Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: John Romita Jr. (p), Klaus Janson (i), Christina Strain (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Ross Smash! Hulk Smash! Strange Get Smashed! Hulk Smash Again! Ross Smash Again! More Heroes Smashed! And, Strange Smash!
Commentary: Not only does Pakís Hulk SMASH! He ROCKS! After getting two issues of smash Ďem up excitement, I was fully prepared to get disappointed at this point even though last monthís cliffhanger ending left me panting for more. I guess Iím a bit jaded (no pun intended) with todayís continuing let downs in other comicsí story lines. Thankfully, Pak and Romita, Jr. continue to deliver the goods. I ended my last review of World War Hulk by asking the question, ďIf Earthís Mightiest Heroes and the Worldís Greatest Comics Team combined couldnít stop the Hulkís rampage, then what is the American military going to do?Ē Well, apparently they can do a lot, and the opening pages of this issue are quite a shocker. I canít remember when if ever the Hulkís been hurt this bad. I wonít give away how it happens, but it works given a previous precedent set by a certain mutant berserker in stories past.
For all the fisticuffs Pakís a thinker. It wasnít until I read this issue that I could even answer my own question from last issue. Pak thought it through. The U.S. Military has one thing over the superhero community: theyíre willing to kill! This lack of restraint and General Rossís steely resolve to put The Hulk six feet under give them all the edge they need when dealing with the man-monster. Ross and the soldiers dialogue is nicely written too: ďI hope he chokes on it.Ē ďBring on the rain.Ē I liked it. Though an inferior product, Ang Leeís Hulk movie even gets acknowledged when the Hulk drags a chopper out of the sky and pounds on tanks with other tanksí guns. Those were some of the best scenes in the movie, and they are recreated here.
Doctor Strange finally pulls out the big magical guns and starts behaving like the mystical powerhouse heís supposed to be. Romitaís rendition of Strange in his astral form is cool and makes it look like more than just Strange as a ghost. Itís Strange as a powerful mystical entity. Unfortunately for him, the Hulk seems prepared for even this contingency and puts a serious hurt on the good doctor. Itís another shocker so youíll have to read it to believe it. It reinforces again just how far the Hulk is willing to go in his quest for revenge. The whole encounter with Strange still raises the question, ďIs Banner really gone and banished so deep in their shared subconscious he may never come to the surface again or has Banner had it as much as the Hulk and is agreeing with the Hulkís decisions and actions?Ē As far as I know, thatíd be a first in the characterís history and quite a twist. Pak makes either scenario believable.
Pak and Romita, Jr. have that same magic Stan Lee and Jack Kirby gave us with this characterís inception, making us feel and believe the impossible and absurd could happen. Dr. Strangeís final appearance where he shows up for round two (he does something desperate to do this which even scares Wong, but I wonít reveal what it is) at the end of the issue is a perfect example. At first glance he looks border line ridiculous, but then you get to look closer and listen to him, and I think the Hulk is in big trouble next issue. This scene took me from that initial feeling of absurdity to deadly seriousness in the same breath. These guys are good, real good. In a larger scope Iím getting the feeling that Marvel is going to let Pak make some significant changes to the status quo of the Marvel Universe with this mini-series. It continues to have a weight of consequence about it with every smashing issue.
Regarding the art; David Finchís cover is just beautiful, reflecting the power and rage that is THE HULK! I like Romita, Jr.ís leaner, meaner though still aged Thunderbolt Ross. Heís been more decrepit and tubbier looking in the past, but itís fitting that the good General has revitalized himself for these new battles with the Jade Giant. My only complaint would be that Rick Jones looks too generic. Heís one of those characters that no one ever really knows how to draw. I know heís just supposed to be your average guy, but he has been the Hulkís (and Captain Americaís) sidekick, and he should seem a bit older and more experienced. Artists still draw him fairly young. Another character that doesnít do it for me art wise is the Sentry. Writing wise either. It looks like the Sentry may ultimately be the deciding factor in the World vs. The Hulk. I wouldnít mind if the character died in the midst of the whole thing. Itís another character Marvel doesnít seem to know what to do with. With all that said, Iím still eagerly anticipating more smashing and surprises next issue.
Final Word: Possibly the best and most entertaining read of the summer. The Hulk hasnít read or looked this good in a very long time.
Paul Brian McCoy:
Iím torn. This issue of WWH (like the previous 2 issues, both of which I would have given 4 Bullets) is still better than a lot of the titles on market, if only because it has no illusions about itself and stays focused on a very specific goal. But at the same time, itís not really trying to be much more than a huge spectacle, so itís not really doing anything that difficult. Swinging back the other way again, it uses the medium wonderfully, staging massive battles and waves of destruction that would barely be possible in other visual mediums (at least without spending a fortune). Romita Jr. and Janson work very, very well together, and while the characters have the usual Romita Jr. minimalism that sometimes bugs me, the staging of the scenes, the movement through each scene (as framed by the panel divisions), and the sheer scale of the action, are more than enough to quiet my urge to gripe about Romita Jr.ís style. So, I guess, visually, this is still an above average book. Iíd be hard pressed to find problems with the art.
The writing, however, is where the weaknesses begin to show. But theyíre not so much weaknesses in technique or ability, I donít think. Theyíre weaknesses that may just be inherent in the concept. Hulk is back. Hulk is pissed. No one can beat him (or his Warbound buddies). This is a problem thatís been lingering in my mind for the last two issues, but Iíve let it go in order to just enjoy the fireworks. Itís just too easy though. Thereís really no challenge. And when you have Earthís Mightiest Heroes having their collective asses handed to them by characters that no one (outside of those following Hulk for the past year) have ever heard of, the story starts to lose its drama. (These characters didnít really seem that badass before hitting Earth, but that may just be me.) Unless, of course, the story were about something other than the spectacle. However, at this point, I donít know that it is. Pak has said in interviews that this is the Second Stage in his plans for Hulk (with ďPlanet HulkĒ being Stage One), with a Third Stage to come, so clearly thereís a larger idea at work. But I think there are some shortcuts being taken with the middle. I might be happier with this if the issues were bi-monthly, pounding through the story at a pace that distracts the reader from thinking about it too much. Waiting another month for the next issue just may kill my enthusiasm (although the extremely short time between issues #2 and #3 donít seem to have done it any favors, for me Ė so maybe Iím just full of crap on that point).
A few nits to pick:
- Iron Fist has a name. Itís Danny. Iron Fist is his title (which makes perfect sense for him to use when asked by an enemy for his name). Call him Danny, Doc. Daniel, at least.
- ďThatís what she said.Ē Am I the only one who laughed at that? Thanks The Office.
- Iím not sure how vulnerable Doctor Strange is to physical harm when heís astral projected into someone elseís mind. Is there a precedent for what Hulk accomplishes here? Or is this just another example of ďHeís So Mad, Heís Stronger Than Weíve Ever Seen HimĒ?
- Gladiator games? This is what Iím talking about when I say thereís a lack of stretch to those narrative boundaries. What says empty spectacle better than Gladiator Games? But is that the point? Aaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!
- Huh? Who? Talk about an obscure reference to take the threat level up quite a few notches. I like the choice for its surprise factor, even if I did have to Wikipedia it to find out just who the hell Strange was drinking. (That will make sense if you read the comic) At the same time, though: Huh? Who?
Itís a strange thing these days to have ďbig eventsĒ that are delivered either on time or at a rapid pace. The two biggest summer events, The Sinestro Corps War and World War Hulk, have been coming out on time or in World War Hulkís case, ahead of schedule. Two weeks ago issue #2 hit the stands, and already issue #3 has smashed its way to comic shelves. Whether itís just great scheduling or the amazing talents of John Romita Jr., World War Hulk has kept my strong interest in both the main series and the majority of the tie-ins. While Iím starting to get a little curious about the direction of this series, I have enjoyed it and as I have said, it has definitely generated a stronger interest in the Hulk that wasnít as prevalent with me before.
I was excited about the end of last issue. General Ross (who for some reason, no matter who portrays him next will always be Sam Elliot to me) decided it was his turn to take up arms against the Hulk. With Black Bolt, Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic out of the picture, Earth is in deep trouble, but good old ďThunderboltĒ Ross decided to bring the might of the American war machine against the Hulk. There was something that worked extremely well with Rossí attack, and there was also something that didnít work as well as previous installments. First, what I didnít think worked extremely well was Ross and the military unleashing massive firepower directly at the Hulk. For purposes of the plot it worked, but as I was reading it, I couldnít help but say to myself, ďI get that the more firepower and Ďpainí the Hulk feels, the more unstoppable he becomes.Ē I feel like it might be getting to the point of beating a dead horse though. Does everyone in the Marvel Universe need to realize that they just keep making him angrier?
That, of course, is just a miniscule thing that I canít help but feel a bit nit-picky about. During Rossí onslaught there is a scene between an ethereal Dr. Strange and the Hulk/Bruce Banner that I feel was one of the shining moments of the entire series thus far. Strange thought he was going to be the smart one - that he could get through to Bruce Banner. The theory that the Hulk and Banner are separated gets completely tossed out the window in this scene, and I came to the realization that it is not just the Hulk who is angry; Banner is too. I thought Greg Pak did an exceptional job with the scripting of this entire sequence. One could argue that Bannerís appearance was the Hulk playing tricks on Strange, but I donít think so. Iíd be pretty peeved myself if I was launched off my home planet and left for dead.
I really enjoyed the scenes following this interaction as well. Romita and the art team do a fantastic job capturing the Hulk in action. Every panel was exciting, the action was intense, and it really gave me the type of experience Iíd hope for from a comic book action sequence. Looking over the panels a few times, I was just as excited as if I were playing Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, grabbing those rocket soldiers, jumping as high as I could in the air and tossing them as far as the game allows. My one problem with the Hulkís destruction of Rossí army was the fact that Ross did not die. When the Hulk and Ross finally come face to face, I really felt that it would have been a perfect swan song for Ross. I can understand why he survives, but if he had died in the Hulkís arms while trying to kill the big green, that would have been fitting. Of course, I think the ďdeadĒ Betty Ross will most definitely play a role in this series, but that still remains to be seen.
Although this series is a wildly enjoyable thrill ride, it does hold the potential for a bit of predictability. Going back to that dead horse thing, some of what is being done feels repetitive. There has been a lot of innuendo towards the Sentry being the hero to stop the Hulk, and in this issue that innuendo becomes blatant. The cover solicitation for issue #5, the conclusion, shows the Hulk and the Sentry going at it. I am a fan of the Sentry. I just feel heís both misused and underused, and it would be far too predictable for him to be the one to stop the Hulk. I have a feeling Pak may make it seem that the series is headed that way, and then heíll throw everyone off with a big twist like Betty Ross or something. Either way, I am thoroughly enjoying this series.
What surprised me about this issue was the fact that it didnít feature events from Incredible Hulk #108: the Rick Jones/Miek angle and the hinted ulterior motives of some of the Warbound. There is some hinting that some of the Warbound disagree with the Hulkís plan to convert Madison Square Garden into a gladiatorial arena instead of conquering Earth immediately. But I couldnít help but feel like the events that transpired in Incredible Hulk #108 had very little relevance to anything happening in this series. Truth be told, that doesnít really bother me because I really have been enjoying this series a great deal.
Greg Pak has definitely provided a very entertaining and enjoyable ďsummer blockbuster.Ē I have really been intrigued by World War Hulk since its beginning, and I think Pak still has a few surprises in store. I think it would be great if he leads the story on to seem very predictable with the Sentry and all and then just throws something totally different in the mix. This was my favorite issue of the series thus far. Sure, I brought up a lot of questions and pointed out a few things, but a well-written and well constructed comic book in the middle of a big event should do that. The writing, the artwork and the timing of this series is superb.
I was wondering whether this might happen. After two issues of highly enjoyable smashing, World War Hulk takes a breather this issue for a more measured and relaxed chapter, taking stock of the situation as the Hulk establishes himself as the overlord of a demolished New York, and even making time to check in on Bruce Banner in his human form. However, calling this issue more measured and relaxed than the previous two is a little like saying that Reggie was the nicer of the Kray twins: thereís still plenty of action, spectacle, and all-round smashing to enjoy, as the Hulk and his Warbound continue to work their way through the best and brightest heroes of the Marvel Universe.
This time, the Hulkís crew also have the army to contend with, and longtime Hulk enemy General Ross makes an extended cameo as the green goliath smashes his way through tanks, missiles and helicopters in a gloriously over-the-top sequence which is illustrated with real vigour by John Romita Jr. Itís one of those action sequences which would be just as enjoyable if it was completely text-free, and the artwork is again the real star of the show here, conveying the raw power and anger thatís necessary if Greg Pakís story is going to come across effectively. Thatís not to say that Romitaís work is without nuance, however, as he subtly evokes the spirit of 9/11 in his depiction of a smoke-engulfed, semi-destroyed New York, and brings the seriousness of the situation home in his brief shot of the captured superheroes who are at the Hulkís mercy. Colourist Christina Strain really enhances the visuals, both in terms of the fiery, explosive action sequences in the present day, and in the retro stylings of the flashbacks to past Hulk adventures that we see this issue. Itís a great art team, and a perfect fit for the book.
The story isnít quite as explosive or shocking here as it was in earlier issues, but I feel that Pak is using this midpoint issue to mark a transition between his big opening salvo and his big finale, cleaning up the loose ends of the Hulkís arrival (the few heroes who havenít been beaten down yet are rounded up here) and foreshadowing some major revelations for future issues: a great scene between the Sentry and the U.S. President sets up his eventual involvement in the battle, and the dialogue between Dr. Strange and Bruce Banner hints that the Illuminati werenít responsible for the explosion on Sakaar after all. The latter conversation ends with a short, sharp shock for the Sorcerer Supreme, the seriousness of which is wonderfully conveyed by the artwork, as Bruceís growing shadow begins to fall over the Doctor shortly before the Hulk incapacitates him - although the final page suggests that Strangeís role in the story isnít over yet.
I canít deny that Iím intrigued to see how this all plays out, and itís good to see the series begin to move beyond the admittedly enjoyable if simple formula that characterised the earlier issues. As part of a whole, this issue will likely stand as an important transitional episode in the story, and one which is executed with the same quality as the previous instalments. Just donít expect the same superficially satisfying slugfest of a story that weíve seen in earlier issues.
What did you think of this book?
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