by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer
Written by Jeph Loeb, Art by Ed McGuinness
Published: June 2009
You thought the red Hulk saga was silly before? You haven’t seen anything yet.
As per last issue, Hulk #12 opens with the Hulk dead at Rulk’s hands. Yes, he is really dead from a trident to the chest. The same Hulk who took multiple impalements during Planet Hulk, who endured a barrage of adamantium shrapnel in World War Hulk, and who in the past has had 90% of his body peeled away and still remained alive. He’s dead. Let’s move on.
The Hulk is put into a stasis by the Collector, who then returns Rulk to the game. Rulk reveals that he can absorb energy, including the Silver Surfer’s cosmic energy. He then kills both the Offenders and the Defenders, and we’re treated to a splash page of the Hulk riding the Surfer’s board on his way to challenge Galactus. On tvtropes.org, they have an entry called “Villain Sue,” and in case anybody wondered if Rulk fits into that mold, the panel of him riding the Surfer’s board used to be the image for that page.
Fortunately, we don’t go even further overboard by having Rulk take down Galactus. Instead, the Big G takes back the power cosmic and sends Rulk back to Earth. Because Rulk violated the spirit of the game between the Grandmaster and the Collector, they return the slain Defenders to life, which causes Rulk to flip out and kill the Grandmaster. This death can’t be undone, or so says the Collector. So yeah…an elder of the universe gets killed in a single page. How anticlimactic.
Speaking of anticlimactic, the Hulk threatens the Collector to return Jarella to him, and the Collector complies by giving the Hulk her dead body. Rulk then decides to leave the Hulk alive because that way he’ll suffer more. Expect that bit to last about an issue or so.
This comic is really, really goofy. It’s like a sixth grader invented a new superhero and then wrote a fanfic about how awesome he is – he rides the Surfer’s board, makes “edgy” remarks, and kills the Grandmaster. The art, while impressive, doesn’t quite save it here because the story is so rushed. With the comic over so quickly, even McGuinness’ excellent art doesn’t really have time to breathe. And if you want a story that matters at all, go elsewhere. Aside from the Grandmaster’s death (and we all know that will be undone if his presence is ever needed), everything gets reversed at the end. There are not only no consequences, but no character growth of any sort.
Even stranger than the nonsensical plot is the idea that Marvel is still clinging to the “mystery” of Rulk’s identity. Between him calling Banner a milksop last issue and him repeatedly talking about soldiers and generals this time around, it doesn’t seem like there is even an attempt to convince people that he’s not General Ross. I half get the feeling that Loeb wrote Hulk #6 as a reveal of Rulk’s identity, then had these scripts already done when Marvel told him to change the ending of that story to keep the mystery going. The alternative would be that Loeb is just really, really bad at writing a mystery.
Hulk #12 is ludicrously silly and poorly written. However, it might be one of those comics that goes far too far to the point of being tolerable again. The image of Rulk just casually killing all those people and then riding the Surfer’s board is so incredibly bad that it’s funny in a way.
Hulk #12 also marks the end of the pretense that this is actually the Hulk’s book. Starting next time, the book will be all about the red Hulk, which is fine – it moves the Hulk himself back to a more skilled writer and allows the creators to do what they really want to do, which is talk about how Rulk is the most awesome character since the deluge of poorly-written derivatives in the 1990s.