Hulk: Red Hulk volume 1


By Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2882-3

Bruce Banner was a military scientist who was accidentally caught in a gamma bomb blast of his own devising. As a result stress or other factors would cause him to transform into a giant green monster of unstoppable strength and fury. As both occasional hero and mindless monster he rampaged across the Marvel Universe for decades, finally finding his size 700 feet and a format that worked, becoming one of young Marvel’s most beloved features.

A phenomenally popular character both in comics and more global accessible media like TV and movies, he has often undergone radical changes in scope and style to keep his stories fresh and his exploits explosively compelling…

In the early part of the 21st century the number of gamma-mutated monsters rampaging across the Marvel landscape proliferated to inconceivable proportions and the days of Bruce Banner getting mean and going green are long gone, so anybody taking their cues from the small or big screen incarnations would be wise to assume a level of unavoidable bewilderment.

There are a few other assorted ancillary atomic berserkers roaming the planet, so be prepared to experience a little confusion if you’re coming to this particular character cold. Nevertheless these always-epic stories are generally worth the effort so persist if you can.

At the time of this collection – gathering the contents of Hulk volume 2 #1-6 from March-August 2008, plus a gamma-tinged bonus tale from Wolverine volume 3 #50 (and March 2007) – the Banner iteration of the Jade Giant is presumed dead and a smattering of new gamma gargantua are only just beginning to appear…

This will be eventually revealed as the first public phase of an extended plot by the world’s wickedest brain trust to conquer everything (as would be later seen in the epic Fall of the Hulks) but here action and enigma take precedence in the form of a bizarre murder mystery as She-Hulk, gamma-augmented psychologist LeonardDocSamson, veteran Hulk-Buster General ThaddeusThunderboltRoss, SHIELD agent Maria Hill and her new boss/Director TonyIron ManStark work a crime scene in Dimitri, Russia.

The assembled experts are standing over the corpse of Emil Blonsky – formerly the vicious indestructible monster known as the Abomination. He was beaten near to death by something which can only have been the dearly-departed Hulk but finished off with a gun of implausibly large calibre and power…

The assembled experts are baffled and suspicious. Since when has the Hulk ever been calm enough to use a gun? Other things don’t add up either – most notably the Hulk-sized footprints which were somehow so hot that they turned the ground to glass…

Before they get too far into their CSI task, however, Russia’s metahuman unit The Winter Guard show up and claim jurisdiction in a manner which can only lead to a fight and international incident…

The still-unexplained gamma-assassination took out an entire village as collateral damage and the battle between the American intruders and People’s Patriots Dark Star, Ursa Major, Crimson Dynamo and Red Guardian looks set to do even more harm until a shellshocked little girl shambles from the wreckage, muttering one word over and over. The chastened warriors stop and Darkstar translates. The broken waif is saying “red”…

Sometime later in Alaska, Banner’s greatest friend Rick Jones wakes up amidst a scene of devastation only a Hulk could have made, whilst in Gamma Base, Nevada, Samson and Ross enter a top secret dungeon to ask a prisoner ‘Who Is The Hulk?’

Just like the rest of the American investigators, they both know Blonsky’s killer can’t be Banner. The world at large may believe he’s dead but all the Hulk experts know he’s still alive and well, locked in the inescapable cell where they shoved him…

The mystery of the new Hulk resumes in ‘The Smoking Gun’ as aboard SHIELD Director Stark’s new Helicarrier, Hill reveals the gun used to kill Abomination was stolen from their own armoury deep within the flying super-fortress. She has no chance to expound further as She-Hulk is savagely attacked and beaten – by a colossal crimson monster that resembles the Hulk – so swiftly that even battle-seasoned Iron Man cannot react in time…

With the monumental vessel crippled and about to smash into New York City, the heroes’ attentions are divided between hunting the monster and preventing an appalling disaster, leaving Red Hulk to pick off the champions at his leisure…

In Nevada, hitchhiking Rick Jones has reached the supposedly decommissioned Gamma Base, only to be attacked by a massive scarlet horror. The assault triggers a strange change and the young man suddenly transforms into a huge and hideous blue abomination calling itself A-Bomb

With more than one gamma suspect at large, ‘Creatures on the Loose’ opens in the smouldering remains of the downed Helicarrier as Stark reviews security footage from Gamma Base and realises that the captive Banner has had unmonitored conversations with Ross and Samson. Suspicions aroused, he takes the recordings to an expert even as at the Nevada site Red Hulk and A-Bomb engage in a furious no-holds barred battle.

So cataclysmic is the clash that it shatters the mile of ground above Banner’s cell and triggers the San Andreas Fault…

With a fight this ferociously apocalyptic, the impassive alien observer known as The Watcher naturally materialises to record the event but even he is not immune to the Crimson Barbarian’s unrelenting fury. However the beast’s attempted celestia-cide is interrupted by the resurgent return of the original Jade Juggernaut in ‘Red Light, Green Light’.

It is clearly what the devious scarlet newcomer has been wanting all along and their hyper-destructive duel carries them all the way to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge…

With catastrophe imminent ‘Rolling Thunder’ introduces another recently resurrected champion as Asgardian storm lord Thor dives headlong into the fray seconds after the Red Hulk seemingly drowns his viridian counterpart. As their subsequent staggering struggle takes the combatants from Earth to the Moon, A-Bomb and green Hulk struggle out of the choppy waters in time to join a band of heroes (Iron Man, She-Hulk, Human Torch, The Thing, Sub-Mariner and Ares, God of War) in preventing the roiling San Andreas Fault tipping the city and a good part of the Golden State into the Pacific Ocean…

The semi-mindless Green Goliath soon falls into fighting with his allies and hurtles away – somehow able to track to his scarlet-skinned alternate – and arrives as the beast returns to Earth after trouncing the Thunderer. Loathing each other on sight they clash again with the ‘Blood Red’ barbarian finally falling before the pounding fists of the unstoppable original Hulk. As the weary victor wanders away, however, the mastermind behind the Red Hulk finally reveals himself…

To Be Continued…

Also included in this collection is a collation of cartoon comedy vignettes (‘Hulk Art Class’, ‘Hulk Splash’ and ‘Hulk Zoo’) by Audrey Loeb & Chris Giarrusso) and a brief but visually bombastic retelling of the Jade Juggernaut’s first clash with manic mutant mainstay Wolverine in ‘Puny Little Man’ by Jeph Loeb, McGuinness & Vines from Wolverine volume 3 #50, and an assortment of covers and variants by McGuinness, Vines & Jason Keith, Michael Turner, Dale Keown, Daniel Acuña, Marko Djurdjevic, David Finch, Olivier Coipel and Arthur Adams.

If staggering, blockbusting Fights ‘n’ Tights turmoil is your fancy, a Hulk of any colour is always going to be at the top of every punch-drunk thrill-seeker’s hit list…
© 2008, 2009 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.