Marvel’s Hulk is just coming off a run that redefined the character forever. Now, the next era is just getting started and… it’s hard to parse.
Naturally, a new run is going to be judged by what comes before. In this particular case, that’s a discussion of both the preceding run and the creative team working on this run. It’s a new beginning for Hulk from Donny Cates, Ryan Ottley, Frank Martin, and Cory Petit.
In the wake of a mysterious disaster, the Hulk is a pariah once again. Now Banner has reshaped the Hulk into something… strange and monstrous. The Avengers race to discover why, but it might be too late.
There’s two ways to look at the issue- picking it up in a void, as if you haven’t read the Hulk in years, or as a follow-up to the previous run. If looking at it as the latter, it suffers in comparison. Where Immortal Hulk’s approach was thoughtful, and full of body horror, this is bombastic, and full of action and potential for heady sci-fi. That’s not a bad thing, but by picking up only a few weeks after Immortal ended, the comparison is glaring. It could have been better served if the series had taken a short hiatus, maybe only into January, to give the two stories some distance.
When looking at the former- There’s a lot to like here, but this is a tough issue to process. By starting en media res, there’s usually interesting gaps to fill in and hook the reader. In this case though, that means there’s too much going on. What happened in El Paso? How did Banner transform the Hulk into a cyborg (especially with his healing factor still on full display)? What is Banner hoping to accomplish by jumping into Stark’s transdimensional portal?
I think a lot of this is another example of how Cates struggles with opening story arcs. I’m seeing a lot of the same issues he had with Thor and Crossover– trying to do too much, and emphasizing style over substance in particular. Now, both of those series are extremely engaging, even if the eye-rolling moments still pop in every once in a while. I’m interested, but not bought in because it’s simply so jarring.
Ottley is the bright spot of the issue. There are moments where Cates just steps back and lets him cut loose. Though the issue doesn’t get into the horror realm the previous volume immersed itself in, Ottley still has some great moments of horror, as well as multiple over-the-top action beats. Every time the Hulk smashes, I grinned. Martin’s colors are a bit muddy and dark in several places, but overall it’s an extremely visually stunning story. Petit’s letters also add to that, putting emphasis on the dialogue, but also making sure it contributes to the visual flow.
In the end, I’m cautiously optimistic about this story. It’s interesting, but the question is whether it’s interesting enough to keep me hooked. Or is this another Cates story that I have to wait until issue #7 for it to get really good?
Hulk #1 is available now from Marvel Comics.
What might have otherwise been an interesting reset is instead a bit overstuffed and confusing. The art is fantastic though.