Writer: Greg Pak
Artist(s): John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: The Hulk is out to show the superhero world how it feels to be abhorred as a monster.
Commentary: Pak continues to turn this story on its ear here and over in the main Incredible Hulk title. I don’t think it’s going in the direction most people thought it would but instead is setting up intriguing dynamics for the future of this character and his relationship with the Marvel Universe of heroes as a whole. Pak does this while presenting what is initially perceived as a simple straight forward story of revenge. I mean look at my plot synopsis. It’s one sentence and that is basically the overarching theme of this issue. But, there is so much going on underneath that statement its staggering and compelling at the same time.
We’ve already learned in the last issue of the Incredible Hulk that he cannot kill these heroes outright. This lessened the danger and tension factor from the Hulk individually as a threat for me. However, this issue we see the Hulk push these iconic heroes to their very limits of moral endurance. Just what will it take for the survival instinct of these paragons of virtue to kick in breaking down their walls of civility and pushing them into the ranks of monster? The Hulk has had years of experience in that regard and he means to use that knowledge to its fullest potential. He taunts, “Looks like we’re all monsters now,” while his arena erupts in blood and fire. Was this the Hulk’s goal all along or is this the plan B that, for some reason, he has been talked into by Hercules (of all people) and Amadeus Cho? There is some apparent philosophical difference between the Hulk’s Warbound over whether they are going too far or not. Why the difference of opinion if the intention all along was to kill these heroes? The theme of going too far is prevalent in this issue also. Heroim (who has some experience with the mystical apparently) chides Dr. Strange in this regard for having drunk a demon. The question is posed without being stated, “Would you become what you hate to survive?” Evidently for Dr. Strange the answer is, YES.
The more Pak reveals the more questions we ask ourselves. If this was the Hulk’s plan all along then wouldn’t this be more of something Bruce Banner (the thinking man, the scientist) would have come up with? Which leads to the question has Banner been in control all along or are he and the Hulk side of his personality finally reconciled and moving in one accord? This possibility is expounded in a great scene with Rick Jones where the Hulk saves the lives of a dozen innocents. Rick figures since the Hulk is behaving in this way he must be Banner. The Hulk replies, “No, Banner is me.” Pak has done a splendid job of putting possibilities out there and then answering those questions so I am confident we’ll get the final answers to these and other questions soon. He is crafting his story so well I’m finding myself willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
The scenes of the Sentry, this human with immense power standing in his doorway but unable to spring into action is a great juxtaposition to the raging, unbridled power that is the Hulk. I think I finally understand the Sentry’s presence and importance in the Hulk mythos. It’s for the benefit of this very contrast. It works beautifully here. Robert’s got the power of a million exploding suns but he can’t bring himself to walk out the door. The Hulk’s the most uncontrollable, devastating humanoid on the planet and he’s all too ready and able to unleash that fury. If the Sentry cuts loose he’s liable to destroy innocent lives unintentionally. If the Hulk cuts loose he has internal failsafes that spares innocent lives. Robert’s mental condition makes him as unstable as he is powerful. Bruce’s mental condition makes him the stabilizing factor for the Hulk. Pak is giving us things we’ve never considered before here and I hope other readers pick up on it.
This issue would be five bullets for me but the art seems a bit lacking this issue. It looks rushed and not as well defined as previous issues. I don’t know if that’s because Romita has so much to draw this issue or that he was laboring under time constraints. The best drawn scenes are when folks are standing still. Examples would be when civilians such as Tom Foster are testifying court room style about the atrocities these so called heroes have committed and the aforementioned scene with Tony Stark trying to coax the Sentry into action. Next issue we get the final showdown between the Hulk and the Sentry. Set aside your ticket money now!
Final Word: The penultimate issue of this mega-event delivers heart stopping action and head scratching considerations at the same time. Don’t miss the final issue.
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