Hulk: Season One

Hulk: Season One
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Tom Fowler

Pre-Conceived Notions:  
I have enjoyed things that both Fred Van Lente and Tom Fowler have done, but I’m not a Hulk guy. I’m not against Hulk, I just feel that he’s a hard character to do right, especially as the main character. He works best in supporting roles and in small doses (which is why he worked so well in the Avengers movie, and was one of the best parts of Garth Ennis’ Punisher). Throw in that Marvel’s Season One line has been on a downward trajectory since it’s initial launch, and it leaves me wary.


 The book starts with a very brief run down of the Hulks origin. This is nice, because I think we all know the story at this point.  We are then thrown into a crazy 50’s sci-fi epic.  A.I.M. T.H.E.M. shows up as well as some super cool Soviet robots. As you can imagine, that leads to some really cool fight scenes, which Fowler just KILLS. This book has some of the best art I have seen from him. And lets not forget Van Lente. His writing is sharp. He is on his game in the Hulk-verse. My second favorite line is  “Ray gun, huh? My gun shoots ray bullets!” I’ll let you find the best line of the book on your own, and he even works in a great Man-Thing reference!
There is so much going on that this book never feels dull or full of filler. One (of many) plot points is the Hulk trying to rid himself of Banner and it has never been better. The reason he doesn’t want to share a brain with Banner is pretty cool and it explains why Hulk functions on a lower more animalistic level. He’s not dumb, he’s just surviving. By the end, the Hulk’s origin is twisted ever-so-slightly. The radiation didn’t make the Hulk, it just triggered a mutated gene that his body has been suppressing. I haven’t read enough Hulk to know if this has been addressed before, but it should have been. Also, Banner changes under times of emotional distress this is due to something that the Hulk does. This ties Hulk and Banner together more than anything Hulk related that I ever read, and it does it in an organic way that I feel ashamed for everyone who has written these characters before. If Van Lente wasn’t staring at an Ouroboros and watching black and white science fiction movies while writing this, I’d be surprised.

This book is great! I honestly can’t think of anything that I didn’t enjoy. Well, there’s some child abuse stuff in here that almost gets heavy handed, but that’s only if I want to get really nit picky. The inclusion of a digital copy more than makes up for it. This is what Hulk should be: a crazy sci-fi (not alien sci-fi, but actual science sci-fi) adventure with heart to boot.

This Week’s Comics

I’m not picking up too many books this time around, unfortunately.  Here’s this week’s new and noteworthy titles.

  • FF #15
  • PIGS #6
  • STEED AND MRS PEEL #2 (OF 6) – This really reads like an 80’s title, and it’s definitely before Grant Morrison found his voice.  It’s okay, but without any attachment to the original Avengers TV series this one isn’t wowing me.
  • TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES MICRO SERIES #3 DONATELLO – These solo issues have been surprisingly strong.  If you’ve been enjoying the main TMNT series, this will do you even better.
  • VENOM #13.4 – I still don’t know what Marvel’s doing here, but Jeff Parker’s got some issues in now, so that’s a plus.

Speaking of Jeff Parker, we may have to revise our “Jeff Parker Can’t Lose” tag somewhat.  I’ve had the “opportunity” to catch up on a ton of backissues on runs I’ve recently completed.  Thunderbolts started to lose me with the recent time-travel arc.  The WWII story was solid, but the Whitechapel murder arc left me pretty disaffected.  I think the issue has something to do with the increased frequency it’s coming out, so the move is to push to progress the story without focusing on the character nuance that exemplifies the best of Parker’s books.  Similarly, though I haven’t gotten completely current on Hulk, it started off strong as Red Hulk battled the miggest and best of Marvel’s classic giant monsters.  Parker is clearly drawing parallels between Banner’s battle with the military and Ross’s, but instead of having Red Hulk learn and grow from those interactions, they just bounce off and he bounds to the next thing to punch.  

A Jeff Parker book is still better than 80% of the other books on the stands, but I’ll be keeping a cautious eye on them as I evaluate my pull list.  That’s it for me for this week!  What looks good to you?

Game Tape: The Return

Wednesday has come and gone. The heroes have fought their battles and villains have hinted at things to come. Now it’s time to review the game tape…

This week marks the full and glorious return of my LCS…more or less. I was ecstatic beyond words at walking in (on a Wednesday!) and seeing the familiar friendly faces. Here’s hoping that the guys can make it work.

On to the books!

COBRA COMMANDER UPDATE: In GI JOE #16, we see the gloved hand of the Commander. Dixon is really milking the suspense here as we see more of the inner workings and structure of Cobra. Although there wasn’t a single Joe in this issue, it still held my interest. This issue marked the end of the second act in this over arching story introducing Cobra to the world stage. Destro is rewarded for his contribution to the M.A.S.S. Device. The Baroness receives a reprieve for her go-it-alone strategem. Dr. Mindbender is reprimanded (I choose to interpret the single shot of his panic as such). The plans go into their final stages. Big conflict is coming and the drums of war hasten their bloody tattoo. On a personal note, my heart leaped with joy to see Major Bludd on the last page. Of all in the inner circle of Cobra, Bludd has always been my favorite. From his grating voice to his poetry bordering on Vogon-esque, he’s just a ton of fun.

Amazing Spider-Man #626 was a solid story. I skipped 625 with the Rhino because it’s a Kelly book. This issue, though, Van Lente is at the helm. The Hood drives the action here with an appearance by the newest Scorpion as setting the stage for things to come. One thing that this new team of Spider-Man writers has be able to better than most since the old Stan Lee days is balance Spidey and Peter. When one takes precedence over the other, the book suffers. As important as the balance is the fact that Peter is redeemable in these stories. The old “Parker luck” doesn’t just keep kicking him and beating him to pulp as it has in less memorable years. I’ve said it before, the fun of the book is back.

Green Lantern #52 is good and readable, if you can wrap your mind around the sudden shift in Sinestro’s raison d’etre. Johns hasn’t set this up as well as he thinks he has. Making noises here and there about always wanting to avenge Abin Sur’s death hasn’t convinced me that he’s not simply the maniac that ran the Sinestro Corps. The moment with Stewart was nice. Maybe we can finally put the past behind him. There was also a pleasant lack of Luthor and Scarecrow being mindlessly dumb. The issue as a whole was fast paced in a not so rushed way. Considering that this mini-crisis ends in the next book published, I’m not sure how it can feel that way. Still, this was a peak in the EKG for the whole story. For the moment, I’m choosing to ignore the fact that all life and all Lanterns now seem to stem from Earth in a weird creationist sort of way.

I also snagged three Jeff Parker books. I didn’t know he was doing another Hulk related book, but Fall of the Hulks: Red Hulk #3 caught my eye. I don’t know much of what’s going on, but it wasn’t too hard to catch up. Some of the ideas were clever, and I might have appreciated more if I were actually following the story instead of the writer. Might be worth looking at in the cheap bins later.

I picked up Thunderbolts #142 also. I haven’t read it, but let’s assume that like Avengers vs. Atlas #3, it was brilliant and fast and clever.

That wraps up my return to regular comic reading…except to say that I also got Muppet King Arthur #3. Like FoH, I have no real idea what’s going on, but the gags are good and the art is the best it’s been on any of these Muppet fairytales. Mebberson was outstanding on Peter Pan, but her art is so static. This artist, whose name escapes me right now manages to be consistent (what was lacking in Robin Hood), cartoony, fun, and dynamic.