Red Hulk Trade Post: Scorched Earth & Planet Red Hulk

Red Hulk: Scorched Earth (Marvel)
Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Gabriel Hardman, Ed McGuinness, Mark Robinson & Ben Oliver
Collects Red Hulk #25-30

My unexpected love affair with the Hulk continues on through these two volumes of Red Hulk written by Jeff Parker. Like with most of my reading of this series since a few years ago when Jeph Loeb took over, I’ve been getting these trades here and there when I can find them either on Sequential Swap  or cheap on Amazon. So, while I haven’t actually read War or Fall of the Hulks, I am reading these two books that take place after those other stories.

The basic idea is that, after running around causing all kinds of trouble throughout Loeb’s run, Red Hulk (who was finally revealed to be General Thunderbolt Ross, something I’d known from working at Wizard a year before the book even launched) got captured and started working with Steve Rogers and some of the other Avengers to show he’s not such a bad guy. What this series winds up doing, in addition to explaining away or building upon some of Loeb’s wilder ideas (punching the Watcher), is making the Red Hulk more of a character instead of the trademark force of nature status Hulks tend to wind up with.

The Scorched Earth of the title refers to a contingency plan by MODOK and the Intelligentsia (the bad guys of Fall of the Hulks) to destroy the world in various ways. Red Hulk gets recruited by Steve and Iron Man to help put a stop to them because, basically, he’s responsible. These adventures bring him into conflict with giant monsters and techno zombies, but also into battles with Iron Man, Thor and Namor. The beauty of a Jeff Parker comic like this comes from the balance between awesome battle scenes (which it has in spades) and more personal moments. There’s something sad about watching the strangely honorable Ross hanging out in a base inhabited by only Life Model Decoys so he can’t hurt anyone. There’s also a few back-up stories, one involving Rick Jones (aka A-Bomb) on Monster Island that eventually leads into the main story and Uatu the Watcher going bug nutty and telling another Watcher about how this thing called Omegex is going to kill all life on Earth, but that’s a matter for the next book.

The collection also contains Red Hulk #30 which is about as bonkers as it gets with Red and Green Hulk teaming up both together and in the same body going up against the Impossible Man, Xemnu The Titan, Woodgod, Kluh and a bunch of monsters that look like Jack Kirby creations. It’s a fun romp and it’s all drawn by Ed McGuinness doing what he absolutely does best.

Red Hulk: Planet Red Hulk (Marvel)
Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Gabriel Hardman, Carlo Pagulayan & Pat Zircher
Collects Red Hulk #30.1-36

While Scorched Earth set up a status quo and did a little clean up with previous stories, this collection of shorter stories did a little of that, revisited even older stories and blazed even newer trails. This is the kind of thing that can be tricky/bad for me as a reader, but Parker’s a very skilled writer and walks that balance between familiar and new very well.

With the looming threat of Omegex, Red Hulk takes on a few other threats. First up, a soldier who used to work with Ross and idolized him is after Red Hulk because he thinks the Crimson Crusher killed Ross and wants revenge. He’s got a new team of Hulkbusters and planted micro mines in Rulk’s brain that will go off when he transforms back into Ross. That’s just such a great superhero comic dichotomy going on there paired up with a flip of the norm established in the previous arc that I can’t help but love the development.

There’s also a growing group of baddies lead by someone called Zero/One that would take quite a while to explain, as would her team. Needless to say, they’re from earlier issues and wind up being both scary and threatening. Seeing how their mission winds up mirroring the new Hulkbusters is another interesting balance.

From there, Rulk gets his own Planet Hulk experience and it’s cool seeing Carlo Pagulayan returning to some of the ideas he and Greg Pak tackled the first time around. Just when I was getting a little bored with this, it’s revealed why Ross has this experience and I was back on board. The book ends with Rulk taking on Zzzax and also taking on the new MODOK who appeared in the previous book in a pretty fantastically gross and awesome way.

What I enjoy about Parker’s characterization of Rulk is that he’s both deviously conniving, but also has a moral code. There’s a dual nature there and it’s interesting to see how this character reacts to certain experiences and how they differ from Banner/Hulk’s responses. I wonder if the stories would be as interesting for someone who has not read those other stories, but I would guess they still would be because Parker’s a solid, creative writer who always keeps me interested in what’s happening next and why.

Hulk Trade Post: Red Hulk, Hulk Vs. X-Force & Fall Of The Hulks Prelude

Hulk: Red Hulk (Marvel)
Written by Jeph Loeb, drawn by Ed McGuinness
Collects Hulk #1-6, a story from Wolverine #50

Last week, I talked a bit about my history with the Hulk moving from Planet Hulk into World War Hulk. I loved the former, didn’t feel quite the same way about the latter and wasn’t thrilled about Jeph Loeb taking over the book. He’s a writer that doesn’t always hit with me, but I also wanted to read Greg Pak’s take on what happened after Hulk attacked Earth and it’s heroes. Instead he moved over to Incredible Hercules and Skaar, eventually coming back to the pages of Hulk and Incredible. I was also working at Wizard when this book came out and we were told pretty early on who the Red Hulk really was, so the mystery elements wasn’t there for me.

However, reading these books again with far less of an emotional connection to the comics, I really enjoyed these books. I think the key to really enjoying a Loeb comic book is to not be heavily invested in the continuity of the character he’s writing. He tends to bring on all the bad guys, throw them against the hero and we all get to enjoy the fireworks which are ALWAYS drawn by the best artists in the business. If you’re too steeped in continuity you’re thinking annoying little things like “Hey, Catwoman couldn’t be here, she’s stealing a cat statue in Egypt” or “Wait, which version of Clayface is that?” Nonsense like that that can stick in some of our craws when reading comics.

Since I know next to nothing about Hulk or his rogues, I could just sit back and enjoy this book which kills off a big deal villain right away, sorry Abomination. Here’s a quick list of the other awesome things that happen in this comic: She-Hulk punches a human bear, Red Hulk hits Iron Man with a plane, Red Hulk punches the Watcher, the Hulks fight, Red Hulk beats Thor then jumps form the moon to Earth and the Hulks fight again. All of these things might sound kind of goofy and some of them are, but that’s part of the fun of reading comic books. A green woman can punch a bear-person and it’s not that big of a deal. With Ed McGuinness drawing these things, they look all the better.

Hulk Vs. X-Force (Marvel)
Written by Jeph Loeb, drawn by Ian Churchill & Whilce Portacio
Collects Hulk #14-18

I forgot to mention above that I actually paid for these first two trades, which is something of a rarity. The books I reviewed last week and the one following this I got via Swap, but I found these two on Amazon for $8 a piece and couldn’t resist. For whatever reason the two books between these ones were not as cheap, so I skipped them in hopes that I’d get them somewhere down the road. I don’t think it mattered too much because this collection continues the blockbuster action movie style that Loeb put into the first one.

This time around, X-Force member Domino happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and discovers Red Hulk’s true identity. As this is very important to him, Rulk decides to put together his own color-coded team consisting of Elektra, Deadpool, Punisher, Thundra and Crimson Dynamo to kill Domino. This doesn’t sit well with either Dom or her teammates in X-Force, so lots of fighting and double crossing ensues. Oh, there’s also a Red She-Hulk that pops up to make matters a bit more confusing.

Like I said, the story is fun and well told, but the art bugged me a bit. There’s nothing wrong with it in and of itself, but I am actually a huge fan of Ian Churchill’s and seeing him try to fit in more with the McGuinness style kind of bums me out. If this was just some other artist, I’d have no problem with the mix of McGuinness bulk and Darwyn Cooke faces, but every panel I looked at made me wish he was doing that crazy detail I know and love.

There’s also an issue in here that (I believe) plays off of a previous Hulk story I haven’t read, but have heard about where Doc Sampson goes into Banner’s head and tries to straighten things out as well as an issue of X-Factor where Samson analyzes those team members. This time, though, it’s Doc who’s being analyzed and we find out why he’s been so crazy lately. This issue is drawn by Portacio who seemed to have a lot of fun with it. Good stuff.

Hulk: Fall Of The Hulks Prelude (Marvel)
Written by Jeph Loeb, Greg Pak, Jeff Parker & Fred Van Lente, drawn by Ed McGuinness, Ron Garney, Mitch Breitweiser, Takeshi Miyazawa, Frank Cho, Dan Panosian, Peter Vale, Gabriel Guzman, Michael Ryan, Ariel Olivetti & Ian Churchill
Collects Hulk #2, 9 & 16, Skaar #1, Hulk: Raging Thunder, Amazing Fantasy #15, Planet Skaar Prologue, All New Savage She-Hulk #4 & Incredible Hulk #600-601

Hodge podge trades like this can be a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, if you’re only reading one Hulk title they can be a good way of catching you up as to what’s going on. On the other hand, if you’ve read and collected a few different trades you can get a little burned by the contents. I’m still on the fence about how I feel about this one. I’ve already got Hulk #2 and 16, Amazing Fantasy #15 and Incredible #601 collected in other trades, so there’s not much value there.

At the same time, I don’t have the other issues and this is as good a place for them as any, though I do prefer having all my comics collected in a little better order. Also, if I read and like something like All New Savage She-Hulk #4 and want to get that trade, this trade served one purpose but because that much more unnecessary. It’s a real double edged sword, you guys.

At the end of the day, Hulk did something I wasn’t sure could happen anymore, it surprised me with how much I liked it. Being around comics as much and as long as I have gives me a pretty good radar for what I will like and what I won’t. I’ll try things I don’t think I’ll like just to give them a shot, but usually I’m pretty right on. I’m glad I liked this book and had so much fun with it. Now I’ve got to find out when they revealed Rulk’s true identity and how the went about explaining the roughly one million times those two characters were in the same room together. I’m guessing LMDs. It’s always LMDs…