Advance Review: Hulk #42 (& More Late Reviews!)

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends...

Tonight I've got something of a treat. In advance, I've got a very special review for everyone! Y'see, brand new regular artist Patch Zircher is on board Hulk alongside regular writer Jeff Parker as of issue #42. So not only will I be briefly looking back at issue #41, not only will I be glossing over Hulk Vs. Dracula, I'll also be giving you an advance peek at next week's book! (Hopefully, next week will also bring my DC "New 52" reviews. Remember, you can still catch my review of I, Vampire just one entry previous!)

So, where were we? Ah, yes!

HULK #41 - Marvel Comics, $2.99
By Jeff Parker, Gabriel Hardman & Bettie Breitweiser

It honestly feels like the end of the road.

Sixteen issues ago, Jeff Parker, Gabriel Hardman and Bettie Breitweiser came together and took the reins from Red Hulk creators Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. However you looked at it, Loeb and McGuinness' successors had their work cut out for them. If you believed they were the team supreme and had made you enjoy the Hulk like none before, how could anyone measure up? If you didn't like Red Hulk at all, how could anyone else take over and change your mind?

It's truly a credit to this creative triad that they were able to take what the previous team did--love it or hate it--and build upon the legend, creating a more well-rounded Red Hulk with a multifaceted set of motivations and a varied league of villains. It's true that Loeb was only able to write the revealed Ross as Red Hulk for two whole issues (#23-24), so sure, take that into account. Even still, you can't discount the contributions made and the acknowledgments to previous continuity.

In Gabriel Hardman's final issue, Jeff Parker is wisely able to wrap up the cosmic-league threat of Omegex while at the same time giving both Red Hulk and his antagonist Zero/One new beginnings (of sorts). And we've got General Fortean out there, plotting and scheming for another day.

I've truly enjoyed the previous two segments of this storyline, and "Finality" here is no different. Although the physical battle here is between Red Hulk, who's been trapped in his super-powered form since his battle with Fortean in #31, and Omegex, who's been established as a threat since #28, it's the verbal chess match between Red Hulk and Zero/One that steals the show. The duo have had an unconventional team-up in the interests of defeating the world-ending threat, but it's always come back to the similarities and differences between the characters. Parker plays the characters off each other so well, and although I could tell how Zero/One would "help" Ross from early in this storyline, it was still a shock to see how much that assist had a bearing on the conclusion here. Kudos.

As for Gabriel Hardman and Bettie Breitweiser, what can I say? These two artistic titans have taken Parker's scripts and amped up the emotional content several notches. The battle scenes are emotional, and the scenes that were meant to be touching to begin with ended up so much deeper. The looks into Red Hulk's past were especially sumptuous, and his own reactions to Zero/One's take on that past were priceless.

It's hard saying goodbye to two terrific talents at once like this, but at the same time, I'm certain that new artist-in-residence Patch Zircher and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg will acquit themselves admirably in "Hulk of Arabia" and beyond.

But hey! You'll have to read about them below. As for this issue, it could hardly be better. Echoes of the seventies Hulk under Len Wein! Modern sensibilities! Emotionally rich storytelling! Buy It!

FEAR ITSELF: HULK VS. DRACULA #2 - Marvel Comics, $2.99
By Victor Gischler, Ryan Stegman, Mike Babinski & Antonio Fabela

Uhm, next?

When last we left the Hulk, he was possessed by the hammer of the Worthy that made him Nul, Breaker of Worlds. After crash-landing in Transylvania, he found himself besieged by all kinds of monsters. Meanwhile, Dracula and his vampire legions ran around wondering just what they could do about this threat in their midst.

At the conclusion of this issue, little has changed.

Maybe. A little bit. Truthfully, not much.

And that's the key complaint I have about this three-part miniseries. So far, it feels like a one-shot's worth of material needlessly spread across three issues for the sake of making nine dollars instead of three. (Or four, if a double-sized one-shot's your thing.) Ask yourself: where is the Hulk at the end of the first issue? The second? And what about Dracula and the majority of his ilk? Not only are they in virtually the same places, physically, they're in the same place in terms of characterization, too. Hulk is still smashing monsters and Dracula is still plotting to stop him. Oh, Dracula sent a few of his vampire soldiers against the Hulk and he beat them? He did that last month, too.

Ryan Stegman and Mike Babinski step out of the comfort zone they found in such emotionally and comedically rich stories as the recent She-Hulks and Amazing Spider-Man work they did, and their work also falls far short of the mark. After a promising start, the art just doesn't hold together, which seems almost as much of a critique on their strengths as it does an indictment of the story being told. Horror just doesn't suit this team.

Again, the key fault lies in the two sides here. You've got a brainwashed Hulk blindly smashing things without any emotional underpinning. Add to that a vampire nation of characters who just aren't very interesting, nor do they possess enough honorable attributes so one might root for them against the Hulk.

Guys, with one issue left, I'm trying, I really am. But with this issue virtually a regurgitation of the first, you should really Burn It.

HULK #42 - Marvel Comics, $2.99
By Jeff Parker, Patch Zircher & Rachelle Rosenberg

Thanks to James Sime of that great bastion of San Francisco comics goodness, The Isotope, I got a B&W preview of this book this week. (If anyone went to San Diego Comic Con this year, you know the preview of which I speak!) As mentioned above, it's the first regular issue for new artist Patch Zircher, an artist I've long admired since the days of Evan Skolnick's New Warriors in the mid-nineties. He illustrated a recent issue (#36), and I've hoped he'd return. Here he is!

Loosed from the threats of Zero/One, Black Fog and Omegex, Thad Ross finds himself once more at odds with General Fortean. While that's nothing new, the situation he finds himself in as result is. When he discovers an old friend has died at the hands of a terrorist in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar, he decides to exact righteous red vengeance. Of course, that'll end up going so well, right?

After the tension of the previous storylines including "Omegex," the beginning of "Hulk of Arabia" feels tame by comparison. Don't get me wrong--it's still a solid story by Jeff Parker that plays to Ross' military strengths--but anything after those emotional heights is naturally going to feel lacking.

The story comes alive with artwork by the aforementioned Patch Zircher. After getting his feet wet in issue #36, he really comes to play this issue. His Red Hulk is appropriately big and mean, Thad Ross is determined, and every sequence is convincingly rendered. Keep in mind, this is in black-and-white; I haven't even glimpsed Rachelle Rosenberg's colors yet, and won't see them until next Wednesday. Still, as powerful as the linework is, the look can only improve with the addition of a quality color artist.

If you've been longing to see Thad Ross use more of his military history as the Red Hulk, then look no further. "Hulk of Arabia" looks to be another winner from Jeff Parker. It starts off on the ground floor and just keeps rolling. For now, Read It, but if it's anything like previous epics from Parker, I'll be upgrading that rating on successive issues!



Advance Review: "I, Vampire" #1

Yes, it's true! I've been remiss in my reviewing activities. If you must know, I'm writing a book here, and preparing for this year's New York Comic Con that hits in a few short weeks. In answer to your unspoken questions, I've been reading quite a few of DC Comics' "New 52" projects this last month. Why, you ask, have I not reviewed any of those books? Simply put, I haven't found any that have compelled me to put pen to paper (or, as the case may be, fingers to keyboard). But that's changed. Oh, ye gods, how that has changed...

Early on, it was the most derided of all the series DC announced. If it wasn't "DC, how could you try and cash in on the Twilight craze?" it was "DC, why in God's name did you bring that book back, out of all the old books that could've been relaunched?" People didn't "get" why they would bring back Andrew Bennett, who'd been on the scene in the horror anthology House of Mystery for all of two years prior to its 1983 cancellation. They thought, well, obviously we're going to get "emo" vampires, because they're so de rigueur today.

For those who've caught my previous references to this series, as far back as 2007, this one's for you. For those altogether unfamiliar with the first incarnation, this one's also for you. You want to be here for this. You really do...

I, Vampire #1
"Tainted Love"
By Joshua Hale Fialkov, Andrea Sorrentino, Marcelo Maiolo, Pat Brosseau,
Wil Moss, Matt Idelson & Jenny Frison

"Four hundred years ago my vampiric kiss transformed the woman I loved into a soulless thing called Mary, Queen of Blood! Today an unholy order follows her evil designs, and the blood they spill is on my hands! Thus I must stop her...I, Andrew Bennett...I...Vampire!"


An Open Letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings


(I think we can dispense with officiousness, since I've been one of your treasured subscribers since 2006.)

Thanks for sending that mass e-mail to all the...is it still millions, or has it dropped to hundreds of thousands?...subscribers to your revolutionary Netflix service announcing, for the second time, the total dismantling of the service as we knew it. You know, we've been looking for something even more earth-shaking than July's announced split billing and drastic price increases for your company's DVD and streaming services. And it looks like now we've got it.

I have got to applaud a company brash enough to do what you've done. It feels like this decision was made by a bunch of drunken frat buddies late on Thursday after your new subscriber forecast went live and your stock prices took a dive. It's really refreshing to see this kind of immediate, frenzied, drastic reaction instead of the more measured, cautious approach that most big businesses in this day and age employ. If people didn't "get" your plan to totally divorce the two arms of the company, well, they sure as hell do now!

CHOP! One half of the company devoted to instant streaming via high-speed internet connections gets to keep that all-important Netflix name!

CHOP! The other half of the company devoted to DVDs, which is still the predominant method by which movies and television series are distributed, gets divorced and set up with a new name.

Of course, now you've decided to offer video games along with DVDs! This decision is even better than the first, because I have absolutely no interest in renting video games! Wow, what unparalleled value!

The centerpiece of your efforts--which is truly brilliant--is this new name you've given to the DVD and video game division. Qwikster! It just rolls right off the tongue, dunnit? In fact, it's something I honestly wouldn't have expected coming from a CEO of a high-tech mass media company. It's not even something I'd have thought would be thought up after a night of heavy drinking with frat boys who can take as much vacation as they want as long as they produce results at work. It's more along the lines of something a pothead living with his mommy and daddy would use for a nickname on Twitter. So go you!

I can't wait to see how all of these changes are implemented. I hear that you're not going to be linking the Netflix and Qwikster sites at all. It used to be so convenient, because when I added something to my DVD queue, and there was an instant version of the same thing, it got added to my instant queue, too! Also, there was that uncanny algorithm you held that competition to get. You know, the one that keeps track of my preferences based on what I've looked at and rented. I'm so glad you'll completely be getting rid of one easy tracking system. Why use one, when you can use two? And two charges under different names where once there was one? Awesomesauce!

So, yes, it's refreshing to see a name that didn't get vetted by focus groups or dwelt-upon for more than an hour or two. In fact, it didn't take me more than that same timeframe to decide I'm canceling the DVD part of your service, effective just as soon as my next billing cycle begins. Just as immediate and drastic! You see, I signed up for Netflix back in 2006, and Netflix is still where my loyalties lie. I can't be bothered with any pretenders. Full steam ahead Netflix! Who cares if more movies and television shows are available on DVD than for streaming? Not this guy. Not this guy.

In fact, other than those swell Marvel animated series you just put up on the streaming service, I've only interest in watching Doctor Who on there. So after that? Well, you'll probably lose me. Good show, chap! Good show!

Keep flying by the seat of your pants, Reed! After all, who needs a good PR firm when they've got you?

¡Viva la RevoluciĆ³n!



Quick Reviews: Hulk #40, Fear Itself: Hulk Vs. Dracula #1

Greetings, Hulk fans!

Many apologies for my absence these last weeks. Between family issues, health issues, and work-related stuff that couldn't be put off, it's been a rough time for the Delusionally Honest. The good news--that I can't really talk about--is that yours truly has decided to embark on an exciting new venture that will likely mean you'll see less of me around these parts for a while. On the plus side, the likely result will be that you'll see more of me than you've ever seen before! (How's that for a tease?)

Now then, two reviews for the price of one! Because I've been away, and these things are now weekly, ya know...

HULK #40 - Marvel Comics, $2.99
By Jeff Parker, Gabriel Hardman, Bettie Breitweiser & Jim Charalampidis

Gabriel Hardman's finale on art chores continues this issue with the climactic battle between Red Hulk and the cosmic threat Omegex. Along the way, writer Jeff Parker piles in various plot elements and characters from the previous fifteen issues of the series since the duo started on the book. General Fortean is here, blaming his old friend for the chaos. Dr. Kurinji, now better known as Zero/One,and the threat she created, Black Fog, are also on the scene...and helping the Red Hulk?!

With all the characters in this story, you'd think these twenty pages would be a cluttered mess. In fact, they're anything but. Parker uses the middle third of the Omegex saga to explore the dichotomy between Ross and Kurinji and their alter-egos, Red Hulk and Zero/One. He compares them with the question, "Are they better before or after their recent changes?" with Zero/One taking the side of cold logic while Ross addresses emotion. It makes sense, as Ross has always relied on his emotions, particularly toward his daughter Betty, whereas the original Hulk's alter-ego prided himself on logic. Can he convince Zero/One that there were advantages to her humanity? Whatever the case, this battle does give her a considerable depth and a fun little character arc.

The same can't be said for General Fortean, who through sheer brevity of his appearance here becomes a caricature of his former self, and by extension, a caricature of who Ross used to be. He's blinded by his desire to rid the world of the Red Hulk, to the point of ignoring the larger threat of Omegex. Unless we see some significant changes soon, I'm afraid Fortean will just be a sad echo: Ross 2.0.

With so many plates in the air here, the narrative momentum does slow to a crawl, with the only significant plot element being the conversation between Red Hulk and Zero/One. And that's fine, because it is truly important. But I do hope Parker is able to pull out a strong conclusion here. Will Ross again be able to change to his human self with the help of Zero/One? Will Fortean see that Red Hulk can do more than simply destroy? Such good questions deserve excellent answers.

An excellent plus, the artwork is as good as it's ever been thanks to Hardman, Bretiweiser and Charalampidis. The colorists' work blends together very well here, to the point I honestly couldn't separate one from the other. I said it before and I'll say it again: I'm going to miss Hardman's formidable talents on this book.

The verdict? Another issue, another instance where I gotta say Buy It.

FEAR ITSELF: HULK VS. DRACULA #1 - Marvel Comics, $2.99
By Victor Gischler, Ryan Stegman, Michael Babinski & Frank Martin Jr.

The book that would have been Incredible Hulk #636 arrives, transitioning the Green Goliath from Greg Pak's series through the first five issues of Fear Itself, Marvel's summer event, and on to this issue. For those not following that series, Bruce Banner and Betty Ross decided to escape to Brazil to sort out their relationship. However, a magical hammer fell from the sky, and when the Hulk picked it up he transformed into Nul, Breaker of Worlds, and swiftly went on a rampage through the rainforest. Neither Red She-Hulk nor the Avengers could stop him. He finally arrived in New York where he fought the mighty Thor alongside the Thing, a.k.a. Angrir, Breaker of Souls. Thor knocked him into orbit, but as we all know, what goes up must come down...

Victor Gischler is famous at Marvel for his recent involvement with the X-Men in "Curse of the Mutants," an event which brought the company's vampire nation in conflict with the mighty mutants. In those adventures, too, Marvel has shifted away from the previous depiction of vampires in books like Tomb of Dracula (itself taking cues from the classic depiction and Universal Studios' films). Now, Dracula appears as a white-haired, armored hybrid of several visions glimpsed in Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula. His history has been thrown in a blender, with his son Janus popping up again out of nowhere, and another son, Xarus, having figured in the earlier crossover.

The story here is straightforward: the possessed Hulk lands in the Carpathian Mountains, the homeland of Dracula and his assembled legions. Hulk smashes mindlessly, and the vampires mount their response. It's a very by-the-numbers response that reflects precious little of what is enticing about these two corners of the Marvel Universe. It's hard to root for Dracula and his ilk because of their infighting and their inhumanity; moreover, it's only slightly less difficult to root for the Hulk. Possessed, he's not really going to have any powerful character moments: as such, the only thrill can be had by seeing how much he can smash. In this issue, that's not much.

The story's sole saving grace so far is Ryan Stegman, who ably illustrates the Hulk's sheer power. I also really love the looks of the various monsters during the battle scenes. (Was that a Wendigo? What's it doing outside North America?) If this series is remarkable for nothing else, Stegman certainly brings his "A" game here.

Still, in spite of the energetic art, I can't see past the flat story. Unless you're a hardcore fan of Hulk or Dracula's legions, Skip It.



Double Shot O' Sketches: Spider-Man & One Of His Forgotten Foes!

Regular blog entries will resume as early as tomorrow if this cold doesn't keep me down. Meantime, I have two sketches for you! Both inspired by events from the fabled "Clone Saga" (soon to be discussed on an upcoming Spectacular Spider-Cast)!

First up: Rob Jones draws Ben Reilly, the amazing Spider-Man! From Pittsburgh Comicon 2011.

Rob was the protege of late DC Comics great Dick Giordano, and is currently working under the tutelage of Marvel and Valiant's own Bob Layton. You can reach Rob for commissions via his website, Perfect Storm Publishing! (Tell 'im I sent you!)

Next up is a forgotten Spidey villain from the same era. From New York Comic-Con 2010, here's artist Brian Shearer's take on Doc Ock's very own muscle goddess, Stunner!

Brian can be found online at the GravyBoy website. From there, you can see his comic projects including Vex and Deputy Witch as well as see if he's got any commission spots open. Well worth it!

Thanks, guys! More sketches and miscellany soon...



From the Vault: Comixfan Reviews & Interviews

Welcome back!

I'm going to be a bit busy this week, so I thought I'd regale you with tales from my illustrious past...which is to say, here are all the reviews, interviews & articles I contributed to ComiX-Fan, the website where I cut my interviewing and reviewing teeth in late 2005! The website was moved but all the links work all over again. Who cares if there are no pictures? Now you can see how diverse my comics tastes really are! Entries are sorted by type of feature and date. Dig in!

Enjoy, and I'll be back later this week with more fun stuff!


5/20/2005: Batman: Dark Detective #2 Review
5/22/2005: Manhunter #10 Review
5/25/2005: DC Special: The Return of Donna Troy #1 Review
5/25/2005: Incredible Hulk #81 Review
5/26/2005: Adventures of Superman #640 Review
5/28/2005: The Flash #222 Review
5/28/2005: The OMAC Project #2 Review
5/29/2005: Green Lantern #1 Review
6/2/2005: Firestorm #14 Review
6/2/2005: Incredible Hulk #82 Review
6/3/2005: Last Hero Standing #1 Review
6/3/2005: Dracula Vs. King Arthur #1 Review
6/9/2005: JLA #115 Review 
6/13/2005: Batman: Dark Detective #3 Review
6/16/2005: Manhunter #11 Review
6/18/2005: Batman Begins Movie Review
6/19/2005: Day of Vengeance #3 Review
6/25/2005: Captain America #7 Review
6/25/2005: Spider-Man: House of M #1 Review
7/4/2005: New Avengers Guest Starring The Fantastic Four (Military Special) #1 Review
7/7/2005: Incredible Hulk #83 Review
7/21/2005: JSA Classified #1 Review
7/23/2005: Red Sonja #1 Review
7/28/2005: Hulk: Destruction #1 Review
7/28/2005: Wonder Woman #219 Review
7/30/2005: Giant-Size Spider-Woman #1 Review
8/6/2005: Spider-Girl #89 Review
8/12/2005: Captain America #8 Review
8/19/2005: Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #1 Review
8/21/2005: Defenders #2 Review
8/27/2005: Spike: Old Times Review
8/28/2005: Black Panther #7 Review
8/28/2005: Hulk: Destruction #2 Review
9/3/2005: The Flash #225 Review
9/5/2005: Daredevil: Father #2 Review
9/11/2005: Ghost Rider #1 Review
10/14/2005: Villains United #6 Review
11/10/2005: Infinite Crisis #2 Review
11/12/2005: Exiles #72 Review
11/12/2005: Incredible Hulk #88 Review
12/17/2005: Five Men Went To Moan: X-Factor #1 Group Review
12/22/2005: Fantastic Four #533 Review
12/24/2005: Spider-Woman: Origin #1 Review
1/1/2006: Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do #5 Review


8/19/2005: Stuart Moore: Infinite Firestorm
8/25/2005: Exiles Creator Tour I: Tony Bedard
9/28/2005: Exiles Creator Tour II: Paul Pelletier
10/19/2005: Exiles Creator Tour III: Jim Calafiore
11/6/2005: Jeff Marriotte: Hanging Out With Old Friends (Angel: Old Friends)
11/24/2005: Maneuvering the Maze: A Mike W. Barr Interview (Maze Agency)
1/19/2006: Writer of (More) Stuff: Peter David on the Comics Industry (Title & intro only)


11/27/2005: Top Ten Extraterrestrials in Comics (Mar-Vell entry)
3/21/2006: Top Ten Alien Races in Comics (Kree, Skrull entries)
3/29/2006: Top Ten Cosmic Objects in Comics (Cosmic Cube, Mjolnir, Ultimate Nullifier entries)



Farewell, Greg Pak (An 'Incredible Hulks' #635 Review)

Yes, due to family issues, and other stuff, I haven't been able to post my overview of the work that's gone unreviewed (Skaar: Son of Hulk and Incredible Hulk #601-609). But at the very least, I owed it to you guys to make the review of Incredible Hulks #635 as timely as I could. And I've failed at that, too! Alas, good things come to those who beg, snivel and cajole. Without further ado...

The Incredible Hulks #635
"Heart of the Monster" Part 6

Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Paul Pelletier, Tom Grummett, Danny Miki, Cory Hamscher & Scott Hanna
Colorists: Morry Hollowell & Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Production: Irene Y. Lee
Assistant Editor: Jake Thomas
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics

"It hurts to set you free
But you'll never follow me
The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die
This is the end."

--The Doors, "The End" (1967)

After five-and-a-half years and eighty-six issues (excluding variant covers), writer Greg Pak has left the building. He's written more of the Hulk's adventures than any other writer save Peter David. That he'll be missed goes without saying. But did he go out on a high note? That is the question.

After reading issue #635 on Wednesday evening, I think the answer has to be a resounding "yes!" The finale of the six-part storyline, "Heart of the Monster," is about as fulfilling a story as there could be given the circumstances. We already know, for example, that Bruce and Betty were seen together in Marvel's Fear Itself event, wherein the Hulk becomes Nul, Breaker of Worlds and begins a rampage not even Red She-Hulk can stop. We also know that Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, appears live and well in the Fear Itself: Fearsome Four limited series, so she must regain her lost powers before this series' end. And news broke last week of Fred Van Lente and Kyle Hotz's miniseries event Destroyers, which will feature both She-Hulk and A-Bomb, indicating Rick Jones wouldn't be cured, either. But really, are any of the above facts a surprise, given that Marvel and Disney are developing Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., starring all of the gamma-irradiated heroes so prevalent in the last two years, as an animated series for 2012?

Alas, I've gotten ahead of myself. This issue features two related stories: the twenty-page, actual sixth part of "Heart" by Pak and the regular art team of Pelletier, Miki and Hollowell; and the ten-page epilogue by Pak and his "Spy Who Smashed Me" art team of Grummett and Hamscher (with Scott Hanna) that caps not only the current storyline but serves as a coda for everything since Incredible Hulk #92. Pak contributes an afterword dedicated to eighties Hulk writer Bill Mantlo, and the book ends with a pair of bonuses including a five-page "exit interview" and a cover gallery including almost every Hulk-related story Pak's ever written.

The lead story picks up where the previous issue left off, with Hulk and Red She-Hulk locked in battle in Umar's Dark Dimension. No sooner do they kill each other and everything else there with their power than is everything reincarnated so they can live to punch and hit anew. It's the Hulk's dream come true, inadvertently brought him by the enemies that wished him harm. The "Wishing War" begun when A.I.M. Scientist Supreme Monica Rappaccini turned Tyrannus' Fountain of Youth into a literal wishing well has reached its apex, and nobody is safe. That the Hulk is so at home, where he needs not worry about harming anyone, least of all the woman he loves, is awfully telling of the character's psychology. As one of this blog's readers noted, the Hulk seems to make a correlation between sex and violence--first with Caiera and now with Betty--and it all comes back to how his father used to abuse his mother. When you take that aspect into consideration, the relationship between Bruce/Hulk and Betty/Red She-Hulk becomes especially creepy, no?

Of course, an eternity of the Hulks smashing each other would quickly become repetitive, so Tyrannus must escape the Dark Dimension with Fin Fang Foom to begin the end run. They arrive at the government's not-so-secret stash of Gamma Bombs in Yuma, AZ, long ago thought destroyed in the wake of "Gammagate" during Peter David's epic "Ground Zero" storyline of 1988. Ol' Foomy munches as many as he can, and soon he can launch them out his mouth at his foes. Guess who has to return to Earth to save the day?

The story carries to an epic conclusion all of the Silver-Age silliness that Greg Pak has ably handled since he and Jeph Loeb teamed up on the uber-events "Fall of the Hulks" and "World War Hulks." "Heart" in particular--with its physics-defying wishes, impossible displays of power, and villains from across the Green Goliath's storied history--acts as an refreshing, insane counterpoint to all the "serious" Hulk tales out there that have cropped up ever since Bill Mantlo revealed the Hulk as victim of child abuse. What's more, Greg Pak accomplishes all this while acknowledging the character's terrifying history, his tragic self-loathing, and his propensity for emotional extremes. For, as the writer notes, when the emotional stakes are at their highest, that's when Hulk smashing is most satisfying.

Particularly, I loved the way in which the Hulk's final wish echoed Banner's, but at the same time highlighted a key distinction between the two. While Banner wanted his "family" to be cured only because he didn't want them to be monsters like him, the Hulk's wish (and I won't spoil it here) showed a surprising selflessness that was touching. It made Betty's realization afterward, about the nature of Banner and Hulk's relationship, all the more poignant.

A few points just seemed to fall through the cracks this issue, and that's unfortunately to be expected when dealing with the larger, more important through-arc that concludes here. Tyrannus' defeat was glossed over, Fin Fang Foom was more a generic force of nature than an actual character, and we never do quite learn what happens to all of the bad guys left (or so it appears) in the Dark Dimension from last issue. Still, the emphasis is where it must be: on the Hulk and his relationship with Betty and the remainder of his "family." Is the main story perfect? No, of course not. But with the following ten pages, it doesn't need to be.

In "Hulk Out," Pak and Grummett use a conversation between Banner and Pak stand-in Amadeus Cho to put an exclamation point on the last five-and-a-half years. Cho says what many a fan has likely wanted to tell Banner for years. The results are engaging, but in the last few pages the tide turns again. Pak shows he's a big ol' romantic at heart, and gives Banner and his emerald alter-ego an honest-to-gosh happy ending that's quietly evocative of Peter David's Incredible Hulk #372. And while we know the happiness won't last, the last page--you'll know it when you get there--made me smile. And laugh. And maybe a tear dribbled down my cheek.

Quite the counterpoint to "The Lone and Level Sands" (in Incredible Hulk #467), that's for damn sure.

As for the artistic chores, I thought Paul Pelletier and Tom Grummett served admirably in this finale. While nowhere near the heights of, say, Incredible Hulk #611 (still the high water mark for art since the book's most recent relaunch), Pelletier hit most of the right notes here, his layouts full of dynamism and power. On the other hand, Grummett's chapter relied heavily on emotion and body language. His was a quieter power, but the work was no less solid.

So, now that it's done, what does everyone think of The Incredible Hulks #635? Was it worth the hype? Was it all a final issue from one of the best Hulk writers could be? Sound off, Hulkophiles!


(P.S.: No, I didn't do an "exit interview" with Greg Pak, but that's because Comics Alliance columnist Chris Sims beat me to the punch. Check it out here! Alas, if I have my way, you'll see more about another new project coming soon. Stay tuned!)