Totally Awesome Hulk is a Disney Channel Original Series by way of Marvel.
This is to its credit and its detriment. It’s a vivacious project with a voice all its own, but that voice stutters in its attempt to appeal to a demographic. First issues are always difficult, as they require a fair amount of information to be conveyed but also progress must be made in the narrative you’re writing- like starting to hammer nails in a building before all your workers have read the blueprints. Pak’s strong suit has always been the long-game and it shows in this first issue- it had a lot of action but even then it feels stunted and secondary to the development of Amadeus Cho to the audience.
Amadeus is a unique character that Thank God is Not Another Troubled White Guy Burdened and the strongest moments of this issue are when Pak taps into that vein- he gets introduced going full Jughead, eating hella burgers before fighting off a monster and it’s an endearing and telling lens into his world. Amadeus is sweet and humorous and serves as a springboard to fun dialogue moments, like when he asks a woman out in the middle of a fight only to find out she’s seeing someone and this egg-on-his-face is mirrored by him getting smashed by the turtle-creature he’s supposed to be taming.
Frank Cho’s manga x Terry Moore style is a striking fit for this material- his linework is clean and his action is fluid and well-expressed. He struggles a bit with faces and the non-kinetic moments have a strange levity to them, they look a lot brighter than they should- much like the camera work on your Hannah Montanas or Suite Life of Zach and Codys. While this may or may not be intentional, it does feel like a disconnect between narratives. Sonia Oback does a fine job coloring, she uses a pretty standard palate but in a week where Matt Milla almost singlehandedly rescued an otherwise subpar issue of Daredevil, it’s a solid hit.
Amadeus having purple digital board shorts is inspired and the shades of Pacific Rim of having a Hulk travel the world fighting creatures is brilliant and promises to keep the actual story chains moving along. Cho’s creature designs are grotesque and imposing and his eye for subtle details is a visual treat- Hulk having Amadeus’s hairstyle and worrying about maintaining it in a fight is a facet of the character that glows and should be highlighted more in the future.
The issue’s missteps lay firm in the fact that it feels spread too thin. Pak tries to jam in backstory, exposition, character building and action and they don’t feed into one another as much as fight and bite for the spotlight. In future issues this problem may resolve itself but for a first issue it’s a staggering fist to the mouth of the pacing.
Ultimately Amadeus Cho is a chill dude and he’s got enough personality and promise of monsters to fight to shine through. The title is ambitious, especially in name, but for now it reaches the heights of issue of the Totally Not Bad But… Hulk.