by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer
Written by Jeph Leob, Art by Ed McGuinness
Published: January 2008
Welcome to Hulk #1, aka “Another Jeph Loeb Mystery.” If you’re familiar with the writing of Mr. Loeb, you probably know of a handful of critically acclaimed works of his, such as Batman: The Long Halloween. Loeb’s comics tend to sell very well, in no small part because he has the ability to recruit some excellent artists – in this case Ed McGuinness, who last collaborated with Loeb on Superman/Batman. The problem comes when Loeb writes a mystery, in which case he uses the same pacing and storytelling as always. In fact, the story itself is largely the same as what he’s done before.
Following the end of World War Hulk, Marvel decided to reboot the Hulk’s book, this time dropping the Incredible moniker. But since the Hulk is in SHIELD custody, another Hulk is needed. This one is red, and his identity will be the subject of much debate for the next two years of comics. However, most people will have figured it out three issues in.
When it comes to mysteries, Loeb’s stories are pretty much carbon copies. If you’ve read The Long Halloween, Hush, or another one of his works, you’ll know how it goes. There’s a lot of misdirection, red herrings, and blatant lies to the reader. Numerous members of the case wear the same clothing or hair style as the mystery man. For the most part, Loeb seems to care more about keeping the reader guessing than actually telling an interesting story. But then, he’s also one of the top-selling writers in the industry, so who am I to second guess?
My gripes against Loeb’s pacing and plot contrivances aside, Hulk #1 is an okay start to this series. Not a lot happens in the book, but we at least get our premise: some Hulk-like creature has killed the Abomination with a gigantic gun. On the scene to investigate are Doc Samson, Maria Hill, Iron Man, the She-Hulk, and General Thunderbolt Ross. Why She-Hulk is now back on Iron Man’s side and not angry at Samson, who she previously beat up over the whole shooting her cousin into space thing is a bigger mystery than the red Hulk’s identity, but that’s another thing with Loeb’s stories – he apparently has editorial immunity, and nobody holds him accountable to do research on the books he’s writing.
After a fight with the Winter Guard which adds nothing to the story but at least has some good art to go with it, the investigators find a survivor – a Russian girl who keeps saying, “Red” over and over. This bit of the story is not Loeb’s fault, but kind of hurts the suspense a bit. You see, all the flashbacks to the Abomination’s death were done in a1 green tint, suggesting that it was the actual Hulk that killed the Abomination. So the dropping of the bombshell that there is a red Hulk should be huge. However, the cover prominently shows off the red Hulk, and Marvel’s marketing campaign for the book hyped up the fact that the Hulk was red. Even if you buy the trade paperback, the volume is called Red Hulk, so there is no chance of the bombshell playing out the way Loeb apparently wanted it to.
To help solve this mystery, Samson and Ross approach the one man who might be able to help: Bruce Banner, still in SHIELD custody, albeit recovered from the coma he was in at the end of World War Hulk. And it’s nice to see puny Banner again.
This issue is straight set-up, and while I don’t want to call it good until we get to a payoff, it is a decent read. There is a pointless fight in the middle that serves only to pad out the story so it can fit into a trade paperback, but at least the mystery is established. Will this one wind up as disappointing as a typical Loeb mystery? Well, I guess my tone has already spoiled that, but we’ll investigate the tale in more detail next time.