Writer: Bruce Jones
Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with the Abomination throwing the first blow, as he tags the Hulk with a solid left hook. The book then jumps to the agent who acquired the mysterious golden disk for the Secret Conspiracy, and while he is killed by the operative who arrived to pay him for the disk, we see the book finally gets around to showing use the identity of Banner's secret ally, Mr. Blue, or at least the face that she's currently using. We then jump back to the battle where we see the Abomination is landing blow after blow, and the Hulk's attempts to reason with his longtime enemy are falling on deaf ears. However, when the Abomination momentarily turns his attention to his ex-wife, we see the Hulk decides enough is enough, and he response with a downright painful looking shot to the face. As the agents of the Secret Conspiracy close in looking to collect their sample of Hulk's blood we see the Hulk is trying to convince the Abomination that this entire fight was orchestrated, and that he's playing right into the hands of a group who view him as little more than a disposable pawn. However when the Abomination decides to pick at an old wound, by reminding the Hulk that he was responsible for Betty's death, we see the full fury of the Hulk is unleashed, and the Hulk makes very quick work of the Abomination, as well as the Secret Conspiracy agents who has just arrives on site. The book then ends with Banner taking to the road once again.
This issue does expose what I've come to see as a weakness in Bruce Jones' writing, as the big battle that this book has been building toward since the first issue has come and gone, and in spite of having a fantastic artist on hand to detail the action, Bruce Jones displays no flair for delivering dramatic action. I mean I'll concede there are some fairly impressive moments to be found, with the Hulk's final attack upon the Abomination being a highlight reel Hulk smash moment, but the overall the battle had too much of a start stop quality to it, and I was also a bit disillusioned with the abrupt nature of the Hulk's victory, as the way the story plays out, all the Hulk had to do was be reminded of what the Abomination did to Betty, and four punches later the mighty Abomination is no longer a threat. Now I have little problem with a writer playing up the idea that the Hulk is the strongest on there is, and that when you make him angry you had best stand back. However, this latest arc has spent a great deal of time building up the Abomination as the one force in the Marvel Universe who could stand up against the Hulk when it came to brute force, and when the chips were down the Abomination is clearly no match for a pissed off Hulk. I did enjoy the rather unique solution that the Hulk used to destroy the attack helicopter though.
I realize that it's an idea that is suppose to make us curious about what changes Banner has undergone, but speaking as a longtime fan I can't say I care much for the displays of Hulk like strength that Banner is making. I mean one of the more enjoyable aspects of the Hulk was that in spite of all his strength, Banner was in effect the character's achilles heel. I mean when he was Banner he was not only vulnerable to attack, but thanks to the Hulk, Banner spends most of his life as a wanted fugitive, and watching the good doctor working to outwit his pursuers was made even more enjoyable by Bruce Jones ability to craft threatening situations where Banner would be extremely reluctant to unleash the rather volatile Hulk. Now that Banner is able to draw upon the Hulk's power without making the transformation the character has in effect lost a key component, as no when Banner is backed into a corner, he no longer has to scramble to come up with a solution where he can keep the Hulk under wraps, and he can now fight his way out of the crisis without endangering others. Now having Banner send the Abomination reeling certainly makes for a solid what the heck moment, but in the end the momentary appeal of this moment is counteracted by the growing sense that Banner is no longer the weak link in this partnership.
Mike Deodato Jr. is one of the most impressive talents to find his way onto this book, and this is saying quite a lot considering the talent that the Hulk has attracted over the years (Todd McFarlane, Dale Keown, Gary Frank, John Romita Jr). I mean the art has a sense of energy to it that is almost creepy, as even the rubble of the site where the two are doing battle seems like a character. In fact the battle scenes in this issue stand up as some of the best looking Hulk action I've seem in a very long time, with several highlight reel moments that leave me quite eager to see Bruce Jones start to work more Hulk smash scenes into these pages. From the Abomination's use of a bus as a battering ram, to the panel where it almost looks like the Hulk has exploded the Abomination's face like a ripe melon, this issue should wash away any doubts that readers might've had about Mike Deodato Jr. being able to deliver on the promise of this big battle. There's also a great moment in this issue where Mike Deodato Jr. uses three panels to show a shift in mood, as her goes from sad remembrance to outright fury, and the art perfectly captures this shift. My only complaint about the art on this book is oddly enough the cover, as the normally dependable Kaare Andrews delivers a Hulk who looks downright strange, with a flat head & shortened limbs.
First off I do have to credit this issue for finally offering up a solid bit of information, as while her original identity is still a mystery, we can now put a face to the mysterious Mr. Blue, and we also know how she was able to access the information she did. As for the big show involving the Hulk's battle with the Abomination, the art manages to deliver a visual showcase that I'm sure will have most fans walking away very impressed. However, Bruce Jones doesn't quite hold up his end, as the battle never really gets off the ground, and I felt it lacked a sense of urgency. I mean yes the Hulk & Abomination trade some fairly impressive blows, and the big finish is a wonderful display of why the Hulk is not someone you would want to tick off. However, the battle shifts back and forth a little too wildly, and I also found myself a bit disappointed that Bruce Jones felt he had have these characters delivering exposition while they exchanged blows. I mean I realize these two have a history, but I simply don't buy the idea that these two would be so verbose while they were fighting.
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