The End of an Era: Marvel Heroes #33, Reviewed

As you may have seen in my previous post, Marvel Heroes #33, released by Panini, the UK licensee for Marvel Comics, has become a book of substantial importance beyond its meeting between the incredible Hulk and the original Death's Head, making his first U.K. appearance in over a decade and a half. Due to Disney's edict, it's also the last issue released by Panini to feature original content. That explains the dedication on the final story page ("Dedicated, with much respect and admiration, to all those who worked at Marvel U.K.") as it was clearly known around the Panini offices that it was, indeed, the end of the road. Alas, I've blogged enough about the actual end of Marvel U.K., so now it's time to review this last, bittersweet memory of an issue.

The powers-that-be went all-out with this issue, not only furnishing "The Brute and the Bounty Hunter," the main eight-page story by Simon Furman and Simon Williams, but also "The Hero Inside," a seven-page prologue by Ferg Handley and John Ross, and a spotlight feature on Death's Head for those who might not be familiar. The book is clearly intended for younger readers, but the Hulk/Death's Head stories can be enjoyed by fans of all ages and degrees due to some rather interesting uses of continuity.

Handley and Ross' story begins with Bruce Banner, on the run against those who would capture him, meeting with Betty in a public spot. However, not all is as it appears, and soon the Hulk is loose and fighting General Ross' Hulkbusters! The soldiers have an unexpected ace up their sleeve and the battle ends quickly. S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives with Ross, and they reveal to Banner that they need his--that is, the Hulk's--help to eliminate an alien threat that old-time Marvelites will find vaguely familiar. (To say nothing of the situation itself and its echoes of "Planet Hulk.") It's a decent setup story with the same art style as in the U.S.' Marvel Adventures line; in fact, John Ross' art reminds me to a degree of the work of Andy Kuhn, a Hulk fan of some renown and artist of Image Comics' Firebreather. Handley's script is capable, too, and gets all the characters in the right place for the main event.

And it's the main event by Furman and Williams that succeeds beyond all expectations. Transported to the Blue Area of the Moon to face the aliens' champion, the brutish Hulk must restrain his savagery if he is to defeat him. That champion is, of course, Death's Head, looking and sounding exactly as he did in his earliest adventures at Marvel U.K. (In fact, his costume is the one he wore circa Transformers, Doctor Who Weekly and Dragon's Claws, which should inform you where the aliens snatched him from the timestream!) You can tell this is Simon Williams' dream project, as his art captures the raw power of the Hulk and the snarky attitude of Death's Head during their battle. The outcome is different than expected, but no less satisfying. Furman's script depicts everyone as spot-on as they could be, and Jason Cardy and Kat Nicholson's lush color palettes complete the package.

This two-part tale is a fitting end to Marvel U.K., teaming one of the U.S.' best-known heroes with one of the best characters to ever come out of the U.K. To have the main event written by one of the company's foremost talents of yesteryear and drawn by a terrific artist who's also a big time fan--that's icing on the cake. Again, I sincerely hope that Marvel U.S. reprints this tale--both parts--as a tribute, for these stories in this issue mark the end of an era.

If you're in a position to buy this gem, by all means, do it. If you're not, write to Marvel and request this tale, especially in light of recent news.

Quick Verdict: Do I really need to say it? Buy It.


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