Hulk Trade Post: Incredible Hulk Sons Of Banner & Fall Of The Hulks

The Incredible Hulk: Son Of Banner (Marvel)
Written by Greg Pak, drawn by Ariel Olivetti, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Paul Pelletier & Ben Oliver
Collects Incredible Hulk #601-605, Dark Reign: The List – Hulk

Hulk is one of those characters I’ve kind of danced around with fan-wise. I’ve heard amazing things about Peter David’s epic run, but when I tried reading it, I was completely lost (he started in the middle of an arc, if memory serves). The only time I’ve ever really jumped in full boat is when Planet Hulk started. I was completely taken with that series, what a great way to turn a character who’s basically a plot point into an actual interesting person you want a read about (and in a way that hadn’t been done quite that way before). I wasn’t so into World War Hulk and fell away when the Red Hulk stuff started.

But I’ve heard good things about the tag team effort being put forth by Jeff Parker and Greg Pak on the two books and decided to give Incredible Hulk a shot when these two books came up on Thwipster. If you’re unfamiliar with the new M.O., this book sees a de-Hulked Bruce Banner palling around with his son Skaar (who was born on Planet Hulk, but Hulk didn’t know it). Skaar also hates Hulk and wants to kill him, which Banner actually likes because he knows/assumes he’s going to turn back into the Jade Giant eventually.

All kinds of machinations are going on in this comic as Banner manipulates everyone to figure out how Skaar will react when really bad things really happen. There’s also a lot of cool bleeding edge science going on with Banner playing action hero. It’s a cool dichotomy because you get both genius Banner, but also a warrior who gets to smash everyone from Juggernaut to Wolverine. There’s a lot of set-up in this first collection as well as cool tent poles for you to grab onto, which makes it kind of a perfect collection. It works on its own, but flows so well into the next.

My only problem? I’m not a big fan of Olivetti’s artwork. I know I used to, but there’s been a switch in style, I think. His characters and backgrounds just don’t look like they belong on the page together. I can’t necessarily explain why, maybe it’s a coloring or compositing thing (do some of the backgrounds look like they were Photoshopped?) but it’s disorienting to my eye. Even so, it’s not so distracting that I don’t want to read these comics again. They’re so fun I just can’t stay away.

The Incredible Hulk: Fall Of The Hulks (Marvel)
Written by Greg Pak & Jeff Parker, drawn by Paul Pelletier
Collects Incredible Hulk #606-608, Fall Of The Hulks Alpha

Unlike its predecessor, Fall Of The Hulks mostly flows with the larger Hulk story that was going on at the time. Banener and Skaar have to deal with a cabal of brainy villains lead by the Leader who have been secretly working together for years (basically, a bad guy Illuminati). There are elements at play here that I didn’t directly understand because they refer to Hulk issues that are collected elsewhere, but overall, I really enjoyed this story too. It was like a crazy chess match, but, you know, which giant green guys punching the stuffing out of each other.

The art also greatly benefits from Pelletier’s pencils which are a lot more traditional and have a very big, iconic feel. He also gets to really stretch his wings and draw all kinds of characters from MODOK and the Eternals to Spider-Man and Hank Pym. Even though the book is very Hulk-centric, it’s also a great celebration of the Marvel Universe.

I had so much fun with these two books that I now want to go back and get all of Parker and Pak’s run to see where all this goes. I think I’m a Hulk fan now. Those guys make great comics.

Trade Post: Hellblazer India

HELLBLAZER: INDIA (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Peter Milligan, drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Simon Bisley
Collects Hellblazer #261-266
Reading Hellblazer books is always a little tricky, especially if you’re like me and only read them in bursts and bits thanks to trades either gotten from Sequential Swap, $5 trade boxes or friends. Putting all the pieces together can be difficult, especially with a character like John Constantine who has been built to have a million skeletons in his closet and old friends to call on him. Unless you’ve got an encyclopedic knowledge of the character, it’s hard to know if whoever’s asking John for help is an established character or someone new being introduced to move the story along. I guess it doesn’t really matter–it’s not easy for a comic geek to let go of his hold on/knowledge of/desire to understand continuity, but I’m working on it–so I’m trying to just jump in and figure it out. For whatever it’s worth, if you’re curious, I’ve also reviewed The Fear Machine, Empathy Is The Enemy and The Roots Of Coincidence. I’m sure I have or will repeat myself in this post compared to those, so maybe you shouldn’t read them…

Anyway, like those other volumes, I quite liked this one, though, also like those others, I’m still not sure if I have any more of a grasp on Constantine as a character aside from him being a badass with ties to the dark arts, but sometimes that’s enough. This book is split between two stories, a 4-parter called “India” and a 2-parter called “No Future.”

“India” is pretty rad, with Constantine traveling to the titular country and facing off against a demon who used to be part of the British effort to take over India. Nowadays, he has virgins sacrificed to him by a Bollywood movie producer, but the system gets a wrench thrown in it when the producer falls for the latest potential sacrifice. Oh and Constantine of course. The story was a lot of fun and pretty tight, but I absolutely love Giuseppe Camuncoli’s artwork. Dude just has such a sick style that fits this book so perfectly. I probably said this before, but he would be awesome on a Hellboy book or maybe one of DC’s upcoming darker books (he might have actually been announced on one, I haven’t been keeping up with the announcements).

I had an even better time with “No Future” because it goes back to Constantine’s punk rock roots (I’ve actually read one of the books that explained this). His buddy and fellow former punk rocker has built this cult that worships a dummy that supposedly has the spirit of Sid Vicious (I refuse to link to his Wiki page, you should either know he he is, look it up yourself or just watch Sid & Nancy). Constantine’s friend is having his people taken away by the new Conservative party which is made up of zombie demons. Another quick and dirty story, I had a great time with “No Future” especially seeing John done up as a green-haired aging punk. I also really appreciated Simon Bisley’s artwork. He’s a dude I’ve always heard of and appreciated from covers, but not actually read any interiors of, so this was a treat, especially given the subject matter.

With the exception of his relationship to a blue-haired girl who is still alive and a woman who he clearly loved and must have passed away in an earlier volume, I think India is as good of a jumping-on point for new readers. Like I said, Constantine’s a strange character because he seems to know half the planet (the more salacious and devious half, of course) so it doesn’t matter who you know and who you don’t. The holes are filled in for the most part as far as understanding goes. I have a feeling if you picked up the very first Hellblazer trade, he’d be running into old friends and enemies and killing demons or whatever, so why not just jump in here?

Annihilation Trade Post: Books 1-3

ANNIHILATION BOOK ONE (Marvel)
Written by Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, drawn by Mitch Breitweiser, Scot Kolins, Ariel Olivetti & Kev Walker
Collects Drax The Destroyer #1-4, Annihilation: Prologue & Annihilation: Nova #1-4
Back in my days at Wizard, I wound up being the go-to guy for Annihilation interviews. I had just read Infinity Gauntlet for the first time and was pretty high on the idea of Marvel’s space characters getting a jump start. With very few exceptions, I had very little experience with these characters, so it was kind of fun to just be thrown into the middle of all this craziness and see where it went. When these issues were coming out, I had trouble not comparing the Annihilation set-up with that of DC’s Infinite Crisis. Both had four four-issue minis leading up to a main series. At the time it felt like Marvel did the whole thing better because their minis lead into the main series better. I can’t say I necessarily feel the same way now, but at least we didn’t have to get four one-shots to actually cap those stories. But, as usual, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Continue reading Annihilation Trade Post: Books 1-3

A Very British Trade Post: Jenny Sparks & Hellblazer: The Roots Of Coincidence

JENNY SPARKS: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE AUTHORITY (Wildstorm)
Written by Mark Millar, drawn by John McCrea
Collects the miniseries of the same name #1-5
I’ve gone on record saying that I’m a big Authority fan, having reviewed a good number of the books on the blog, so this Jenny Sparks mini was right up my alley. I got it off a Sequential Swap and then saw two words on the cover that tend to turn me off from comics: Mark Millar. I’m just not a fan of the dude’s writing in general. I feel like he tries too hard to shock readers and I haven’t been truly shocked by a comic since Preacher and I’m fairly certain it won’t happen again. I will give the guy credit for creating great big popcorn books (the equivalent of a summer blockbuster), but for whatever reason, I don’t tend to enjoy those comics as much.

Anyway, my desire to learn more about Jenny Sparks and to check out some John McCrea art (I’ve been slowly collecting and reading all of the old Hitman trades and really dig his art), so I soldiered on. And, overall, it’s a pretty interesting little book. We do get more bits of Jenny’s history, but also how she met each member of the original Authority team and convinced them to join. For that alone, it will stay in my Wildstorm trade collection, but I’m not sure how many times I will go back to it.

For one thing, Millar decided to make Hitler a large part of one of the issues, stating that Jenny and he were friends back when he was a lowly artist and she suggested he go into politics. Later, she’s working as a spy during WWII and gets caught by the Nazis, but Hitler lets her go. Now, I’m torn on this because it feels like a very “look how crazy I’m being” Millar moment, but at the same time it makes sense that Jenny, being the spirit of the 20th century, would have influenced the good along with the bad. I’ll give it a pass for now. What I can’t give a pass is the non McCrea-ness of the art. Don’t get me wrong, the art is good, but it doesn’t look like the McCrea I know and love and have in my head when I think of him, which was disappointing. Add him to the list of artists who have changed their style for the worse from the 90s.

I can’t really see anyone aside from Authority fans really digging this book. It’s not Millar-y enough to appeal to his hardcore fans (though they probably already have read it) and it’s not like Jenny Sparks is a belovedly missed character (though I would definitely like to hear more about her getting sent into a crazy depression). Bonus points for getting a pretty good intro by Authority creator Warren Ellis in the book too!

HELLBLAZER: THE ROOTS OF COINCIDENCE (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Andy Diggle, drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Manco
Collects Hellblazer #243-244, 247-249
Even though this collection of Hellblazer breaks my number one rule for trades (collect EVERY ISSUE consecutively), it was still an interesting read. But, in cases like this I’m always left asking “Would it have killed them to include those two other issues?” I don’t tend to read Hellblazer books in any kind of order, just reading whatever trades I get my hands on, but it’s still frustrating to have that question mark hanging over my reading experience.

Anyway, the book is broken up into two related stories, the first about a room in the Vatican that doesn’t allow God to see what’s going on inside. The idea is that priests can go in there and do whatever their black hearts desire to whoever they can find and it won’t be considered breaking their vows. Considering all the bad energy in the place, it should come as no surprise that a demon gets loosed inside. I was raised Catholic, don’t practice now, but also took a lot of classics and lit classes in college that focused on Church teachings and its history, so the story was really interesting to me and had me wondering if that room really exists in the real Vatican. Constantine gets called in to get rid of the demon, but also has motives of his own. Without giving it away, I give Diggle a lot of credit for adding a few extra layers to the story than what someone else might have done.

The second story involves a businessman who’s done a lot of wrong trying to set up his own private heaven and then killing himself. He gets a demon to help him, but Constantine gets involved and winds up serving his own brand of justice. After that, though, we get an issue that probably plays better with people who have been reading Hellblazer comics for longer than me as Constantine comes face to face with the force that has been plaguing him for years. I’ll be honest, I didn’t completely understand it, but I think I liked it.

There are two elements that I really liked in this book. First off, the artists are amazing. Camuncoli and Manco should always be drawing Hellblazer or Hellboy comics as far as I’m concerned. They’re perfectly suited for this kind of work. The other aspect that I liked was Diggle’s ability to really set Constantine up as a man with a strong grasp of his own morality, punishing privileged, wicked men who has a devilish way of putting people in their place. He’s a great character that I really enjoy reading about and would have liked to have gotten those extra two issues in this book!

Trade Post: Spyboy/Young Justice, Authority Revolution Vol. 1 & 2 and Captain Atom: Armageddon

SPYBOY/YOUNG JUSTICE (Dark Horse & DC)
Written by Peter David, drawn by Todd Nauck and Pop Mahn
Collects SpyBoy/Young Justice #1-3
I fully intended for this belated Trade Post to feature an all WildStorm line-up, but then I realized that I had already reviewed Authority: Harsh Realms, which I re-read and liked better this time around. Anyway, I had already read this crossover between two Peter David books and figured this fun and lighthearted look at teen superheros fighting and teaming up would fit in perfectly well with some hardcore WildStorm stuff (it’s not really that hard core).

Anyway, as it turns out, this book isn’t very good, which is disappointing because I am a gigantic Young Justice fan. Ben and Rickey turned me onto the book when we were all still at Wizard and I’ve gone back and gotten all the issues I didn’t already have. On the other hand, I’ve never read a SpyBoy comic. Here’s the problem with the book, I just didn’t care about the story. David intertwines the worlds of the characters very well, but since I’m not familiar with the SpyBoy Universe, so anything on that side wasn’t all that interesting to me. So, I’m guessing if you’re familiar with both books, this will be awesome for you.

My other problem was that I don’t like Mahn’s art. It starts off pretty solid, but it’s almost unreadable by the end of the book. I’d rather they just had given the entire thing to Nauck as I think he’s a rad artist (and also a rad dude). So, there you have it. As only a Young Justice fan, the book wasn’t really for me because, frankly, I just wanted more Young Justice that I hadn’t read yet. I would definitely consider giving SpyBoy a read though and maybe revisit this book later.

THE AUTHORITY REVOLUTION VOL. 1 & 2 (WildStorm)
Written by Ed Brubaker, drawn by Dustin Nguyen
Collects Authority: Revolution #1-6 and #7-12 respectively
I’ve talked about how much I dig WildStorm in general and The Authority more specifically, but I still haven’t read everything. In fact, I didn’t even know that Brubaker wrote anything for WildStorm aside from Point Blank and Sleeper, so when I saw these two volumes written by him and drawn by the excellent Nguyen on Sequential Swap, I zeroed in and traded for them. Luckily I was not disappointed.

There is a volume or two between these two books and the end of the previous volume that I had not actually read yet, so I was a little confused on some of the details and how the characters would go from here to the places they were when WorldStorm happened. The overall story here is that a version of Henry Bendix returns to screw with the Authority, leading them to disband for a while. We also get to meet the new Doctor, Rose Tattoo and a grown up Jenny Quantum, plus an entire world of the previous Jennies. The thing I really like about what Bru did with this comic is that he mined the history of this team along with other WildStorm books and created a helluvan interesting story that I dug. I’m not sure if newbies would be able to jump in and appreciate the story, but I had a lot of fun with it. These will be going on the shelf (or more accurately in the box) with my ever-expanding collection of WS trades.

CAPTAIN ATOM: ARMAGEDDON (DC & WildStorm)
Written by Will Pfeifer, drawn by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Collects Captain Atom: Armageddon #1-8
I’m not sure if I would recommend Captain Atom: Armageddon to anyone but die hard WildStorm fans, Captain Atom fans or people who want to know exactly what the hell has been going on in the WildStorm U over the past three years. The idea here is that after exploding trying to save the world in Superman/Batman, Cap pops around a little bit and then ends up in the WSU, the only problem is that he’s going to destroy the universe and there’s nothing he can do about it. In an effort to try and help himself and not be guilty of universe-cide, Cap visits with just about every team and hero on the planet, getting some assistance and also into his fair share of fights. I do think it’s interesting that he considers this reality so much more distasteful than his own with their heroes who do what they want (mainly the Authority).

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think Pfeifer does a great job with the story, it’s just a bit long. I enjoyed it because I’m such a WS geek, but I could see how it might get boring for newbies. I also really liked the ending because, well, it results in what the title promises, but instead of ending in nothingness, things get resorted and sometimes restarted.

Here’s the problem though, this lead to one of the more confusing periods in the history of WildStorm as most of the books relaunched but to different degrees and varying levels of success and output. WildCats came out by Grant Morrison and Jim Lee. Or at least one issue did. Morrison’s Authority drawn by Gene Ha got two issues. Then Gen 13 seemed to have been completely restarted from the ground up, though that was somewhat explained later on (it wasn’t enough to keep me reading that book at the time though). On the other hand, Stormwatch seemed to carry on without any hiccups and just changed focus. I don’t even remember what was going on with Deathblow aside from the fact that he was talking to a dog and died. Plus, ever since the post-Apocalyptic nature of the WSU now, it’s not really necessary reading unless you need to know every beat. All that said, I thought, like Bru did with the Authority run, that Pfeifer weaved a really great story using the tapestry of the WSU and Camuncoli did a great job with the art, giving the book a literal edge that it needed.