by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer
Written by Jeph Loeb, Art by Ed McGuinness
Published: August 2008
Originally, Hulk #6 was supposed to wrap up the red Hulk saga. However, sales of this series went through the roof early, causing Marvel to drag the mystery out. If you look closely, you can see where the red Hulk’s identity might have been revealed only to have the carpet yanked out so the series can continue.
Of course, it’s still not much of a mystery. While the Avengers think the red Hulk is Leonard Samson, there is no real evidence to support that. Instead, everything about the red Hulk – his intense personal hatred for the Hulk, his obsession with big guns, his talk of battle tactics, and his calling Bruce Banner a milksop a few issues ago – points toward another character entirely. Writer Jeph Loeb does try to put the mystery back in by having the red Hulk appear next to both Samson (now inexplicably with long hair again) and General Ross, but in a world filled with robots, clones, and shapeshifters, that doesn’t do much to eliminate any of the possibilities.
The meat of the story is the same that it’s been for a few issues now – the red Hulk faces off against somebody while bragging about how badass he is. While we’re left to assume that the Avengers are going to fix the destruction to San Francisco (we spend a double-page spread watching them work, even though the outcome has no bearing on the story), the Hulk and A-Bomb magically track down the red Hulk again. I say “magically” because not only is there no explanation, but the characters point out that they don’t know how it happens. For the Hulk, that’s not a big deal – he’s always had a quasi-magical homing ability. How Thor knows where to find the red Hulk, though, is a bigger question.
Anyway, the red Hulk pounds on the Hulk again, but Thor intervenes to save the day. Despite the red Hulk completely owning Thor precisely one issue ago, this time Thor is about to strike the killing blow. He’s interrupted by A-Bomb, who lets the Hulk finish the fight instead. Supposedly, it’s “for Hulk,” but I really get the feeling that it’s for the Hulk fanboys who are still upset about their guy getting pounded by the red impostor a few issues ago. The Hulk gets madder as the fight goes on, which means he gets stronger. The red Hulk, on the other hand, gets hotter as he gets madder, to the point where he overheats, allowing the Hulk to knock him out.
And then, everybody leaves. How…odd.
One of my niggling concerns with the 2008 Incredible Hulk movie was that the Hulk just jumped away and left the Abomination in the middle of New York City at the end. What happens when the Abomination recovers and there’s no Hulk around to stop him? This time, it’s much worse. The red Hulk is more powerful than the Abomination, and there are no authorities around for miles. Yet rather than imprison him or kill him, the Hulk, A-Bomb, and Thor go their own separate ways, leaving the red Hulk still at large. That’s just really…weird.
Meanwhile, the mystery deepens a bit when A-Bomb turns back to Rick Jones and gets taken out by Doc Samson, who is apparently evil now. And Thunderbolt Ross tells the red Hulk he failed. Then the red Hulk wakes up, telling us that the story will continue whether we want it to or not.
Quality-wise, this series is nothing if not consistent. Once again, the story is paper-thin, the dialogue weak, and the plot almost painfully simple. Once again, the art is fantastic, allowing those who read comics because they are pretty a reason to buy this. If this were just a six-issue miniseries, it would be forgettable but not overly painful. The hard part is that the same formula of the red Hulk fighting people while talking about how awesome he is will be going on for another two years of stories. But at least the Hulk is out of his prison cell and on the loose again, meaning that he gets a little time in his own comic once more.