Incredible Hulk #610

Written by Greg Pak and Scott Reed
Pencils by Paul Pelletier and Miguel Munera
Inks by Danny Miki and Jeffrey Huet
40 pages, color
Published by Marvel Comics

I’d love it if big comic companies would gleefully advertise "reset buttons" being pressed in the way they used to write cover copy. "Because YOU demanded it: everything goes back to the way it was!" Unfair? Probably. But reading the latest issue of Incredible Hulk, it’s certainly hard to shake that feeling that honesty needs to be employed a little more in an industry that (mostly) seems determined to change as little as possible in their most recognizable characters.

It’s easy to see why this happens, of course. There’s a core group of characters at Marvel and DC Comics that the public in general can identify and know basic facts about. Everyone understands that the Hulk is big and green, and transforms from Banner into the Hulk whenever he’s angry. So if someone decided to pick up an issue of Incredible Hulk and found a big red version of the Hulk running around while Bruce Banner looks startled, they could potentially get confused. So while changes occasionally happen, it’s always just a matter of time until everything goes back the way they were. Unfortunately, I think that when companies do this, they’re selling their potential audience short.

At the end of the day, most people can probably understand that things change. If someone dismisses buying Incredible Hulk because things are slightly different, there’s a strong possibility that they weren’t going to stick around anyway. It’s the people who would otherwise think, "Isn’t every issue of Incredible Hulk just another story of the Hulk growling and beating people up?" that might be interested in a slightly different take on the character. Ironically, so many die-hard comic fans have been burnt (or at least tricked) by the bait-and-switch of promises things will be different and then reverting everything back to normal that they’re actually the most likely to shy away from something different and out of the ordinary with the characters, and that’s the point where publishers should star to realize that something has gone slightly wrong.

So with all of that in mind, Incredible Hulk this month is a bit of a disappointment. Greg Pak, who’s normally a much more inventive writer than this issue would make you think otherwise, is given the task of turning Banner back into the tried and true version of the Hulk. It’s a connect-the-dots sort of story, and while Pak’s gift for dialogue makes it at least someone bearable on the whole it’s a disappointment. Pak tries to liven things up a bit by having another supporting character die in a noble sacrifice, but considering this is the same issue that explains how Betty Ross was resurrected after her death some 150 issues ago, it’s hard to not feel a little skeptical by the entire thing. It’s at least livened up somewhat by Paul Pelletier and Danny Miki’s art, which is energetic (and full of explosions) and handsome. I like the end result of the two collaborating; Pelletier has always been good on drawing full-bodied characters, and Miki adds some texture to the finished product.

There’s also a back-up story starring Hiro-Kala, another the son of the Hulk, and while Scott Reed and Miguel Munera give it the old college try there’s not a lot to recommend for it. The character here is portrayed as slightly boring, and while Munera’s pencils are nice enough, there’s nothing that makes them jump out as the reader to make this story a little more strong. Maybe there are some readers who find Hiro-Kala a compelling character, but I must admit that this feels like little more than an attempt to fill pages.

The various Hulk titles over the past several years have ranged from the fun (World War Hulk, Incredible Hercules) to the disappointing, and right now we’re definitely on a swing towards the latter. Pak’s normally a much stronger writer than what we’re getting here, and there’s nothing inventive or out of the ordinary about this comic. In many ways, it’s a cautionary tale about the general nature of superhero comics. No matter how much you might enjoy the changes to a character, sooner or later someone will reach over and smack the reset button that brings everything back to the way it used to be. That’s a pity.

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