Hulk #1, March 2008, Marvel Comics
writer: Jeph Loeb
penciller: Ed McGuinness
inker: Dexter Vines
colorist: Jason Keith
production: Rich Ginter
assistant editor: Nathan Cosby
editor: Mark Paiccia
EIC: Joe Quesada
publisher: Dan Buckley
Blogger's note: Entry for Sunday, January 13, 2008.
Stop me if you've heard this one. How many people does it take to produce a comic book?
Ten credits. Excluding Daniel Acuna as the variant cover artist (since I couldn't didn't get his cover, breathtaking it may be), and assuming only one of ComiCraft's computer jockeys worked on this issue, ten people contributed to the product that is Hulk #1. What did Rich Ginter do by way of "production," I wonder? Is an assistant editor absolutely necessary, or is Loeb's script that difficult to check for spelling and grammatical errors? Sure, I'm being a bit facetious, but if someone can shed some light on the necessity of this mob-like creative team, I'd appreciate it!
Also, unfortunately, I found The Drowners #1 a much more enjoyable read, and it was the solo effort of one artist, Nabiel Kanan. Editors and publishers weren't credited. Also, I like the Hulk, and this issue didn't jive with anything I've known of the character . . . and I'm not even eluding to the fact that Bruce Banner seems void of his "jaded" alter ego this time around!
When World War Hulk began last summer, I made the conscious decision to buy the five issue miniseries, sans extra-title tie-ins and despite the fact that I hadn't faithfully followed the preceding Planet Hulk story arc, because I felt its "Hulk vs. the Marvel Universe" mentality would impress as comics' version of a summertime, big budget popcorn muncher. Greg Pak's poignant dialogue added an unanticipated layer of depth to the Green Scar's onslaught, though, and by the third issue, I was riveted by those moments which, in the face of a yearlong epic and multi-title crossover, timelessly captured the essence of the Hulk. For specific examples, scroll through my reviews of each issue at Geek in the City, where you'll see my culminating admiration for Pak's introspection-meets-desolation storytelling crash and burn with the Sentry's inevitable interference, after which the whole glorious idea of World War Hulk exposes itself as a reader-inducing launchpad for half a dozen other titles in 2008. Hulk #1 is one such title, and though I avoided the other "Aftersmash" issues, I felt compelled to this piece, if only to see what's become of the title character.
Yet, why I set myself up for more disappointment isn't the mystery that kicks off this new incarnation of the Hulk. Instead, Doc Samson, She-Hulk, Iron Man, and General Ross are in Russia, and Samson is investigating the Abomination's murder with The Speckled Band-like accuracy (any Sherlock Holmes fans out there?) at the hands of the Hulk. Well, his hands started it, but a large, presumably S.H.I.E.L.D.-issued gun ended it. Yes, the Hulk pulled a big gun, which I unfortunately saw coming thanks to my reading Hannibal Tabu's The Buy Pile, in which he rightfully claims, "a gun-wielding Hulk of any stripe is dumb." When Russia's the Winter Guard shows up, Samson uncharacteristically starts the issue's obligatory slugfest, ended when a young villager mutters her only observation of the Hulk/Abomination tussle: "Red." We assume she isn't referring to her Russian roots.
Also, Rick Jones is shirtlessly wandering around the Alaskan frontier, and General Ross still hates Banner, who makes a predictable last page appearance, above this first chapter's title, "Who is the Hulk?" I think this title is an homage to Stan Lee's original script, but it also establishes a very Loeb-esque mystery -- one that might not be as simple as we think. Yes, Rick appears to be the new Hulk, but Samson's familiarity with the Abomination's murder can't just be good forensics; then again, he makes an allusion that this mystery is "all about" Thunderbolt Ross, a fleeting comment that Loeb might try to pass as a clue. Loeb is known for his emphasis on apparent minutia, or am I the only one thrown for a loop by the "oh so obvious" outcome of Batman: Dark Victory? So, yes, I'm putting in my claim that Doc Samson is the new Hulk, with General Ross as my secondary choice for logistic's sake, both of whom could've snagged a S.H.I.E.L.D. gun and have enough motivation to eradicate any sign of the Hulk's legacy on Earth. Or, after ol' Jade Jaws' world war, maybe everybody is a Hulk -- er, I mean, maybe a Skrull Hulk. See, it isn't that far-fetched, eh?
Ed McGuinness is at his usual bubbly best, though under the inks of Dexter Vines, these pages have a bit more texture befitting a rugged desert-oriented character like the Hulk. For a title that emphasizes color so much, Jason Keith seems like the right choice for the job; in fact, I couldn't help but notice his attention to the Hulk's fingernails, which pop right off the page with a texture sure to sicken anyone's girlfriend. Interestingly, in the Abomination's murder/flashback, the Hulk is still green, so I wonder what role his new red pigment will play. Will it reveal our new hero's inner psychological trauma, or is it akin to Spider-man's old black costume -- just a marketing gimmick?
Therein lies the dilemma. I'm genuinely interested in the outcome of this inaugural issue's established mystery, mainly for the sake of this character I've enjoyed since my youth, but if its resolution doesn't meet my fanboyish expectations, like World War Hulk, I'll regret making such a costly investment for it. Yes, for the loss of my valued green, I'll be seeing red . . . and I'll still be wondering why so many people are responsible.