Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest - World War Hulk: Aftersmash #1

Posted: Sunday, December 2, 2007
By: Keith Dallas

Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Rafa Sandoval (p), Vicente Cifventes (i), Val Staples (colors)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Editor’s Note: The World War Hulk: Aftersmash one-shot will arrive in stores this Wednesday, December 5.

Average Rating:

Paul Brian McCoy:
Robert Murray:
Christopher Power:
Dave Wallace:

SPOILER WARNING: The following reviews discuss plot developments of the issue.

Paul Brian McCoy:

Well, I think I may be done with the Hulk and all things Hulk-related for a while. It’s been an okay ride, not as great in retrospect as it was when it was going on, but for The Incredible Hulk, that’s saying a lot. After abandoning the title during Bruce Jones’ interminably rambling run, I heard good things about Pak’s new take and the whole “Planet Hulk” story. So after grabbing the first couple of issues out of the back issues piles, I was impressed. It wasn’t exactly original, but it was fun, and it was immediate. No waiting around for mysteries that went on forever – just straight up gladiatorial monster fighting that led to planet-wide rebellion and the eventual establishment of Hulk as ruler of an entire world, adored by most of his subjects, loved by a woman who was at least as bad-ass as he was, and there was a baby on the way.

That didn’t actually turn out very well for him, as I’m sure you know.

So then World War Hulk began, and I was onboard, ready for the ride. It never promised much more than what the title said. Hulk was back, pissed off, and going to kick everyone’s teeth in.

That didn’t actually turn out very well for him either, as I’m sure you know.

I didn’t have the problems that many people seemed to have with the conclusion of WWH. It was pretty obvious at the end of “Planet Hulk” that Miek had at least something to do with the explosion that killed most of the planet’s inhabitants, so that reveal didn’t come from out of nowhere. Also, the very first thing Stark tried to do when Hulk’s ship arrived was access a satellite configuration designed to deal with the big green threat should he ever return, but Hulk, having Banner’s intellect and the tactical skills learned leading a civil war on an alien world, was ready for him. Once The Sentry took out the ship, however, Stark was able to enact his plan, with some additional firepower suggested by Reed Richards. And Hulk was defeated and is now in a containment tank, in an underground bunker, far away from everything and everyone. And he’s happy that way.

But that leaves a gaping hole in the Marvel Universe (not to mention a comic that bears his name), that this ridiculously named one-shot special, World War Hulk: Aftersmash, aims to begin filling. It just doesn’t do a very good job of it. The writing is filled with awkward moments, and the art, while serviceable, is left to make sense out of some nonsensical events.

We have four storylines fighting for dominance.

Misty Knight apparently had to kill some aliens or something in her, now canceled, book. I don’t know. I don’t read it, but from Stark’s dialogue here it sounds like Shang Chi actually did the killing, so I don’t know what Knight’s problem really is. If she didn’t have a bionic arm, there’d really be no reason for her to be in this comic (unless she’s got a new spin-off series getting ready to launch). In fact, the only real insight that is gained from her storyline is that robots don’t mind killing if that’s what they’re made for. I have no idea how that’s supposed to be read in relation to Misty Knight. Anyway, now she’s “haunted” by what she “did.”

The Warbound also don’t really do a whole lot here except fight Grimm, Cage, and Spider-Man for no reason. Unless the purpose really was to distract them so that one of their crew could go try to stop some alien in-fighting. Essentially they’re in here just to establish their escape from the scene and justify their new mini series where they’re on the run. These characters were barely interesting when they had Hulk to interact with. With him gone, I really don’t see the point of dragging their story out. Oh yeah, they’ve got a lot of “shame” to deal with.

Tom Foster gets some attention and actually shows some character development as he moves from angry youth to responsible young man. But to be honest, it’s trite and cliché. And apparently the old Avengers Mansion is still around and has absolutely no security. How about that? Anyone can just walk in and head to whatever levels they like in order to access super-advanced technology. The only thing stopping them? Iron Man told them not to go to those levels. No locks or security. Seriously. And I’m really not sure how Tom gets out of the Mansion either, since he’s a bit conspicuous (not to mention how much trouble he should have with the doors). He’s now dealing with being a “hero.”

And finally, Amadeus Cho and Hercules show up for a while, so Cho can tell Stark how bad the situation is as the entire city begins to split apart down to the bedrock, and Herc can hold the city together with two giant chains that aren’t attached to anything but the actual walls of the split. Let me say that again. Hercules holds New York City together as the ground is splitting open down to the bedrock, by grabbing two big chains that were apparently very quickly mounted on each side of the opening chasm. Not on the surface, mind you, but mounted to the walls of the chasm. Then, when everything is said and done, we see the two of them running away like they were in a Warner Brothers’ cartoon. I’m surprised there aren’t spinning circles for their legs.

Oh, and Damage Control is back and have cornered the market on the construction and implementation of ridiculous giant chains and their ridiculous mounting hardware. They get a mini-series or a one-shot or something out of all this, for some unknown reason. I guess someone has to explain how New York is completely rebuilt so quickly.

All in all, Pak and Sandoval do an excellent job of killing any enthusiasm I had after finishing World War Hulk. I had intended to try out The Incredible Hercules and maybe even that Son of Hulk series, but now I just don’t think I’ll bother. To be quite honest, “Planet Hulk” and World War Hulk were both only fairly average, overall. When there were glimmers of light, they were pretty quickly dimmed, with nothing really being allowed to develop on its own. They brought him back to Earth too soon, I think. And now he’s not even here anymore. Instead, we get replacements and sidekicks. And not a word anywhere about Rick Jones’ health. Did he die at the end of WWH or what? There were countless other possible threads that I’d rather see followed up than what we’re being given here. There’s nothing in this comic that anyone needs to know, going into a post-WWH Marvel Universe.

Robert Murray:

Overall, I liked this aftermath (sorry, Aftersmash) issue better than the last issue of the World War Hulk mini-series, though it’s literally just a tidying up of loose ends. Marvel, in typical fashion, claims that this issue contains ground-shaking events that will affect the Marvel Universe for the next year or so. Well, the only ground shaking I saw in this issue was New York nearly cracking in half! The future implications could have been figured out by anyone who has followed Diamond Previews, but I did like the ways in which these characters’ fates are intertwined, thanks to some skillful writing by Greg Pak. It’s predictable, but at least more stylish than the commonplace brawl in World War Hulk #5. Misty Knight, the Warbound, Tom Foster and Herc and Amadeus are each pointed in their respective directions, with the Hero for Hire being the most compelling of the four. Heck, I might even pick up an issue of their regular series after this... Oh, who am I kidding? Still, the various reasons for their involvement in this event are brought into focus and distilled into their common elements before the conclusion of the issue. Then, all the little mice are sent scurrying in their various directions, leaving various questions but one ultimate conclusion: they each have the heart of a hero. This is Pak’s overall message in this one-shot, and with the solid strokes of Rafa Sandoval and Vicente Cifuentes added to the mix, this is ultimately a satisfying way to conclude “World War Hulk,” if you can call this a conclusion. Sure, it’s a happy ending, but Aftersmash is handled in the right fashion, with few distractions to detract from it.

However, the negative points of this issue are pretty significant, since they concern the dialogue and the artwork inspiration. The instance when the media announces, “World War Hulk is over,” I physically cringed. Why would a reporter refer to the Hulk’s attack as a “World War?” Pretty hokey, to say the least. Also, the dialogue between Misty Knight and Iron Man is very stilted, sounding like bad actors reading from a tele-prompter. As for the art, Sandoval and Cifuentes create a very standard looking story, with little flair or originality. Unlike John Romita Jr.’s high octane style, this team is way more subdued, almost to the point of putting us to sleep. This kind of style fits with many of the scenes in Aftersmash, but the action scenes really suffer. Obviously, Sandoval and Cifuentes are concentrating so hard on getting the look right that they forget to put their own imprints on the work, leaving a very dry product in their wake.

But, there were a lot of positives to take from the story itself, as Pak takes a melange of different elements from this mini-series and boils it down into a conclusion that gels particularly well. I was particularly intrigued by Elloe’s motivations. Being one of the Warbound and having lost family in the explosion on Sakaar, her admission of guilt was a surprisingly moving example of human nature and bold self-analysis. On the other hand, I was turned off by Tom Foster’s role in Aftersmash, since he does what most people expect him to do. By the way, if the world is missing a Goliath, do they need to replace him? Sorry for the digression! Foster’s tale is one of simple revenge, but the ending gives hope to all four of the principle players in this 35 page drama as well as painting them as traditional heroes, concerned with the greater good over their personal ambitions. The better to lead their own series... While I know the Marvel machine is pulling to make all of these players sympathetic for their new titles, I have to say I was pleased with Pak’s rally ‘round the heroes hurrah for “World War Hulk.” Barring the sloppy dialogue and uninspired illustrations, each of these heroes has his or her moment to shine in the rescue of New York from forces both extraterrestrial and geological, which is the kind of golden moment we look for in super-hero comics.

Christopher Power:

The day the Hulk fell, the world had to heal. While many people berated and, in some cases, hated how World War Hulk ended, my only regret was that it did not explore more deeply the themes that Pak presented. Aftersmash provides a small view of what could have been if World War Hulk had a few more issues.

In World War Hulk the writer explored a number of different subtle themes, and amazingly, they managed to weave their way into the related books. Heroes for Hire touched on the definition of the individual and sense of self in comparison to the definition of the individual as a hero/villain. X-Men touched on family and reliance on those around you, a theme echoed in the Warbound of the Hulk. And The Incredible Hulk showed Hulk’s friends believing the best in him while the world cowered in fear. It is this last one that we should have paid the most attention to, as it highlighted the overall concepts of this series: vengeance versus justice. These two concepts were echoed throughout the stories by Miek and Amadeus Cho, and reflected in the secondary characters, such as Ben Foster and the more honorable members of the Warbound.

Why do I bring all of this up? Because Aftersmash takes all of these ideas and reflects on them, showing the long-term results of each of these themes. Those who wished vengeance were left empty and lost, with Ben Foster not finding peace in his ability to exact revenge on those who wronged him. The Warbound races, not knowing what else to do and having no one to rely on, continue their fight, lost and hopeless without the Hulk. The Warbound of the Hulk realize their mistakes, and in their shame believe they must sacrifice themselves to redeem their dishonored souls (in what I thought was an amazingly good scene). Finally, Misty Knight, Hercules and many others step up and do what they do best: save the world. I think that each of these stories had a ton of promise that could still have been explored within the WWH series. I regret that we couldn’t get a few more issues to explore each of these themes.

As for the issue itself: it flows fairly well, with solid transitions between scenes; however, periodically, I would get lost on the timing of events. Some characters, like Luke Cage and Spiderman, while important, kind of wandered in and out of frame without doing much more than narrating the situation that was being depicted in the art. The only Earth hero that really made me feel like he was supposed to be there was Ben Grimm. This issue seemed to suffer from what the entire series suffered from: everything just happened too quickly. There was no chance to reflect on what Ben Foster was trying to do. He disappeared for half of the issue only to return and have his story resolved rather quickly, notably without Iron Man getting his due again. I hope that some of these stories get picked up and explored, because it would be a shame if a number of them disappeared. Perhaps this comic is meant to serve as a jump on point for all of the future character stories.

The art in the issue is really nicely done, with the green lighting in the scenes with Misty in the chasm being particularly effective. There was a nice combination of close-up and wide angle panels to get a more epic feel.

If you read World War Hulk and read most of the side issues, I think that this issue is worth it. If you want to know the directions of many of future of the WWH characters in the Marvel Universe, you definitely want to have this issue. However, if you did not read WWH, or you just read the main series, I think you will be very lost. You really need to have at least read Heroes for Hire and The Incredible Hulk to get the real effect of this comic.

My thanks to my pal Stanton Daries for a productive set of conversations regarding WWH which helped me explore many of the above themes.

Dave Wallace:

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this comic. As somebody who enjoyed the majority of World War Hulk but was disappointed with the final issue of the event, I was hardly excited to see the story eked out even further, and so soon after the miniseries finished. Also, considering how little I had invested in the supporting characters of World War Hulk (such as the Hulk’s Warbound, Amadeus Cho, and Hercules), I was surprised to see this spinoff story feature so many of them so prominently. Still, this issue gets some credit for taking a couple of minor characters and a few unresolved plot strands from the miniseries and turning in a multi-faceted story which shows the heroes of the Marvel universe acting in a pretty heroic manner.

Guest-stars abound this issue, as Hercules, Iron Man and Misty Knight are placed on clean-up duty, and Luke Cage, Spider-Man and The Thing are brought in to handle the Warbound aliens that were left standing at the end of WWH. It’s a slightly random collection of heroes, but it works well enough to convey the idea that characters from different corners of the Marvel Universe are all pulling together in the wake of the Hulk’s attacks. By the end of the issue, even the wronged Tom Foster (nephew of Bill Foster – a.k.a. Goliath - who was killed by the Thor cyborg/clone in Civil War) finds something constructive to do with his newfound powers amongst the alien carnage. It’s a very positive story considering the fairly negative premise of the main World War Hulk event, and that’s laudable.

The art is good (if not great), with Rafa Sandoval turning in recognisable versions of the characters and some solid enough action. It’s never spectacular stuff, but the artist copes well with the demands of large, densely-populated crowd scenes and a fairly fast-moving script, keeping the characters distinctive and the storytelling reasonably clear. Greg Pak’s writing is as we’ve come to expect from the main WWH mini: reasonably straightforward and unfussy, but effective enough in conveying the requirements of the story. There’s not much in the way of intellectual depth or subtle characterisation here, but it’s unlikely that anyone who buys a comic called World War Hulk: Aftersmash will be expecting those elements anyway.

Yes, by the end of the issue the now-familiar sense that Marvel is using the last pages of a story as advertising space for new books has crept in, and if you were expecting this one-shot to have anything to say about the Hulk himself, you’ll be disappointed. However, on its own terms it’s an enjoyable enough (if disposable) yarn which should answer the nagging questions of anyone who was worried about how New York would piece itself back together after the events of the main miniseries.

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