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

The Story: Red Hulk wraps up his Fear Itself tie-in with some unlikely defenders of NYC coming into play.

What’s Good: Jeff Parker does something pretty cool in this issue.  The common complaint with line-wide comic events (such as Fear Itself) is that they ruin the natural flow of the stories the creators were already telling by putting a supposedly entertaining story to the side for 2-3 months while the characters deal with the event.  “Just let the creators tell their stories!”, moan the fanboys!  And, it is true that most creators have simply surrendered and put their “main” story on hiatus while dealing with Fear Itself.  Well, Parker shows in Hulk #37 and this issue that a clever creator can use the event to service your own storytelling goals.

It isn’t really possible to discuss this issue much without a SPOILER WARNING.  There aren’t any huge events in this issue like anyone dying, but there are a few cool moments that you might want to experience organically in the pages of the comic.

As stated above, what makes this issue and story arc so cool is how Parker has used the back drop of Rulk fighting super-Thing into something that serves his own story.  If you’re a pretty big Marvel reader, you probably already saw the Rulk/Thing fight back in an issue of Avengers a month or so ago.  One of my complaints last issue was that the ending didn’t seem to quite sync up with the action in Avengers, but Parker fixes that here and that’s where the magic comes in.

While Rulk and Thing are fighting, they’re being observed by the reborn MODOK, the new Rulk-villain, Zero/One, and her lackey, Black Fog.  They’d really like to kill Rulk, but are just hiding out and watching the action.  Suddenly, the Rulk-Thing fight unfolds in such a way that MODOK and Zero/One lose their hiding spots… And, SURPRISE! They come to the defense of NYC for reasons that completely make sense!
How about that!?!  MODOK actually got a “Hell Yeah!” moment!

Not only to these two villains fight to defend NYC from the Nazis, but they also grow their relationship and become much scarier villains for Rulk now that the Fear Itself story is finished.  Their showdown with Rulk is going to be better for having had this Fear Itself tie-in.

Again, Parker is able to jam WAY more story into his issues than most writers.  A lot of writers should take notes on how Parker is doing it because THIS is going to be the successful comic writing style of the digital age.  [As an aside….my prediction: The constant availability of “back issues” digitally will murder the need for trade paperbacks, thus killing the necessity for 6-issue story arcs.  So writers like Parker who aren’t married to the 6-issue story will thrive because their single issue experience is BETTER than the writers who dilute their concepts across a 6-issue arc.]

What a gem Elena Casagranda is!  My presumption is that she is another one of those folks that CB Cebulski has found as Marvel’s talent scout, but it’s finds like this that make me happy as a Marvel fan.  The old-timers have to really stay on their game when you have folks like Casagrande kicking down the door.  Her work is very reminiscent of Gabriel Hardman’s and that is a huge compliment.  She’s probably not quite the visual storyteller (yet) that Hardman is, but Marvel deserves huge kudos for keeping the look on this title consistent for the last few months as the artists have rotated.  Even if this issue isn’t quite as tight as Hulk #37, Casagrande is one to keep an eye on.  The colors are beautiful too, but that’s to be expected with two of the finest at Marvel right now wielding the digital paintbrushes: Bettie Breitweiser and Jim Charalampidis.

What’s Not So Good: Not much really.  As I mentioned, some of the art looked a tad rushed and Casagrande’s Hulk isn’t as good as her MODOK, but that isn’t to say it’s bad.  It’s just that her MODOK is so great that you wonder why Rulk isn’t as nice (thinner line, less shading, etc.).  There’s also the fact that there isn’t much of the titular character even in this issue, but I can deal with that given how much Parker advanced the villains.

Conclusion: Jeff Parker shows how to use a line-wide event to serve his own storytelling goals.  Bravo!  And Elena Casagrade shows that Marvel is incredibly adept at finding excellent new(er) artists.

Grade: B+

-Dean Stell

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