It’s been a difficult time for fans of the Hulk. The real Hulk, I mean. Over the last year, if you want to read about the Red Hulk, you could. If you wanted to read about Skaar, the son of Hulk, you could. But if you want to read about Bruce Banner, the original and best Hulk, you were out of luck.
Until now. Well, sort of. The re-launched "Incredible Hulk" series actually stars Skaar, the Green Hulk’s son, but finally, Bruce Banner is back in a leading role, albeit as the co-star. He might be Hulk-less (for now) but let’s be honest -- that won’t last forever. And more importantly, the book he’s in is being written by Greg Pak, who previously built up quite a following with his "Planet Hulk"/"World War Hulk" epic.
So, suffice to say, this is a really enjoyable book for people who feel as though they’ve been missing out on their Hulk for the last 18 months. Pak instantly sets out to prove that Banner, Hulk-less though he may be, is still a dangerous individual simply because he’s so smart -- and better yet, without the Hulk to worry about, he’s free to do what he wants.
And, luckily, what he wants to do is help out Skaar. Skaar himself is fairly indifferent to Banner’s presence, but the logic -- that if Skaar hangs around Banner long enough he’ll get to fight the Hulk eventually -- is impeccable. Banner agrees to train up Skaar, and so what we actually get is a sort-of skewed reflection of the Hulk’s early premise, with Banner playing the role of Rick Jones, and Skaar as the new Hulk. Pak’s comics work has never been as good as his Hulk issues, and that trend continues here. It’s moody but intelligent, light on action but big on character interaction, the perfect counterpoint to Loeb’s brash, garish “Hulk” title.
Ariel Olivetti’s artwork helps the mood of the book. It’s better during the conversational scenes, as the painted style struggles to convey much of a sense of movement, but Olivetti has a gift for expressions and detail that makes each panel worth poring over.
The issue also includes a 10-page installment of the “She-Hulk” backup strip, which features Lyra, the “new” She-Hulk. Personally, I find it hard to care about the character. The strip, which introduces no less than three female versions of existing Hulk villains, feels a little too obvious for me to enjoy it. That’s not to say it’s technically bad -- Lyra fans will get all they want and more -– but all things considered, I’d much prefer a Jen Walters backup strip.
Still, at least you are getting more for your money, and it’s nice to have a Hulk book that I can truly enjoy back on the stands. Finally, the Hulk line feels like it’s catering for all Hulk fans.