Hulk #5

Written by Jeph Loeb
Penciled by Ed McGuinness
Inked by Mark Farmer
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

I have to give Marvel Comics credit, hiring Greg Pak to write The Incredible Hulk a few years ago was fairly genius. His "Planet Hulk" story grabbed readers, when under a lesser hand it might have scared them away. The World War Hulk mini-series follow-up was tense, exciting, and wonderfully over-the-top in places. And now? Well, actually, he’s not writing The Incredible Hulk any more, he’s writing the enjoyable Incredible Hercules. Instead, Jeph Loeb now writes the all-new Hulk series. And all of those adjectives I used to describe Incredible Hulk? Well, I suppose "over-the-top" at least applies.

The new red-skinned Hulk is continuing his rampage; not content enough to fight the new Abomination (or A-Bomb) and the original, green-skinned Hulk, he’s punched out the Watcher and is now taking on Thor. Meanwhile, Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic are continuing to struggle to figure out who the new Red Hulk is. But can the city of San Francisco survive if they wait too much longer?

Reading Loeb’s take on Hulk, all I can think is that the comic is nothing more than an excuse for Ed McGuinness to draw the Hulk punching people. We’re five issues into Hulk, and that’s a good 80-90% of the comic. Sure, there’s the fake trail of breadcrumbs pointing towards Doc Samson being the new Hulk (and if it isn’t General Ross, I will be truly shocked) to take up the rest of the pages, but besides that? Page after page of walloping, each more over-the-top than the previous one. (Why does the Hulk beat up the Watcher in issue #4? For no good reason other than Loeb clearly thought it would be funny.) If you’re picking up Hulk for the story, you are going to be awfully disappointed, because it would take an electron microscope to try and find it.

I will give Hulk credit, though, in that McGuinness’s pencils are beautiful. He draws both Hulks as creatures of immense power; not just in terms of muscles, but with an overwhelming presence on the page. Looking at either of the Hulks, you can’t help but get the immediate feeling that these are beings that could destroy anything that comes their way. I also like how McGuinness draws A-Bomb, with snake-like scales and segments all up and down his body. His blue body makes him almost look like a third Hulk in many ways when it comes to sheer power, a great visual match for the Red and Green Hulks. The other characters in the book don’t fair quite as well; the guest-stars at the end of the issue all look a little puny and underdeveloped, and not just in comparison to the Hulk himself. They look like they were dashed off as an afterthought, secondary to drawing more images of the Hulk hitting things.

Hulk #5 is just like the rest of this new series; big and dumb, just like people refer to the Hulk himself. Don’t get me wrong, the art is fantastic in spots, but it’s small consolation for this to be a replacement for Pak’s smartly written comic that we had for almost two years. Maybe the next storyline (with a different artistic team) will go for a new tactic, but right now I’m just thinking Marvel should have released a sketchbook from McGuinness and called it a day.

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