By Jeff Parker (writer), Gabriel Hardman (artist), Bettie Breitweiser (colorist)
The Story: Under the guidance and supervision of Commander Rogers and Bruce Banner, General Ross continues his quest for redemption by helping Namor put an end to a Scorched Earth initiative that threatens to destroy the monarch’s empire.
The Good: Ever since Parker took control of this book, Hulk has been one of my Must Read titles every month. True, Loeb’s run had a certain childlike, Saturday morning cartoon charm to it that was appealing, if simple-minded at times, and what he did with the book he did well enough…at times. But in a mere three issues Parker has stopped this comic on a dime and steered it in a completely opposite direction, infusing it with a hard-edged, gritty sensibility that is utterly compelling to read. I credit this largely to the wise decision that was made to let Banner take the back seat and focus the narrative on General Ross and his mission to find a role for himself as Marvel’s latest gamma-powered monstrosity. Certain themes have always resounded throughout time and stories, and the hero’s quest for redemption remains one of the most popular.
Hell, I’d argue it’s one of the reasons why we are so drawn to characters like Wolverine, because his quest to make himself a Better Person is something we each see in ourselves. Where was I going with this? Oh right: in General Ross we have a similar character facing a similar struggle, and for me a large part of my enjoyment of this book right now is in appreciating his growth as a character and personal journey as a superhero. Every bit as powerful as Hulk, yet tactically brilliant in a way Banner could never be, Ross is a soldier with no war to fight, struggling to find an objective to achieve and a worthy endeavor to apply himself to. Notice the way he defers to Commander Rogers’s command or speaks about Namor politically as a head of state and it’s hard not to appreciate the tone and direction Parker is taking this book in. The “Scorched Earth” storyline is an effective, if rather routine, storyline with which to hit the reset button and chart a new course. Minimal on plot yet high on action, it’s an accessible jump on point for new readers and seems poised to tell its tale well without necessarily innovating anything.
I’m a great admirer of Hardman’s art! Reminiscent of Lee Weeks’s pencils on Daredevil and even Incredible Hulk (when Peter David was writing), his linework has this gritty, scratchy quality that admirably underscores the more serious tone the comic has taken. Hardman’s characters, especially Hulk, possess a powerful sense of weight and mass on the page, and when Namor belts Ross in the face at the end of the issue, your bones literally shake from the force of his blow. One of the hallmarks by which I judge any issue of Hulk is the extent to which the artist can convey powerful characters beating the living shit out of each other in exciting ways, and in this regard Hardman most definitely delivers the goods.
The Not So Good: I’m having a hard time understanding Breitweiser’s approaching to coloring this issue, much less appreciating it. Her colors look washed out and antiquated, like I’m reading a comic that had been left out in the sun for a week. Scenes like the conversation between Banner and Ross in the mess hall are cast in a sickly yellow tint that I thought was distracting to look at, much like the nauseating green sonic snot worms under the sea. Hardman is giving her great pages to work with, but I’d love to see Breitweiser step up her game and match that quality.
Conclusion: With a devastating, exciting blend of high-octane superhero action, military intrigue, and compelling human drama, Parker, Hardman, and Breitweiser have reinvigorated Hulk and turned this into a comic that demands your attention.