Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hulk: Red & Green (comics)

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artists: Arthur Adams, Frank Cho, Herb Trimpe
Collects: Hulk #7-9, King Sized Hulk #1

The Jeph Loeb Hulk run gets a lot of hate. It's not unfounded; all you need to do is take a look at one of the free five page previews from one of the issues to know the comics are dumb as a post. Loeb doesn't even try to make it anything but, so a spade may as well be called a spade. At some point this past decade, Jeph Loebs scripting abilities went to hell, but at the same time, the man is practically magic when it comes to attracting top tier artists to his projects. This volume boasts the talent of Arthur Adams and Frank Cho; so on those grounds I gave it a read.

After reading it, all I can say is... well, at least it all looks really good.

The book has two main "stories" here. See, at the time, the Incredible Hulk series had been renamed Incredible Hercules and followed that particular character. But since then, Green Hulk was running around and there was only one Hulk book. So they decided to go in halfs. Half an issue would follow Hulk classic and the other half would follow the new Red variety.

Anyways, the one starring Green Hulk finds him in Las Vegas. Apparently, Wendigos are all around and infecting the whole of Vegas. Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel and the Sentry drop by and Banner Hulks out. By the end an entire section of Vegas likely needs to be rebuilt from the ground up and for some reason known only to the creators it's actually snowing. Over in the Red Hulk tale, She-Hulk decides she wants some payback for being smacked around by the Red Hulk in times past. So naturally, instead of actually coming up with, you know, a plan, she just rings up a few of her gal pals, announces their arrival to the Red Hulk - I guess she's never heard of the element of surprise - and then proceeds to try beating the hell out of him. Since, of course, we're talking about Red Hulk here - who is a villainous Gary Stu if ever I saw one - it's no spoiler to say this doesn't work out so well.

The writing is pretty bad. Loeb does not even bother to humor us with even the slightest hint of coherent continuity or plotting. It's basically the equivalent of a kid taking his action figures and smashing them together. Seriously, there are a lot of basic questions here that do not even receive lip service. For example, at a couple times during the story, we see that Banner is in captivity - where he has apparently been since World War Hulk - which begs the question of how the hell he's running around in Vegas, beating on a bunch of furry monsters. No answers; not even a hint that Loeb even cares. That's just one example of the story just plain not making sense. Out of nowhere the Joe Fixit personality emerges from Banner for no real reason and is gone within a handful of pages, having served no purpose.

By the time one of Marvels mystics shows up to Deus Ex Machina the problem away, you've pretty much given up trying to make sense of any of it. Hell, how the Wendigo's infect isn't even explained properly; Banners monologue explains it as the result of humans engaging in cannibalism, but then later in the story it seems to just forget it established that and suddenly it's done by being bitten by one, a la zombies. We get an amusing sequence with Hulk out of it, sure, but goddamn; retconning is one thing, but within the same story? It's all a mess.

The Red Hulk tale mercifully lacks the variety of problems the previous one had. But that's mostly because it's nothing more than a big fight scene. Red Hulk spouts about some plan every now and then, but we never get the idea that he has one outside of him telling us he does. Perhaps it was a bit clearer in the last volume, but judging by this one, I doubt it.

The last real story is a summation of the life of Abomination told from his death on backwards to when he was "born". Why it's even here, I haven't the foggiest; after all, the Abomination was killed in the last volume and plays no part in this one. But whatever, right? I just kind of look at it as an out of place extra.

Where the scripting fails, the art prevails. Seriously, for every bad moment brought by the writing, there's a gorgeous panel of art to look at. Arthur Adams draws the hell out of the Vegas story; the story may be stupid as hell, but it's kind of hard to really argue with Hulk smashing through a city of neon lights and busting up Wendigos in a casino. Though I will say that I found it kind of funny how he makes Ms. Marvel look like Empowered.

Frank Cho draws the Red Hulk story because of course Frank Cho is going to be called upon to draw a story where eighty percent of the cast consists of women. Ass shots aplenty. I love Cho's work and really, this kind of thing is pretty much his specialty. The dudes good at drawing beautiful women. This is a story where a bunch of beautiful women fight Red Hulk. The math's definitely sound and the man can draw some good facial expressions too. I like it, even if he does sometimes work to get in an ass shot; though to be fair, I didn't think it went to the levels of, say, an Ed Benes this go around.

Now, I've railed on this book pretty heavily, so it's understandable if you think I loathed it outright. These are, after all, comics that don't even manage to come within a mile of being genuinely good. But I have to admit, there is some enjoyment to be had. If you go in like you might a regular comic, you'll probably rip your hair out, because the book - and hell, most of the characters in it - borders on retarded. But if you stop thinking about and just enjoy it as a fight comic, you can find some fun within. It's basically two big fights drawn by some of the industries greats. Sometimes that's all you really need.

The Score: 5.5 out of 10

I kind of hesitate to give this book a score even on the level of a five point five, but fun is fun, even if it's retarded fun. There's plenty of reason for most readers to hate this book; and honestly, I agree a hundred percent with most of the criticisms. But this volume at least had some merit. If the art wasn't even half as good, this probably would have gotten a four. I'd never recommend a purchase, - and I doubt I'll be back for future volumes, because I fear my IQ would drop sharply - but if, say, you were to find it at the library, the art makes it worth a check-out. But only one.

One last thing; can writers please be banned from writing "omigod"? It's horribly obnoxious. I do not know any real people who say that. If I did, I probably wouldn't want to hang around them.

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