By: Jason Aaron (writer), Steve Dillon (art), Frank Martin (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: In order to contain his violent alter-ego, Hulk has to STAY ANGRY.

The Review: This is an incredibly difficult issue to grade.

On the one hand, there are some huge, huge problems with this book.  First and foremost is Steve Dillon’s art.  The unfortunate thing is that this is actually really, really solid work by Dillon.  The colors by Frank Martin are  fantastic.  I’m used to seeing Dillon’s work colored in a flat, basic colours, but Martin does some really brilliant shading.  Furthermore, Dillon’s work in other places really shines.  His Punisher is as excellent as usual and his take on Jason Aaron’s demented villains is a laugh out loud sight gag.

The problem is his illustration of the Hulk.  Dillon’s style is simply too grounded to deal with drawing the big guy.  Instead of being, well, the Hulk, poor Hulk looks like a bald, shirtless NBA player who painted himself green.  He’s not stocky or thick enough, he’s too human, and he looks almost comedically mundane and not at all intimidating, let alone monstrous.

Jason Aaron also seems to have turned Hulk into a depowered street hero.  Sure, he picks up a truck and throws some guys around, but when he punches random, near powerless goons, the effect is the same as were it anyone else doing the punching.  Then, at another point, Hulk becomes susceptible to tranquilizer darts, which is impossible (as shown just a few pages earlier, where Aaron has Hulk eat a face full of bullets).

These are obviously huge problems and yet….I really had a lot of fun with this issue.  For starters, it’s absolutely hilarious.  The issue’s main villain is completely and utterly ridiculous.  The whole character concept is laughable and completely over the top…in the best way possible.  Hell, Dillon’s design for him alone is impossible not to laugh at.  The villain is really a very basic idea, but Aaron and Dillon really take it to the heights of ridiculousness.

The central idea behind Stay Angry is also fantastic.  It’s a brilliant reversal of the classic core of the Hulk that’s permeated mainstream consciousness.  It also leads to some laugh out loud dialogue (“you wouldn’t like me when I’m NOT angry) and a scene with the Punisher that had me in stitches, reminding me a bit of Crank.

This new status quo also leads to some solid narration by Bruce Banner.  Despite all the laughs to be had, Aaron gives the narration a sinister tone, putting Banner in the role of puppetmaster.

By and large, it’s a really, really smart concept, one in which the tables have turned.  We see Hulk waking up, having no idea where he is, surrounded by terrible things, essentially stuck in the position that Banner has been in so many times.  It’s such a great idea and one I don’t think has been done before.

Honestly, with all the laughs to be had, the ridiculous villain, the Punisher team-up, the great central idea, and Hulk basically having himself beaten in order to “stay angry,” even some of the issue’s faults almost become strengths.  The book has such a strong comedic tone and has you laughing so often, that Dillon’s Hulk design actually started working for me by the end of the issue in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way.  And yeah, Hulk seems depowered, but there’s something strangely humorous about seeing brawl with thugs alongside the Punisher.  Of course, you could also make the argument that it’d be funnier if Dillon really went to bat with his trademark slapstick gore by having heads explode when Hulk punched them and bodies flying 10 miles.

Conclusion: There are huge problems here that I can’t totally ignore, but I can’t deny that I had a LOT of fun reading this.

Grade: B

– Alex Evans