Pipeline

Tue, January 6th, 2009 at 2:28pm PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

ONE HULK, INDIVISIBLE -- WAIT, MAYBE NOT

I don't get it.

No, not the comic. I'm talking about the negative reactions it inspires. Jeph Loeb's "Hulk" series is the kind of silly fun action romp that provides a wonderful change of pace from the endless continuity porn company-wide crossover monotony that the comics world is currently stuck in. "Hulk" is a mystery, at its heart, but one dressed up in a high-octane action movie that plays to its artists' strengths, and gives us all sorts of new and crazy scenes.

"Hulk" is a popcorn comic, and that's fine by me. It's just what I need these days.

This isn't to say that long-time continuity crazed readers won't have something to chew on here. The mystery of who the Red Hulk is will no doubt be revealed as a character from deep in the character's past that a new reader might not immediately recognize. Fair enough. Everything else is entertaining enough to make up for it.

But this is also the "Long Halloween" Jeph Loeb at work. He's writing a mystery here, dropping clues that feed the on-going mystery in so unsubtle a fashion that it becomes fun. Yes, this is a book where anytime someone is about reveal the solution to the big mystery, they get knocked out by a slap in the face from the Red Hulk or a machine gun to the gut. But the clues are there: Who does the Red Hulk have ties to? How did he get his hands on a big gun? How does he know certain locations and his way around them? Etc. etc. I don't have a long term memory for comic book characters anymore, but surely someone with a strong Hulk interest can figure this all out by now, right?

The smart thing about the Marvel Premiere Edition hardcover compilation of the series' first six issues is the package design by Comicraft's John Roshell. The whole book is in on the joke. Each issue is introduced with a fake old style boxing poster showing the Hulk fighting whoever he's about to take on in the issue. The opening page to the book has a faux ticket to a boxing event that shows the row and seat number as the page count for the book and its volume number. Cute. I'm sure if McGuinness had time, he would have been drawing the women of Marvel Comics between issues holding up round cards, too. (Given the number of female characters in the second story arc of the series, perhaps they're saving that for Volume 2.)

It's not just a well-designed piece of work, but it also fits the tone of the book. This is a book about the big fights. This is a book with yet another SHIELD helicarrier dropping from the sky, though Loeb does it in a slightly cheeky way that made me laugh out loud. I'm sure others groaned and gagged, but I appreciated it. Thor throws punches and a hammer. Iron Man, Ares, and She-Hulk do their best to keep the battle sound effects of Comicraft's library active. Fights happen in the desert, on a helicarrier, in space, on a bridge, etc. Remember when more superhero comics used to do that kind of stuff?

There are a lot of Big Images in this issue. Loeb wrote this book with Ed McGuinness in mind, clearly, as he writes for a specific artist with all of his projects. McGuinness gets to draw large creatures and big superheroes having big fights -- from Hulk vs. Thor in space to Hulk versus Hulk on the Golden Gate Bridge to Hulk vs. The Watcher, for goodness' sake. That last bit was my favorite part of the book. The Hulk takes out Baldy. I still giggle now, just thinking about it. "One punch!" indeed.

Yeah, you'll rip through this entire collection in less than a half hour without all the answers. And it's mostly fight scenes, including some improbable science, if you stop to think about it. But you know what? I don't care. I had FUN reading this book, and I read it twice. There's a lot of goofy fun in here, plus some ground-breaking, building-levelling Hulk action. It feels right, somehow.

About the only objectionable thing I found in this comic is the death of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, which we all know won't last for long. Even if it isn't part of the on-going storyline (and for all I know, the dead guy is really the Red Hulk somehow), someone will eventually resurrect him. It's the world of comics. Why try to fake it? We're all in on the game.

You know what would make this book even greater, though I hate to admit it? I liked McGuinness' art, and Loeb's script is perfectly tailored for it. But how cool would it have been with Dale Keown drawing this story? I know he's been busy for years drawing something for Top Cow that might eventually see the light of day before we all have grandkids -- MAYBE -- but these scripts seem right up his alley. He's another artist you can't believe once met monthly deadlines back in the day, isn't he? Picture his art in this book above and beyond the variant cover shown in the back. Beautiful, don'tcha think?

The hardcover also includes the three Mini Marvels pages that Chris Giarrusso drew from Audrey Loeb's scripts. (Yes, that's Jeph's daughter.) They're cute and funny, as Mini Marvels should be. And that short Wolverine/Hulk story from "Wolverine" #50 is also in here.

The book is available today for $25. Put aside the preconceptions you might have of it from the negative reviews on the 'net. Know what you're in for. Sit back, and enjoy. "Red Hulk" is lots of fun.

ONE ARTIST: LOST, THEN FOUND

I know I asked this over on Twitter, but don't think I ever posted it in Pipeline: Whatever happened to Aron Wiesenfeld? He did some amazing work at WildStorm in the late 1990s, went to art school, and never came back.

But, wait, he did. He did some "Y The Last Man" cover paintings. I never realized that until just now. Wow. He was also the regular cover artist on "The Crusades," Steven Seagle's Vertigo book.

A little Googling gives us a more recent photo from Ben Templesmith with the title and caption, "Dinner with Aaron [sic] Wiesenfeld. Who does comics no longer, but instead does fantastic paintings."

I guess that makes him this Aron Wiesenfeld, Painter.

We'll always remember him for art like this, instead.

Check out this gallery, for more of his paintings.

Quoting from his gallery bibliography:

Leigh Timmons says, "I would call Aron an "artist's artist". He has the courage to pictorially delve into the darker side of the human psyche. Yet, there remains a peaceful serenity that mesmerizes the eye."

This is the same Wiesenfeld who drew "Deathblow and Wolverine," folks. The more things chance, the more they stay the same.

ONE-LINERS

  • Looking at The Beat's Annual Year End Survey, I see a few creators with creator-owned books coming up at WildStorm in 2009. This is good news. I like the idea of WildStorm as boutique creator-owned publisher more than Licensed TV/Film Tie-In Churner. I know WildStorm still has books like "Astro City" and "Ex Machina" (really, look it up, it's not a Vertigo title), but I think the current reputation it has is as a licensee. I'd love to see that change.
  • Like 99% of movie-goers everywhere, I did not see "The Spirit." On the other hand, I have a baby at home, so I'm no longer classified as a "movie-goer." In fact, I've been removed from several desirable demographics to advertisers.
  • So who should direct a "Spirit" movie, in order to make it faithful to Will Eisner's vision?
  • Nobody has yet come up with an answer for the question, "Whatever happened to McFarlane's AWOL "Batman/Spawn" project?" Nor, I think, did anyone ask him about it during the run-up to his return to "Spawn."
  • Now that we're three issues into that "Spawn" run, is anyone reading it? Has anyone returned to the title? Are sales up at all?
  • Remember when "Spawn" was a Top Ten Sales list mainstay? We were all very much younger then.
  • I hate that "Dark Reign" has to be an "event," but I kinda like the concept and the execution so far. Oh, crap.
  • I'm keeping an eye out for more comics to extract scans of Rembrandt Lighting from now. It's a sickness.
  • The Punisher punched a polar bear. Peter Parker punched a shark. Any other Marvel Superheroes vs. Animal punch-outs I should be tracking down? Has Batroc Ze Leaper punched a poodle?
  • Diamond keeps announcing cuts in what they'll solicit for -- less posters, less "Offered Again" items. Has "Previews" shrunk to go along with that, yet?
  • Read Tom Spurgeon's interview with Kurt Busiek. Brilliant stuff.

    Ah, heck, go read all dozen interviews Tom Spurgeon did. Pay particular attention to Matt Fraction's. It's more brilliance.

  • I recently had an idea for a small short-run webcomic thing. It died in the scripting stage because I didn't want to bother with Photoshop down the line. I'm so lazy I should be in comics.

    Plus, though it was funny, it amounted to fan-fic and likely trademark-infringement. I'd like to think I'm better than that. But I'm so self-loathing that I should be in comics.

  • I spend a lot of time playing Guitar Hero these days. I'm so addicted I should be in comics.
  • I wonder how well Marvel's publishing plan with Soleil is going. I don't like the initial format, but at least the collections are hardcover and affordable.
  • I wonder how Devil's Due's plan with Humanoids will do, even with a format that doesn't appeal to me.
  • Really, would it kill someone to try the album size again? It's been a long time since it failed last, and we live in a completely different comics market today.
  • I hate American comics consumers for not supporting the oversized French album format for comics. It baffles me.
  • Like Cerebus? Here's a baby aardvark. Kinda like Cerebus, but a little more wrinkly. (Thanks for the link, Patricia!)
  • Travis Charest versus Dale Keown: Who gets done first?
ONE LAST THING

This one is completely off-topic, but I hope you'll indulge me.

I started a new blog on January 1st. It's a photoblog at AugieShoots.com. My goal with it is to post a new picture every day for the entire year of 2009. Right now, it's been a review of ornaments off my Christmas tree, but we're moving on to other stuff shortly. Pictures will be culled from my last year's worth of shooting, plus whatever I can come up with this year.

And, yes, I'm sure some comic-related photos will show up there over time. So maybe this isn't off-topic after all? I'll let you know when they appear.

Photography has been my "other hobby" for a while, and this is my attempt to get better and more serious with it all at the same time. There's no better pressure to get things done than by doing it in public with a few readers out there to prod you along. I hope you'll all join me. I'll see you there. Thanks!

Next week: The Next Bone! It doesn't have a particularly happy ending at the moment, but I think it's a series worth your attention that I haven't seen discussed much. I'll tell you all about it next week.

And a special welcome aboard to everyone over at Robot 6, CBR's latest and greatest blog. Check them out; they have a pretty good track record.

Don't forget to check out my Google Reader Shared Items this week. It's the best of my daily feed reading, now with commentary!

The Various and Sundry blog carries on, though it was a little slow over the New Year holiday. Still, you can get my MacWorld predictions and laugh at how wrong they were, plus the usual new DVD releases and more.

My Twitter stream is like my public e-mail box. I check it daily, looking for responses and new conversational threads. Heck, you're more likely to hear back from me if you ask me something on Twitter than my own e-mail box.

You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

More than 800 columns -- more than eleven years' worth -- are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.

TAGS:  pipeline, hulk, red hulk, jeph loeb, ed mcguinness

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