by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer
World War Hulk: Front Line
Written by Paul Jenkins, Art by John Watson, Ramon Bachs, & Matt Milla
Published: January 2007
Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve been dreading my review of World War Hulk: Front Line #1. Not because the issue itself is terribly bad, but because Paul Jenkins’ previous mini-series, Civil War: Front Line, left me permanently programmed to despise the character known as Sally Floyd.
The previous Front Line wasn’t even all that bad until the last issue. Following the exploits of long-time Marvel supporting character Ben Urich and relative newcomer Sally Floyd, the series was supposed to be about two journalists asking hard questions about the superhero Civil War that was tearing the country apart. The problem was in the final issue, which featured not only one but two wall-bangingly stupid moments. We had Sally Floyd give an epically stupid diatribe against Captain America, telling him that he no longer represented American values because truth and justice had been replaced by NASCAR and MySpace. (Note to Sally: as of 2011, MySpace is all but dead, while punching Nazis has never gone out of style.) This rant, which was presented as being objectively correct, was the most cynical and stupid monologue I’ve seen in comics, and it represents everything that was wrong about Marvel Comics in the mid-2000s. Almost in the same breath that Sally Floyd was condemning Captain America, she and Ben Urich showed what terrible journalists they were when they found out that Iron Man had used mind control technology to force a supervillain into trying to pull off an assassination of a diplomat, all as a scare tactic to get superheroes to support the registration act he was backing. What were supposed to be two hard-hitting journalists who wanted to uncover the truth not only chose to bury the story, but they applauded Tony Stark for his complete disregard for everything the United States stands for.
Why Marvel felt the need to give writer Paul Jenkins another chance with a Front Line miniseries is beyond me, and I will openly admit that I approached this title with a sense of dread. Luckily, it’s not nearly as bad as its predecessor – at least not one issue in. Part of this is undoubtedly that there is a clearer editorial direction for World War Hulk than in Civil War, so we don’t have the supposed good guys acting like fascists. Part of it is also that, while Jenkins has some mind-blowingly bad stories under his belt, he is still a good writer overall who learns from his mistakes. He received a lot of criticism for Civil War: Front Line, particularly the Captain America diatribe, and made adjustments accordingly. For example, this series shifts away from Ben Urich and Sally Floyd’s brand of terrible journalism, instead becoming a detective story teaming Sally Floyd’s boyfriend, Danny Granville of the NYPD, together with Korg, a stone man from Saturn and one of the Hulk’s Warbound comrades as they investigate the death of Arch-E, a robot that traveled with the Hulk from Sakaar.
As a parallel to Danny’s odd-coupling with Korg, we have more melodrama from Sally and Ben, who have been given a boatload of money and resources to make major waves with their Front Line newspaper. I continue to be unimpressed with these two as journalists, as they receive anonymous funding from an obviously shady source and don’t ask any questions about where it came from, but then their professional ethics are pretty much nonexistent anyway. I am impressed, however, with the “view from the street” approach to this story, which is otherwise lacking in the World War Hulk event. The feeling of powerlessness in the city is very well-done. The NYPD is forced to cooperate with their conquerors because, well, what else can they do? These guys can’t take on somebody with Hulk-level power with their pistols and squad cars. At the end of the story, Sally views the Hulk/Iron Man fight from World War Hulk #1, which heightens the sense of helplessness. If superhero and genius extraordinaire Tony Stark couldn’t take out the Hulk with months of prep time and fancy new armor, what chance do the puny humans have?
The biggest strike against this story is that it brings up unwanted reminders of Civil War: Front Line. But Sally Floyd is less obnoxiously preachy, and the rest of the characters are pretty well-presented, save for Ben Urich’s own questionable ethics. Whether the energy of this opening story will continue as we get into Danny and Korg’s wacky police adventures remains to be seen, but at the very least World War HULK: Front Line #1 is a decent start that provides us with something we haven’t seen yet in this event – a common touch.