By: Jeff Parker (writer), Elena Casagrande (artist), Bettie Breitweiser (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer), Jake Thomas (assistant editor) & Mark Paniccia (editor)

The Story: It’s Red Hulk versus Bedazzled Thing.  Guest-starring MODOK and some other bad guys.

What’s good: Kudos to Jeff Parker for not letting the necessity of an event tie-in knock him off his ongoing story.  I’m of the opinion that event tie-ins are important, simply because it makes no sense to have Earth-shattering comic events if the ongoing series aren’t going to acknowledge the events, but the complaint about events is that they screw up the ongoing stories that the creators were telling.  Well, not necessarily….

Jeff Parker is the master of cramming content into a single issue comic book so it isn’t a surprise that he can have Rulk take part in Fear Itself and maintain his ongoing stories.  The Fear Itself part hooks into the events of Avengers a few issues ago (#14?) where Bendis showed us Rulk earning his Avengers stripes by going toe-to-toe with super-Thing.  But, this story is from a different perspective and that makes it a lot of fun, especially if you enjoy that type of alternative perspective fiction.  Not surprising that Parker told a good event tie-in, but he also managed to keep up his creepy, spider-MODOK and Zero/One storylines.  Seriously, there’s no Big 2 superhero writer who is giving more content per issue than Parker (and in $2.99 books, to boot).

We get a new artist this issue and I think Elena Casagrande is going to be one to keep an eye on.  I wasn’t previously familiar with her work, but a check online shows that she’s done a lot of work on the Angel comics series for IDW.  Much like Patrick Zircher last month, her work looks a lot like regular series artist Gabriel Hardman.  And, if you know what a fan of Hardman I am, I mean that as a strong compliment.  Her linework is a little less brushy than Hardman, but probably a little more detailed and she has similar storytelling sensibilities.  If you need a reason to be optimistic about Marvel comics, they keep finding these awesome new(er) artists rather than just recycling the same old folks.  I hope she gets a ton more work at Marvel!

And since I’m not going to say much bad about this comic, I have room to pour some love on colorist Bettie Breitweiser.  Describing coloring with words is really challenging, but I love how none of Breitweiser’s colors are bright red or bright green.  Just think about the world around you: How often do you see brilliant REDS or BLUES?  Even when those colors do exist, the lighting is almost never such that you can really see them.  So, it makes sense that she would use a softer and more muted color palate.  Another thing that seems to work well is her sense of lighting.  Some of the credit goes to Casagrande, but this comic just isn’t obsessed with shadow and that’s a good thing because unless shadows are really done properly, they can be distracting.  Breitweiser is also the only colorist I’ve seen so far who can color the Fear Itself Worthy such that they don’t look like Tron-rejects.  I don’t know how many comics Breitweiser can do per month, but if Marvel isn’t filling her capacity, they’re doing it wrong.

What’s not so good: Not much to harp on because the story is tight and the art is great.  My only quibble is coordinating the ending of this issue with the ending of Avengers a few weeks ago where Rulk got clobbered by super-Thing.  There, we saw Rulk go flying off into the distance along with a caption that said something like, “And he was never seen again…”  The continuity nerd in me needs these two comics to mesh and I’m not sure how they do and that’s making me enjoy two really good comic books a little less.  We’ll have to wait and see what happens next month, but if they don’t fix that, those are BAD editors, right there.

Conclusion: Hulk is great again.  Wonderful art and Jeff Parker showing that event tie-ins don’t have to disrupt your ongoing storylines.

Grade: A-

– Dean Stell

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