scorched Earth, Part One: Singularity"

Writer: Jeff Parker
Artists: Gabriel Hardman, Mark Robinson & Terry Pallot
Colorists: Bettie Breitweiser & Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Production: Irene Lee
Associate Editor: Nathan Cosby
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Well, it's here. The era of writer Jeph Loeb and artist Ed McGuinness is passed (even though Ed's still rocking it on covers!), and the era of new writer Jeff Parker and artist Gabriel Hardman has begun. After ex-General Thaddeus Ross' defeat by the original incredible Hulk in last month's climax to "World War Hulks," where can we go from here? The answer is, we apparently begin the long, bumpy road to redemption, courtesy one former shield-slinging Avenger, and the man whose invention of the G-bomb made it all possible, that's what!

Unequivocally, this series has changed drastically, and has done so overnight. The changes Jeff and Gabe have made from the previous team are so jarring, they may alienate the fans of the slam-bang storytelling style that was the title's hallmark for the last two-and-a-half years. Gone is the scripting that half the time reads as an afterthought, replaced by actual, meat-and-potatoes, literate storytelling. Gone too is the fluid, kinetic, cartoony art style that was an obvious draw. The question remains--is the sum total any good?

Having dispensed with the main thrust of the title--"Who is the Red Hulk?"--now we've got General Ross on a mission of redemption. Jeff Parker plays up the most interesting aspects of the character here, and it's in no way disappointing. Ross is the military man without a mission, which already casts him in a far different light than Bruce Banner. Thanks to Banner, in fact, he can never return to his old life, because the world believes him dead. Unlike Banner, whose secret was revealed to the world quite early, no one outside a select few are aware that Ross is the Red Hulk, which adds an additional layer of complexity. Plus, there's the ever-reliable plot trope of having heroes under the belief that the Red Hulk is still a bad guy, which leads to a key complication in the first issue's narrative (for which you need look no further than the cover).

The story itself works well to advance Ross' character, wisely centering on his newfound association with the foremost "military man" of the Marvel Universe, Steve Rogers, as well as his always-tumultuous relationship with his son-in-law Banner. The doomsday scenario created by the Leader and M.O.D.O.K., aptly titled "Scorched Earth," is examined in exacting detail, yet it doesn't feel laborious. In fact, it sets up multiple storytelling opportunities, which I'm told will play out in books like Thunderbolts over coming months, as well as in the Rick Jones "A-Bomb" backup tales that begin this issue. Interestingly, one of the things that made the General Ross Hulk unique is lost in this issue. I can see why Parker did it, but still, it makes the Red Hulk even more a slavish copy of the green Hulk, at least in terms of power. However, the rest of the story more than makes up for my disapproval, and Iron Man is handled appropriately (as he wouldn't remember fighting Red Hulk previously--see recent issues of his own mag) and well included in this technological threat Ross faces.

If Jeff Parker's writing advances the narrative itself beyond adolescent smash-'em-ups, then artist Gabriel Hardman's work is near-revelatory in propelling the book into ultra-modern superheroics. It's scratchy work reminiscent of draftsmen like Michael Lark and Alex Maleev, yet filtered through the more action-oriented sensibilities of Sal and John Buscema. Add to it the muted, but no less powerful color palette of Bettie Breitweiser, and you've got a book that looks nothing like the McGuinness riffing of previous issues.

The Rick Jones "A-Bomb" story follows on one of the threats introduced during the main story. Also written by Parker, it's more lighthearted in tone, a combination of the character of Rick Jones as well as the artwork of Mark Robinson, which is very expressive. There isn't much story here, yet, but the further adventures of Rick as A-Bomb should serve as a much-needed, fun counterpoint to the irascible General Ross as Red Hulk in months to come.

The first issue of the new Hulk under Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman is a solid success in my book, balancing strong characterization with all that's needed to come in fresh to this series after the departure of the previous team. Hardman and back-up artist Robinson fill their roles especially well, and Bettie Breitweiser shines with her color work. I'm saddened to see these fine folks leave the amazing Atlas, but on the strength of this issue, I don't want to see them leave Hulk anytime soon. The Red Hulk is here to stay, and I never thought I'd say this, but he's finally got a stellar, if less than high-profile, team behind him. I can only hope this series is the one that brings Parker, Hardman and Breitweiser the commercial success to match their critical reception.

Rating: Highly Recommended!


Red Hulk District: A Jeff Parker HULK interview!


Here's the bonus I promised last week--click the above link and you'll see my interview with new Hulk writer, Jeff Parker, who is teaming this Wednesday with Gabriel Hardman to produce the new adventures of "Thunderbolt" Ross, the Red Hulk.

I'll be back later this week with more fun news!



Incredible Hulks #613: A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action...Please?

Well, I've had enough time to sit and digest the book in question, and soon enough I'll be mailing out another Daily P.O.P. exclusive interview, but for now, you lucky ducks get my review for parts 3 and 4 of "Dark Son" in Incredible Hulks #613!

The Incredible Hulks #613

Writers: Greg Pak & Scott Reed
Artists: Tom Raney, Scott Hanna, Brian Ching & Victor Olazaba
Colorists: John Rauch & Jorge Maese
Letterers: Simon Bowland
Production: Irene Lee
Assistant Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I guess I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up. That was my first thought when I finished this issue--or, at least, the "K'ai" segment of this issue. The rest, well, that's what you're here for, isn't it?

After last issue, the Worldmind found it just couldn't take Hiro-Kala's whining any longer, attacking him deep inside the planet K'ai. Meanwhile, the newly-resurrected Betty Ross made it clear she didn't want to be married to Bruce...but what does the Hulk have to say about it? This issue thankfully keeps the positive momentum going, following up on both of these key plot points. Some efforts are more successful than others.

Firstly, it's a credit to the editors, or whoever made the decision to put the "K'ai" section of this issue ahead of the "Earth" section. It serves as a reminder that for this arc, the K'ai stories are not mere "back-up" tales, but vital pieces of the story being told. However, where at first I was enthusiastic about the ramp-up to Hiro-Kala's arrival in our solar system, it appears this saga has very quickly degenerated into another contest of "How badass can we make the bad guy who still had a shred of sympathy going for him?" Here, writers Pak and Reed make it clear there is no going back, that Hiro-Kala is irredeemably evil, and we can ignore all the times he's been framed to be the misunderstood good guy who's doing the right thing no matter what everyone else thinks. On the one hand, I suppose it's fitting that the Hulk has one son who is unremittingly evil, in the way Brian Banner thought young Bruce was, because it's just not a good plan to run the same plot twice (the first with Skaar). On the other hand, Hiro-Kala's characterization and deeds are just so over the top as to be cartoonish. Really, I'm just relieved this separate section of the stories is over, and that Hiro-Kala's collision course with the Hulks will be folded into the regular stories next issue.

By great contrast, the "Earth" story in the back of this issue picks up wonderfully from the last issue, advancing the narrative on all points. Last month, we found out where Bruce and Betty stood in their tumultuous relationship; this month, Greg Pak mines the territory of Hulk and Red She-Hulk. You know it's going to be fun when our first glimpse of Hulk has him telling someone else to calm down! In some ways this encounter is just what you'd expect, and in some ways it's even stranger. The narrative also mines the Hulk's own characterization, and does it very well. Although much speculation followed the final effort by Jeph Loeb in Hulk #24 as to which incarnation we'd be dealing with herein, I think the question is safely settled here: we are indeed dealing with the "Gravage" Hulk, the Green Scar, the version seen throughout "Planet Hulk" and World War Hulk. Let's face it: Banner could never carry off calling people "stupid" well, and rarely is as curt as this Hulk. This Hulk has something to live for, and although some would argue it takes away a certain edge to the character, I should remind those fans we've got four whole issues left to this super-saga.

Of course, there must be more to this saga than pure characterization and setup, and it starts to move forward here, first with a very Silver Age-y opening to this chapter that evokes the ridiculousness of the 50s-era Superman tales. It ramps up again at the end of the issue, with an offer courtesy Steve Rogers and Amadeus Cho that pertains to said opening. The Hulk's reaction to their news and offer fits right in his character in light of the last few years' worth of events, and is only outdone by that other shoe dropping, courtesy of his son Skaar. The last page is instantly classic, and leads us squarely into next issue.

All in all, this is a decent package, but I'd be afraid those more casual fans reading from the front on back might be bored rather quickly at the Hiro-Kala chapter. Venturing beyond the staples increases one's enjoyment considerably. The artwork by Brian Ching in the first half is brilliantly moody and dark (which fits a storyline called "Dark Son") which contrasts greatly with the bright colors and almost "feelgood" vibe that Tom Raney sets forth in the second. That said, as much as I'm enjoying Raney and Ching, I'm quite anxious to see Barry Kitson take the reins in next month's issues, and I'm confident that Kitson will bring his "A"-game as the story itself elevates to the next level.

Hulks in space? It looks like we're going to get more than our fill these next few months! Thankfully, the "Earth" stories in these last two issues of The Incredible Hulks have made it clear, we're in for a rollickin' ride, at least as far as the complex relationships between our protagonists!

Rating: Recommended (Not quite what #612 was, but close!)



(Enigma) Forcing the Issue: An Interview with Scott Reed

I told everyone I'd have something special for them this week, and this is it! (That other special thing? Elsewhere, maybe over the weekend. I'm working on it!)


Recently, I had the opportunity to ask some questions of writer/artist Scott Reed, who began his pro career as an inker at Malibu Comics, then came to prominence in his webcomic series, The Last Odyssey, as well as Image Comics' The Overman. Editor Mark Paniccia brought him aboard the Hulk's corner of the Marvel Universe to write this year's Realm of Kings: Son of Hulk - The Conquest of Jarella's World, alongside artist Miguel Munera, and he's not looking back. The Incredible Hulks: Enigma Force #1, the first in a three-issue limited series, was released this Wednesday at comic shops everywhere, and Scott was happy to talk about the project. Here we go!

DELUSIONAL HONESTY: How did the plan for Incredible Hulks: Enigma Force and, for that matter, its predecessor Son of Hulk: The Conquest of Jarella's World come about?

SCOTT REED: Conquest of Jarella’s World was a tie-in with the Realm of Kings storyline, but it sort of broke away from that toward the end and helped set the stage for the current "Dark Son" story happening in Incredible Hulks. Incredible Hulks: Enigma Force helps serve the "Dark Son" story, but like the Son of Hulk mini-series before it, Enigma Force has a life of its own.

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DH: For those picking up Enigma Force cold, tell us a little about what's been happening with these characters?

SR: The Enigma Force are a new incarnation of the familiar Microverse heroes from the original comic book series. They are still cosmic freedom fighters of the Microverse. The team still lives aboard the gigantic Homeworld Microship Endeavor, and they're still led by Commander Arcturus Rann. But there's been some changes over the years. Arcturus and Princess Marionette are divorced, and literally at war with each other. The newest member is Carl, a quirky Deaths Head 3.0 who’s not your run-of-the-mill killing machine. And then there's Jentorra, a young sorceress-in-training from the planet K’ai, who happens to be completely infatuated with Arcturus. As for Arcturus, he not only has women problems, but he must find a way to save planet K’ai from Hiro-Kala, even if it means revealing a horrific and deadly secret from his past. And that truth could do more than destroy his heroic reputation, but could actually obliterate the planet itself.

DH: It sounds like you are really building upon the history of the characters. It had been a while since Commander Rann and Marionette last appeared...Peter David's Captain Marvel, perhaps. Whose idea was it to bring them back to the Marvel Universe?

SR: Mark Paniccia brought the idea to me about the Microverse characters, and that he wanted to use them as a component in the Son of Hulk mini-series. It was a thrill to write those characters, but to do it again in this Enigma Force mini-series is a great opportunity to further expand the characters. The Enigma Force are really put to the test this time around, and as a result, we learn a lot about who they are and what they are capable of.

DH: Will we be seeing any other familiar faces in Enigma Force? On the first issue's cover, it sure looks like Rann & Mari's old friend, Bug, is there.

SR: Yep, he's back. But you'll have to find out for yourself the how's and why's of that one.

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DH: That's interesting. So, how much will Enigma Force be crossing into "Dark Son" in Incredible Hulks?

SR: This mini-series is an additional layer to the Incredible Hulks' "Dark Son," and as I mentioned, it’s designed to serve that larger story arc. But there's something unique and pretty startling in this mini-series, a threat that only the Enigma Force can face. The team are forced to rely on the help of a deadly enemy to survive, which calls into question all sorts of doubts and suspicions.

DH: If the first issue's any indication, that's some interesting enemy. The last miniseries and this one contain certain elements from the Harlan Ellison/Roy Thomas Jarella tales, and Commander Rann & co. from Bill Mantlo's work. Were you a fan of those stories and characters before writing these series?

SR: I'm a big fan of Bill Mantlo's work, period. It’s densely packed with sci-fi greatness, and you really have to do a double-take on some of it, because they weren’t typical super-hero concepts.

DH: Amen to that--I know [Incredible Hulks writer] Greg Pak also has great affection for those tales. What's it like reuniting with Miguel Munera, your artist from the previous Son of Hulk miniseries?

SR: It's the way it should be, I think, because in some ways, Enigma Force is the second act of Conquest of Jarella's World. I'm really happy to see Miguel onboard to keep the story looking so consistently great.

DH: You've helped build up Hiro-Kala, the son of Hulk's legacy a bit, in the previous miniseries, plus the back-up stories in Incredible Hulk, and now co-writing parts of "Dark Son" with original "Planet Hulk" architect Greg Pak. Can you describe how this experience has been for you as a creator?

SR: I came into all of this at Marvel completely ready to not only do my best possible work, but to learn as much as possible in the process. I can certainly say I'm getting an invaluable education as a writer, working with Mark, assistant editor Jordan White and of course Greg.

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DH: It certainly looks like you're enjoying yourself in the process. Do you have any other projects on the horizon?

SR: I'm still hip-deep in writing Enigma Force, and it's almost impossible for me to look too far ahead. I’ll be at the New York Comic Con in October, though, so I may have something new to talk about by then.

DH: I'll keep an eye out. Thanks for talking Enigma Force with me!

Scott was also gracious enough to supply this site with some exclusive preview artwork by Miguel Munera & inker Greg Adams for the next issue of Enigma Force, on sale 10/13/2010! It's peppered throughout this article. Meanwhile, Incredible Hulks: Enigma Force #1 is now on sale at comic shops everywhere, so be sure to grab a copy! Especially if, well, you might want to see these heroes of the Microverse in a regular series of their own again, after all these years...?




Plenty coming up this week!

As New York Comic Con prep begins (a month out, yeah, what about it?), it looks like a fun Hulk-related week, with the release of part 2 of "Dark Son" in INCREDIBLE HULKS #613, as well as the first issue of the 3-part INCREDIBLE HULKS: ENIGMA FORCE mini-series by Scott Reed, Miguel Munera, and Greg Adams, with covers by Carlo Pagulayan. If all goes well, expect some surprises on this blog later this week! As Stan Lee would say, "Hang loose, True Believers! The best is yet to come!"



I Need Your Help! You Need My Comics!

Hi, all!

Your friendly neighborhood blogger (that'd be me) has fallen on some hard times and needs to make some quick cash (bills to pay, mouth to feed, more bills to pay). I also need to make room around here because there's increasingly not enough of it. That's where you guys come in! I'll be editing this list routinely, but here's the starter: nearly 500 comics I just have to let go! I'll be taking orders and Paypal payments at tensen two zero nine nine at yahoo dot com. (Solve the rather obvious riddle and avoid the spambots from nabbing my address.) Rules go a bit like this:
  1. Books are, unless otherwise noted, $1.00 US each. Trades will be forthcoming, and they'll be $5 each.
  2. Books are first printings, regular editions (non variants) unless otherwise noted.
  3. Most books will be around VF-NM condition, but some older books may be less. Some are bagged and boarded, some aren't. You're still getting a deal.
  4. You are responsible for shipping.
  5. E-mail me a list of the books you would like, and I'll send you a Paypal invoice with the total including shipping.
  6. If multiple customers request the same book(s), earliest timestamped email gets the book(s).
  7. If you have any other questions, please ask before ordering.
  8. I'll be sending out generally once or twice a week, between Tuesday and Thursday. Delivery confirmation will be included on all domestic shipments.
Marvel Comics:
  • A Moment of Silence #1
  • Amazing Spider-Man #634, 635, 636, 637 (all Mike Fyles variant covers)
  • Astonishing X-Men #27, 28, 29, 30
  • Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #1, 2
  • Avengers: The Initiative #1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35
  • Books of Doom #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  • Dark Avengers #1, 2, 3, 4
  • Dark Reign: Mister Negative #1
  • Dark Reign: The List - Secret Warriors #1
  • Dark Reign: The List - Wolverine #1
  • Deathlok the Demolisher #1
  • Death's Head II (1992 miniseries) #1, 2, 3, 4
  • Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Doctor Voodoo: Origin of Jericho Drumm #1
  • Doomwar #1
  • Dr. Doom & the Masters of Evil #1, 2, 3
  • Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk #1, 2, 3, 4
  • Fall of the Hulks: Savage She-Hulks #2
  • God-Size Thor #1
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2009 series) #1
  • Heralds #1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Hulk (2008) #18 (Christmas variant $4), 19 (x2), 22 (2nd print)
  • Incredible Hercules: Assault on New Olympus #1
  • Incredible Hulk #606 (2nd print)
  • Invincible Iron Man (2004) #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18
  • Logan's Run #6 (Thanos solo story)
  • Marvel Adventures Super-Heroes #5, 6, 9
  • Marvels Project #1 (70th Anniversary Party Variant)
  • Maximum Security #1
  • Mighty Avengers (2007) #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35
  • MODOK: Reign Delay #1
  • Ms. Marvel #7, 10, 11
  • Mythos: Ghost Rider #1
  • New Avengers (2004) #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 25, 41, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 55, 56
  • New Avengers Finale
  • New Avengers: The Illuminati #2
  • New Avengers: The Reunion #1 (Hawkeye & Mockingbird)
  • Nick Fury Vs. SHIELD #1, 2, 3, 4 (signed by Joe Jusko), 5, 6
  • Origins of Siege #1 (50 cents)
  • Patsy Walker: Hellcat #1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Punisher War Journal (2006) #2
  • Rom Spaceknight #62
  • Secret Invasion #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
  • Secret Warriors #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  • Sentry: Fallen Sun #1 (Siege Epilogue)
  • Siege #1
  • Siege: Captain America #1
  • Siege: The Cabal #1
  • Skrull Kill Krew (2009) #1
  • Spider-Man Noir #1
  • Spider-Woman (2009) #1
  • Thor: Man of War #1
  • Ultimate Spider-Man #54 (Arachno-Man variant)_
  • Uncanny X-Men #472, 485, 486
  • War Machine (2009) #1
  • War of Kings #1
  • War of Kings: Darkhawk #1, 2
  • Wolverine: Wendigo! #1
  • X-Men Forever (2009) #1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  • X-Men Noir #1
  • X-Men Origins: Gambit #1
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine #1
  • X-Men: Magik (Abnett/Lanning!) #1, 2, 3, 4
  • Zombie (Marvel MAX) #1, 2, 3, 4
DC Comics:
  • Adventure Comics #0 (50 cents), 1
  • Azrael: Death's Dark Knight #1, 2, 3 (Battle for the Cowl)
  • Batman #676, 677. 678, 679, 680, 681, 682, 683, 686 (Neil Gaiman - Alex Ross cover), 687, 700
  • Batman and Robin #1, 2, 3 (Grant Morrison)
  • Batman/Grendel #1, 2 (Devil's Riddle/Devil's Masque)
  • Batman: Cacophony #1 (Kevin Smith)
  • Batman: Castle of the Bat #1 (Elseworlds)
  • Batman: Gotham By Gaslight #1 (Elseworlds)
  • Batman: Streets of Gotham #1
  • Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1
  • Blackest Night #0 (FCBD), 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
  • Blackest Night: Batman #1, 2, 3
  • Blackest Night: JSA #1, 2, 3
  • Blackest Night: Superman #1, 2, 3
  • Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1, 2, 3
  • Blackest Night: Titans #1, 2, 3
  • Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #1, 2, 3
  • Detective Comics #821, 822, 823, 825, 826, 827, 829, 830, 832, 833, 834, 835, 836, 837, 840, 841, 843, 844, 845, 846, 847, 848, 850, 853 (Neil Gaiman - Kubert cover), 854 (1st Batwoman series), 855, 856, 857, 858, 859, 860, 861, 862, 863, 864
  • Flash: Rebirth #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  • Green Lantern (2005) #1 (Pacheco cover), 1 (Alex Ross cover), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56
  • Green Lantern Corps (2006) #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 14 (2nd print), 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 35 (reship copy), 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50
  • Green Lantern Corps: Recharge #1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Green Lantern: Secret Files & Origins 2005
  • Guy Gardner: Collateral Damage #1, 2
  • iZombie #1
  • Nightwing #150
  • Power Girl #1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
  • Primal Force (1994) #0, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14
  • Red Robin #1
  • Robin #176
  • Secret Six #17, 18
  • Suicide Squad #67 (Blackest Night)
  • Superman #700
  • Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Cyborg Superman #1
  • Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Ion #1
  • Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Parallax #1
  • Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman-Prime #1
  • War of the Supermen #0 (FCBD)
  • Haunt #1
  • Image Comics Summer Special #1 (FCBD)
  • Madame Mirage #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  • Madame Mirage: First Look #1
  • Angel Vs. Frankenstein #1
  • Angel: Blood & Trenches #1
Dark Horse:
  • Doctor Solar: Man of the Atom #1 (Jim Shooter)
  • FCBD: Doctor Solar & Magnus Robot Fighter #1
  • Solomon Kane (2009) #1 (Kubert cover)
Other Independents:
  • Grave Grrrls #1 (Alex Ross variant)
  • Project Superpowers #1
  • Star Wars #0 (American Entertainment, reprints old Marvel strips)
Please link this page to friends, retweet if you're on Twitter! Thank you, everyone! Hope you find something you like!



Who Was That STATUE I Saw You With...?

Courtesy the excellent eye of my friend Don Weiss Jr. and brought to life by yours truly. I can't believe I didn't see this until tonight! How's this for an old-school Hulk reference?

A coincidence, or one more ode to Bill Mantlo? You decide!



Dark Son: An Incredible Hulks Primer

Good morning, everyone (and afternoon for the East-coasters)!

Once again, I'm branching out off this site and giving you the best Hulk news I can! Visit Jameson Lee's Daily P.O.P. website for today's article featuring the history of the Hulk's second son, Hiro-Kala! I wanted to boil the prior storylines down and give you guys a nice prelude to today's Incredible Hulks #612 release. Hope you all enjoy it, and I'll be around very soon for more fun!

Thanks for reading!



ADVANCE REVIEW! The Incredible Hulks #612

The Incredible Hulks #612

Writers: Greg Pak & Scott Reed
Artists: Tom Raney, Scott Hanna, Brian Ching & Victor Olazaba
Colorists: John Rauch & Jorge Maese
Letterers: Simon Bowland
Production: Irene Lee
Assistant Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics

A thankfully (mostly) SPOILER-FREE review follows.

When thinking of families of super heroes, it's impossible to avoid thinking of Marvel's standard-bearer, the Fantastic Four. Well, get ready for a new comics family, but this isn't the Fantastic Four--and Bruce Banner and Betty Ross sure aren't Reed and Sue Richards!

In "Earth," the first story of the new, plural status quo of the book formerly known as The Incredible Hulk, writer Greg Pak wisely has the newly-crowned "Hulk family" take a step back from the pandemonium of the past several months' issues by letting them relax at a picnic by the beach. However, since this is a "Hulk" book, the situation doesn't remain serene for long, and it's largely due to the 800-lb. gorilla in the room that everyone's been wondering about (or is that the 650-lb. scarlet-skinned woman?): the status of the relationship between Bruce and Betty, who's just returned from death and been turned into the Red She-Hulk.

If anyone's unclear about it, this issue's character-driven elements should clear it up: Greg Pak gets Bruce Banner and his family of misfits. Bruce is the emotionally-stunted scientist who doesn't know how to approach Betty's return, while Betty is emotionally scarred from the very nature of her historical relationship with Bruce, as well as what happened while she was "dead." Their encounter here really resonates for longtime readers. It has real dramatic weight, and I'm anxious to see how their relationship unfolds from this point forward.

The rest of the main cast--Jennifer Walters, Lyra, Rick Jones as A-Bomb, Korg, and Skaar--all get some small character moments, but the stage this time is clearly devoted to Bruce/Hulk and Betty/Red She-Hulk. Skaar and the Hulk share a smile-inducing moment amid the action, and I can tell, it's going to be a treat seeing these two share "screen time" in issues to come. All in all, the saga of the Hulks is starting out to be a saga about a very human family, even if their forms are monstrous.

Thankfully, the artwork for this issue's lighthearted romp is every bit as strong as Greg Pak's script, with Tom Raney and Scott Hanna turning in their usual, reliable work. I've always enjoyed Raney's slightly quirky style, going back to his days on Warlock & The Infinity Watch and he performs just as capably here with every member of the Hulk family. Barry Kitson may be replacing him next month for the remainder of "Dark Son," but he definitely pulls his weight.

Off-Earth, in the second chapter of the "Dark Son" story, "K'ai," writer Pak and Scott Reed shed additional light on the origins of the Hulk's other son, Skaar's twin brother, Hiro-Kala. Immediately apparent when compared to previous chapters is the striking new art style, this time by former Star Wars and Top Cow artist Brian Ching. It's very powerful, and moves the story along beautifully. The story largely serves as a recap to everything Hiro-Kala has been through to this point. It's well done and sets up the remainder of the arc the way it should. It'll be interesting to see how and when the two sides meet, and what the Hulk thinks of K'ai being in this universe now.

The Incredible Hulks #612 is an apt beginning to the next bold era of Hulk comics, showing a clear introduction to the cast, and preparing everyone for the conflicts upcoming in this arc. It's a testament to the ability of writer Greg Pak that the title can shift so easily from being about the lead character as a loner in a world where no one understands him, to being about the importance of a family of such beings. I'll be eagerly awaiting the next episode in just two short weeks. Highly Recommended.


The Incredible Hulks #612 is on sale Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at comic shops everywhere. Call 1-800-COMIC-BOOK to find a retailer near you.


Don't Say I Didn't Warn You: The HULK #24 Review

Hulk #24: "The Strongest There Is"

A Loeb/McGuinness/Farmer/Hollowell/Comicraft/White/Cosby/Paniccia Dive

So...it's here. The grand finale of the Loeb/McGuinness HULK run, but not the end of the series. (Next month, ATLAS writer/artist duo Jeff Parker and Gabe Hardman take over, but that's a story for another blog.) I don't want to give an all-encompassing review like I did last week's INCREDIBLE HULK #611. One reason is, well, there simply isn't that much to cover, but also, I think the jury is still out on this one until September 1 arrives and with it, INCREDIBLE HULKS #612. We do see one status quo shift this month, with potentially the promise of a second--but we can't be sure of that without the aforementioned book that ships in two short weeks.

I'm not going to be discussing the finer points, but rather I'll discuss one key point of the issue, and the pluses and minuses that go along with it. The point is one you've likely seen if you read the preview pages that showed up last week, but still, even if you haven't seen those pages, those who don't want to know what happens: I'd strongly suggest going no further. Full SPOILER GOGGLES on from here on out, folks!

The major plot point I'm referring to is, of course, the incarnation of the Hulk as shown in this issue. He appears to possess the full mental faculties of Dr. Robert Bruce Banner, as Loeb wrote most recently in HULK #10-12, and as was glimpsed most notably during Bill Mantlo's tenure in INCREDIBLE HULK #272-297. A variation appeared when Doc Samson "merged" Banner and the gray and green Hulks (now "Fixit" and "Savage Hulk") in INCREDIBLE HULK #377 in 1991--still, debatably, more Banner in mind than Hulk, but possessing traits of all three incarnations of the period.

This version of the Hulk is the one who enters final battle (Where have we heard that one before?) with "Thunderbolt" Ross, the Red Hulk, in this issue, and it is he who defeats him handily. Apparently, the re-gammafication of Bruce Banner that occurred in INCREDIBLE HULK #610 endowed him with so much gamma energy that it not only made it nearly impossible for Red Hulk to siphon off enough energy to change him back to Banner, but it also granted him such power to effectively end the fight with one massive thunderclap of his hands. Logistically, this victory doesn't quite work, as it's arbitrary at best considering the past battles between these two, and the conclusion--an admittedly well-done nod to the conclusion of Loeb's own HULK #1--is equally ludicrous in context.

At no time during this issue is lip service paid to either outstanding major plot point I was interested in. Namely, just what did Banner say to Ross back in HULK #3 that's been the topic of much debate and been referred to as recently as HULK #19? And just why, if Amadeus Cho's Bannertech determined that the Col. Talbot at Ft. Bowland wasn't a Life Model Decoy in INCREDIBLE HULK #608, was Talbot revealed as an LMD after all when Red Hulk tore his head off in HULK #23? While the former is no big deal, the latter does leave a plot hole open whereby Colonel Talbot could really be alive and well--and hence, would provide an excellent foil for "Thunderbolt" Ross in HULK. Oops, did I say that out loud...?

You probably find it as hard as I do to believe that, after the thrilling denouement of INCREDIBLE HULK #611, the next time we should see the titular character, it's in a wholly different form than in that episode. Furthermore, there just isn't any explanation for the change. Oh, sure, Loeb includes passing references to Banner now being "in control of [the Hulk]" and there's an obtuse monologue about the Hulk having to learn from the mistakes of the past; however, it's disconcerting that nothing directly connects the dots between the last part of this saga and this one. (To say nothing about the weather and the timeframe between the two books; but leave us not digress.) There are pieces that suggest the "Green Scar" incarnation, particularly right after the big kaboom near the end, oddly, but they're fleeting at best. I find it extraordinarily hard to swallow that this new Hulk just came up as direct result of the reconciliation with his son Skaar, but it's either we accept that explanation, or entertain the notion that Mark Paniccia, Jordan White, and Nathan Cosby in Marvel Editorial all failed to reconcile the script for this issue with Greg Pak's vision over in INCREDIBLE HULK(S).

Let's examine, then, if this is the new status quo for our mighty Green Goliath. How long can it possibly last? I'm really hoping the answer is "not long" but at the same time, it seems we haven't had a stable status quo for the Hulk since the year of "Planet Hulk." I want one Hulk and one Banner, and I want them as they should be, at odds with each other and the world. I like the Hulk and Banner having separate personalities, as it separates them from the majority of Marvel's heroes (and villains--and for that matter, the vast majority of popular fiction's heroes). Whenever the Hulk has had elements of Banner's personality ascendant--with or without the transformation dynamic intact, cf. Mantlo's Banner Hulk & David's merged Hulk--the character has ultimately proven less interesting than with the dichotomy of personalities. The narrative ultimately suffers. I'm of the mind that, for purposes of the upcoming "Hulk family" stories in INCREDIBLE HULKS, we're best served by a distinct Banner and Hulk, each dealing with their "family members" in their own inimitable way while trying to get along with each other. If you no longer have a separate Hulk and Banner apart from the transformation itself, then the dramatic tension that propels the traditional Hulk narrative is gone. Hence, the book becomes, as it did during both Mantlo and David's runs during the periods indicated, a standard superheroic narrative where the hero switches back and forth between his "true identity" and his "super hero" selves as required.

Of course, much as I complain, the personality displayed by the Hulk in this issue makes total sense in context of Loeb's narrative alone. The ongoing battle between Hulk and Red Hulk has really been about their true identities, Bruce Banner and "Thunderbolt" Ross, and as such, it doesn't make sense for the ascendant Hulk personality to be any other than Banner. His is the personality closest to all of the important elements raised in these last two issues, from the triangle involving Betty, to the animosity between them that has stretched back to a time before the Hulk existed. Banner not only has to become the Hulk again to surmount the narrative hurdle in INCREDIBLE HULK #600 whereby he was cured, but he must also gain equal psychological footing with the Red Hulk in order to gain the final victory. It begs the larger question, does Loeb as a writer comprehend the differences between the incarnations, and that the Green Scar incarnation clearly has a different vocabulary and manner than the savage Hulk, the gray Hulk, the Banner Hulk, and the merged Hulk? It's frustrating to me that what works internally for Loeb's run, appears to fail miserably in the greater context of Hulk lore.

Potentially, what Loeb has shown us in his finale is more problematic than anything he showed us regarding the Red Hulk in the last two-and-a-half years. Of course, as I stated previously, I could be huffing and puffing for absolutely nothing, because INCREDIBLE HULKS #612 could show up on September 1st and establish a distinct Banner and Hulk, refuting everything that this issue has put forth, making idiots of Marvel Editorial in the process. Part of me delights in the idea as it would show the star system is alive and well at Marvel, giving favoritism to writers like Loeb in detriment to the ongoing narrative that's been set up for years in broad strokes by Pak.

It's true, in that three-page epilogue that sets up Ross' new status quo, that we see the Hulk outfitted with a utility belt, the same he sports in upcoming INCREDIBLE HULKS artwork that, to me, demonstrated that the ingenuity Banner demonstrated during his Hulk-free year was alive and well, and would serve the Hulk as well. (It'd be somewhere for Banner to keep his gadgets during his transformations, and a place for the Hulk to stash his weaponry--remember Banner using his pack-o-wonders in INCREDIBLE HULK #603?) But is it a symbol that Banner is actually in control? Say it ain't so, Joe!

So, to recap: Greg Pak's INCREDIBLE HULK #611: the emotional thematic finale to everything that's built since the end of WORLD WAR HULK. Jeph Loeb's HULK #24: a really messy enema for the Hulk's corner of the Marvel Universe and Loeb's run in particular. Honestly...am I delusional?



Fables of the Deconstruction: An Incredible Hulk #611 Review/Commentary

It's here! It only took me the better part of four days, and I hope during that time everyone's made their way to their local comic shop for their heapin' helpin' of THE INCREDIBLE HULK #611 by Messrs. Greg Pak and Paul Pelletier. (If not, head out and buy the book, right now. I'll be right here when you return.) Therein was a real tour-de-force by the modern Hulk team par excellance. For parts of this critique, I have to give credit where credit is due: thanks to Don Weiss Jr. and Charlie Brooks for some feedback & food for thought! Shall we get right to get to the point, or must I continue to spew cliches in a foreign language? Oh, if I must...

SPOILER goggles on, yo.

The Incredible Hulk #611: "Sons of Wrath"
A Pak/Pelletier/Miki/D'Armata/Bowland/White/Paniccia Joint

Firstly, I should mention that this issue marks the 300th issue anniversary of Bill Mantlo, Mike Mignola & Gerry Talaoc's monumental Hulk story "Monster" which first appeared in THE INCREDIBLE HULK #312 in October, 1985. As I've discussed in this week's dissection of Mantlo's tenure on the title, the book forever changed the direction of the Hulk series, for better or worse, establishing the Hulk's origins in Bruce Banner's father having abused him as a child. The internalized, repressed anger from those childhood years finally manifested the day the G-Bomb went off and transformed him into the Hulk. Writer Peter David primarily built upon this idea for his "merger" storyline in THE INCREDIBLE HULK #377 where Bruce mentally "defeated" his father Brian's "ghost" in so doing integrating his three disparate personalities into one whole, Hulk-like creature. Needless to say, this story takes quite the opposite tact when dealing with the issue of Banner's tortured childhood.

The seeds should have been plain for longtime readers to see: On the savage world of Sakaar, the Hulk married Caiera the Oldstrong, whose Shadow People gave birth to strong offspring who could run within hours of birth. Marry that strength and advanced development with the Hulk's gamma-irradiated genes, and you could see that any offspring they could have would be quite strong and durable. Hence came Skaar, son of Hulk, who brought the most intriguing questions that virtually everyone at Marvel had been scared to death of asking until now: Would the sins of the father be visited upon the son? How would Banner, and for that matter, the Hulk, react to having a son who was himself, quite literally, a monster? Writer Greg Pak has been moving the pieces around the chessboard for over two years now, and here's where the payoff comes!

When we begin this story, it's thirty years ago (Thank you, Marvel sliding timeline!) and Bruce Banner, aged four, has sneaked downstairs for a peek at his Christmas presents, unwrapping an erector set he uses to build an enormous, ornate structure. Then, a dark shadow looms--Brian Banner, Bruce's father, who promptly destroys the structure, calling his son a monster and cursing his frightening intelligence. That's the story as it was told in THE INCREDIBLE HULK #312, right down to the Guardian doll alongside young Bruce. "Hate to break it to you, Pop," intones present-day Banner as be stands before a video camera, ready to record, "but you don't know the half of it."

Banner's message, recorded two weeks prior to the events of now, plays on several devices before the assembled heroes. He recaps how he manipulated and betrayed nearly every super hero and government on the planet to lead the good guys to victory over the Intelligencia (which he did, last month), but that the cost is that he has reverted to the Hulk--the same Hulk who agonized over the death of his beloved Caiera, the strongest Hulk ever, who defeated Earth's mightiest heroes without breathing hard. And now, only Skaar hates his father enough to do what must be done, what Banner trained him for over the last few weeks: kill him!

From the beginning, it indeed appears the so-called "World Breaker" Hulk has returned, his eyes glowing green, his body emanating gamma radiation in waves. He's so full of rage, or so overwhelmed by power, that he's inarticulate, growling as his every step shatters the ground. (Is it him, though? It doesn't matter, but yes, we only have Banner's word for it.) The end of last issue likened the effects to WORLD WAR HULK #5 with the elderly couple from that same issue crying, "Not again!" One must presume that it is only savage Skaar's use of the alien Old Power that absorbs the energy that would have shattered the Earth. He channels it instead to deliver a hit to the Hulk unlike any he has felt before--one that sends the Green Goliath over 250 miles, from Washington, DC to Gilmer County, West Virginia!

As Skaar leaps to continue the battle, the Hulk seems to glow less, his rage beginning to abate. Articulate at last, he dismisses his son, tossing him aside. "I'm not here to fight you," he says. Skaar brings up his mother's name, but the Hulk disparages the comment: "[S]he's dead. You never talked to her." He did, however--Caiera's connection to the planet Sakaar extended beyond death due to the Old Power--that is, until her savage son fed the planet to Galactus.

Just like that, it's on like Donkey Kong. Hulk is crushed by the news that his wife, his queen, survived in spirit only to be essentially killed by their son. He flashes back to the day Caiera told him she was pregnant, only to see her image shattered, revealing Skaar underneath before it is shattered again, revealing...Brian Banner??!? He remembers his (or is that Banner's?) father beating Rebecca Banner in front of him when he was just four. He casts his son as his father...and promptly hits Skaar into orbit, knocking him about 400 miles the other direction, into the Atlantic Ocean just off Ocean City, Maryland! Our boy Hulk doesn't kid around!

Betty Ross Banner, a.k.a. the Red She-Hulk, leaps down just in time to see the Hulk and Skaar emerge from the ocean. Skaar uses his Old Power to manipulate the Earth, sending it at his father at such speeds and volume it even rips through his dense body. Banner knew, didn't he? He knew that Skaar was strong and smart enough to kill the Hulk, but the training Banner gave him was to ensure he had the will to back up the skill. "I do," he thunders over a beaten Hulk. Then, Red She-Hulk breaks up the conflict, giving Hulk brief time to heal. Skaar dismisses her, hitting her with his Old Power, slamming her into a building which threatens to collapse as the Hulk struggles to rise. He hears the people's cries for help, and he flashes back to his mother, being beaten by her husband, crying out for help as the helpless young Bruce looks on. Skaar renews his monstrous assault, and the Hulk sees himself, hit by his father amid those torturous words: "You little monster!"

WHAKOOOM! The Hulk slams his hands together, causing a terrific shockwave of pure force, driving Skaar off him, sending waves of sand forward from the beaches, toward the toppling structure. Red She-Hulk thinks he's lost it. The people head for the hills...but then, the dust settles...and the Hulk has saved the people in the building and prevented its collapse!

"Those people...I didn't see them...but you..." The Hulk's savage son is incredulous. He had heard the stories that the Hulk united the people of Sakaar, but all he had heard from Banner were horror stories about the Hulk, the monster, the World Breaker. Now, not only had the Hulk displayed his heroism by saving the people in the toppling building, but he also revealed Skaar to be more like the very monster he accused the Hulk of being, putting others' lives in jeopardy.

The Hulk, however, doesn't stop, still flashing back to memories of Brian Banner, taking the soothed Skaar--who doesn't even lift a finger to defend himself--and beating him into the ground. The bloodied Skaar looks forlornly up at his father: "Fun show...but Banner sent me here to kill a monster. He doesn't...he doesn't really know you, does he?"

Cryptically, he tells the Hulk: "Hah. Just tell him...tell him I'm done. The rest of you...work it out," before transforming back to his "puny" self. It's apparent here that what Banner has done is deplorable. He has used the rage he internalized from having allied himself with his savage half during WORLD WAR HULK (that partially-misplaced aggression toward the Illuminati), and taken advantage of his son's plight to find the Hulk, twisting the two together in a suicide pact of sorts, relying on the fact that Skaar had only "known" his father through second-hand sources. He used his son the way he used the super heroes and the world's governments--as a super-strong "gun," but against the part of himself that he loathes instead of the Intel. Is Banner in his own way as much "damaged goods" as he believes the Hulk to be?

The Hulk stands above his son, and we see the inverse of the earlier flashbacks: Instead of Skaar as Brian Banner, the specter of Brian now hovers above the Hulk, with young Bruce above Skaar. Will the cycle of violence continue? Will Bruce Banner or the Hulk become his father? The moment hangs in the air, and then the Hulk transforms back to Bruce, who apologizes to his son. Skaar looks up at him, a worried look on his face.

We pan back to Betty Ross Banner, looking at father and son. Others have wondered why she even appears here; after all, she's not directly involved in the father-son conflict. The earlier appearance, breaking up the fight briefly, sets the stage for the scene that follows. She's there to represent the "family" aspect that writer Greg Pak is setting up. As Bruce's wife, she's effectively a "stepmother" to Skaar, hence at the core of the new dynamic. She has always helped Bruce to express his emotions instead of repress them. So, when she says...

..."This is where you hug him," it's the pivotal moment, what turns the narrative, and perhaps what makes Bruce do what he might not have otherwise done. She forces him to reconcile what has happened over the last year. If not for the Gamma bomb, there would be no Hulk. If there were no Hulk, then the Illuminati would not have exiled him off-world. Each event proceeds from the previous. The Hulk would not have met Caiera and married. Caiera would not have become pregnant with Skaar. Sakaar's Crown City would not have been decimated by the bomb that Red King loyalists set. The Hulk would not have left the son he didn't know survived and returned to Earth to punish those he blamed for the pain he endured. Skaar wouldn't have been raised by monsters in a savage world without the love of his father. He wouldn't have fed Sakaar to Galactus and rushed across the universe in search of the father who abandoned him. He wouldn't have been taken in by the embittered Banner and directed as a weapon at the father he never knew.

The bottom line is that Bruce Banner has a lot to answer for, and the Hulk has a lot to make up for. The way they can both start turning things around is by not neglecting their son but by embracing him, the way Brian Banner never embraced young Bruce. By stopping the cycle of violence. By opening up, and fulfilling the promise of Mantlo's #312.

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