Writer: Greg Pak
Artist(s): Carlo Pagulayan, Jeffrey Huet
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: The question of whether the Hulk has potential for murder in his rampage is answered.
Commentary: First off, killer cover! I’m always miffed a bit when the art on the cover is better than the art on the inside. Unfortunately, that’s the case here. Pagulayan and Huet’s artwork is competent but it’s not the Gary Frank and Jonathan Sibal extravaganza we got just a few issues ago. Still, there’s not too much to complain about with the current art team. They tell the story and move it along well enough. Regarding the story itself, Pak almost lost me here. Almost, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief until the end of World War Hulk to see if I’m completely disappointed or not.
Pak has impressed me so far with his writing chops and made World War Hulk, both here and in the World War Hulk mini ( I discount all the tie-ins like Gamma Corps and Frontline), a must read for me this summer. He’s brought back the old magic the Hulk used to have for me in the 70’s when I was just a starry eyed geeky kid. However, he introduces a new concept behind how the Hulk “works” here which we’ve never heard of before and it’s jarring in its inception, to say the least. I’m so jarred by it I’m actually unsure of whether to love it or hate it. The good thing about it is that it does raise all kinds of other questions. Like Peter David before him, Pak is attempting to put his own stamp on the Hulk mythos and provide heretofore unrevealed dynamics in regards to how the Hulk, as an entity, functions. As I said, I have enough faith in Pak at this point to allow him to sell me on this. I’ll give him until World War Hulk’s conclusion.
The question is asked, “Is the Hulk a killer?” The issue opens with commentary from The Renegades in this regard. Namora and Hercules seem ready to justify the Hulk’s revenge. This is only natural because they are both warriors first and foremost and it’s already been established that Herc can empathize with the Hulk’s losses. Angel (poetically enough) provides the voice of reason over their shoulders. So, the answer here to “Is the Hulk a killer?” is “Well, we don’t know yet if he is or not and it really wouldn’t be a good thing but we can’t really blame him if he is.” The second answer from this group is that, “The Hulk may be on the verge of killing but, reason, in the form of Amadeus Cho will win out over the savage beast.” Neither of these really answers the question but make for interesting discussion among credible character witnesses.
Later on, we get this answer from the new Scorpion and Shield: “We don’t even want to know if he’s a killer or not. The potential threat is enough for us. Take him out with extreme prejudice.” So, this isn’t an answer either but again makes for interesting story telling. As it’s been seen before that the military and some in the superhero community are willing to kill the Hulk without compassion. He may or may not be a killer but he certainly brings the killer out of others.
Finally, in between these two stances we get the 7th smartest person on the planet, Amadeus Cho giving us the answer Pak has devised. It’s not so much a question of, “Is the Hulk a killer?” The question is, “Could the Hulk kill even if he wanted?” Pak’s answer is, “No, he cannot.” The reasons for this are mental and physical apparently. As much as the Hulk rages and roars and smashes there’s a part of him that’s always “running the numbers” and can sense where innocents are. This makes his bark worse than his bite. Can he create bankrupting collateral damage? Check. Can he incite rage and violence in others? Check. Can he kill if his mind is removed or controlled? Check. Can he kill in war? Check. Can he commit murder, the unlawful taking of a life you don’t have the right to take? NO.
Pak’s answer seems to be based on Banner’s inherent morality and the super-physics introduced in the character of Cho. This does and doesn’t work for me at the same time. It doesn’t work because I believe everyone, no matter how moral, has the potential to do anything given the right circumstances, including kill. It does work if you buy the super-science involved which gives the Hulk an always active sixth sense about geometry and space and an almost mystical targeting capability enabling him to take out all obstacles save innocent lives.
All of this would also pose that Banner has always had this unconscious control over the Hulk even though he’s been unaware of it. With Amadeus’ discovery sinking in I can see the potential for interesting future storylines. Banner would be more at ease and willing to allow the Hulk to roam free knowing he wouldn’t be responsible for the death of innocents - something that’s plagued him since that original gamma radiated accident. This new wrinkle would make the Hulk a more stable hero while changing the relationship between himself and Banner. The military powers of the world would have new motivation for assaulting the Hulk. Not to kill him but to capture and utilize him as the ultimate and quite literally “Smart Weapon” taking out real estate and ordinance but not populations. The ramifications of what Pak is doing here are quite staggering. I have to give him credit for attempting so bold a change.
Ultimately what we have here is an elimination of the Jekyll (good) and (vs.) Hyde (evil) and Dr. Frankenstein (Banner)/Frankenstein’s Monster (The Hulk) questions about the Hulk that Stan Lee brought to the fore back in the subversive 60’s. Gone is the question of whether or not the Hulk is Banner’s sinister id come to the fore al la Mr. Fixit. Gone is the ever present tension of whether the Hulk will kill somebody or many bodies someday a la the devil Hulk personality introduced a few years back. The new status quo is that the Hulk persona is more animalistic and childish that anything else lending credence to the good ‘ol dumb Hulk in a novel way. Like an animal the Hulk really would rather just be left alone but if pushed he’ll do what he has to do to defend himself short of killing you. Maiming yes, but killing, no. Like a child he will throw tantrums and rages but ultimately the consequences of these are not as dire for authorities or citizenry as they could be because for all his strength and power he doesn’t have the ability to act on his feelings to their fullest expression. He’s only acting out as they say. Here’s a paraphrase for example: “I wish you were dead!” says the childish Hulk. “Yeah,” intimates Amadeus Cho, “But you CAN’T kill me.”
As I say, I’m on the fence with Pak’s Hulk now. Here’s hoping he can smooth out these new wrinkles to a satisfying conclusion and status quo for this beloved character.
Final Word: Pak has rocked the Hulk’s world in World War Hulk setting him up as the mightiest “Smart Weapon” to ever walk the earth! What this means for the future of the character is yet to be seen, but Pak’s done so well up ‘till now we’re willing to stick it out until the end and you should be too.
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