I’ve been following Marvel’s ‘Point One’ program, buying every .1 issue released, wanting to see how each title and set of creators approaches the concept of a ‘jumping-on point’ comic. The results have been mixed, but “Hulk” #30.1 is, probably, the most effective of these titles released yet, both crafting a story that establishes the status quo of the book and telling a story that changes it. In effect, Jeff Parker gets you up to speed before getting you involved through a large change to the character of the Red Hulk and his world. Throw in some very good art by Gabriel Hardman and Tom Palmer, and it’s definitely an issue that’s perfect for those who haven’t been reading “Hulk” and want to give it a chance.
In this issue, General “Thunderbolt” Ross finds himself confronted by Reginald Fortean, his former right-hand man and protégé, who blames the Red Hulk for the death of Ross, not knowing that Ross is the Red Hulk. It’s an interesting set up that allows Parker to establish where the Red Hulk is now before setting him up against an opponent that obviously has some deep personal connections to the character. More than that, Ross is finally in a position to see the downside of being the Red Hulk and that it’s not just a freeing existence of power. We get to see one of the sacrifices he’s had to make, and also the somewhat empty existence he has; His only friends are the android support crew that feed him intelligence. Through Fortean, Ross’ former existence is also on display as his protégé picks up where he left off.
There are some problems with the story, like the key figure to this story, Fortean, not existing before this issue. Dropping a brand new character into the role of Ross’ right-hand man and protégé is a little inelegant. As well, where Parker leaves the Red Hulk in this issue effectively takes away what makes him so different from the regular Hulk. This issue seems geared at putting the Red Hulk into the same position the Hulk occupied for so many years, which is both good and bad. Good, because of the irony of Ross finding himself in the same position as Bruce Banner while his former protégé takes his former role. Bad, because it’s been done before with the regular Hulk. What’s the point of Ross as the Red Hulk if he’s just repeating the stories of the Hulk and not using his different experience and mindset to generate new and different approaches to the idea of the ‘Hulk?’
A big positive for this issue is that the regular artist of “Hulk,” Gabriel Hardman, provides the art with Tom Palmer. While Hardman only does breakdowns for Palmer to finish, the art still bears the Hardman style that he’s gained notice for, except a little more open. He draws a Red Hulk that has the same bulk as Ed McGuinness’ depiction without the same cartoony sensibilities, blending his more suggestive, heavily shadowed style with the character as established by McGuinness. Palmer’s influence helps open up the art a little and, because of his experience as John Romita Jr.’s inker, gives the line work a Romita-esque feel that brings to mind his tenure on “The Incredible Hulk” and “World War Hulk.”
“Hulk” #30.1 manages to not only deliver a strong jumping-on point by establishing clearly who the Red Hulk is and introducing a new adversary, it also provides a major turning point in the title. It’s an issue obviously designed to hook new readers and impress old ones.