By Jeph Loeb, Greg Pak, Jeff Parker, John Romita Jr., Paul Pelletier & others (Marvel/Panini Publishing UK)
In recent years the number of Gamma-powered gargantua rampaging across the Marvel landscape has proliferated to inconceivable proportions. There are assorted Hulks, She-Hulks, Abominations and all kinds of ancillary mutations roaming the planet so it’s no more than prudent to occasionally thin the herd.
The days of Bruce Banner getting angry and going Green are long gone too, so anybody taking their cues from the various TV and movie incarnations of the Jade Giant will be more than grateful for the fifteen pages of Marvel Handbook text pages and an additional four pages of contextual catch-up data for filling in some background, but even so the story begun in this book depends overwhelmingly on a working knowledge of what’s gone before.
Even if you are familiar with the Hulk’s history, ancient and modern, you might still founder on the odd point of narrative as this book collects most – but by no means all – of the opening sallies in the major storyline which ran through the various Hulk-related comics during the first half of 2010.
Delving back and deep into many dark corners of in-house continuity this book (collecting Fall of the Hulks: Alpha, Fall of the Hulks: Gamma, Incredible Hulk #606, Hulk #19-20 and Red Hulk #1) opens in the early days of the Marvel Universe as a cabal of the planet’s smartest bad-guys – the Leader, Egghead, Red Ghost, the Wizard, Mad Thinker and Dr. Doom – begin recovering the scattered remnants of the Lost Library of Alexandria, repository of all arcane knowledge.
‘Meeting of the Minds’ outlines the plan and successes of “the Intelligencia” as they raid the Eternals’ hidden home for secrets, stealing as well a cosmic-powered Hulk robot, before going on to raid Project Pegasus (see The Thing in the Project Pegasus Saga), the hidden African kingdom of Wakanda and even sunken Atlantis among other landmarks.
Contemporarily, even though there are eight Variant Hulks and analogues, Banner is not one of them. The mysterious and all-conquering Red Hulk, who has trashed all the heroes of the Marvel Universe, has absorbed Banner’s gamma power, leaving nothing but a determined mortal – albeit a brilliant and determined one. Consequently Banner has never been more dangerous…
The origin of the Red Hulk is revealed after “the Intel” replaced Egghead with the biological computer Modok. Events move swiftly (mainly because many have been left out), but briefly, Dr. Doom betrays the rest of the cabal, Banner teams up with the Red Hulk to stop his assorted foes and the Intel move on to their greatest scheme: to capture and control the eight greatest minds on Earth.
With Red Hulk and Banner pursuing their own at-odds agendas and watching each other for the first sign of betrayal, the Intel snatches Reed Richards, Dr. Doom, Henry (the Beast) McCoy and T’Challa, the Black Panther, preparing to enter the end-game of their years-long campaign.
Meanwhile the assorted Gamma gladiators; Skaar – Son of Hulk, Jennifer Walters and Lyra (two different She-Hulks), Doc Samson, A-Bomb (venerable sidekick Rick Jones transformed into an atomic Abomination), an enigmatic Red She-Hulk and the ubiquitous Red Hulk all jockey for position and advantage in the tumultuous clash to come…
Of course this tome ends on a climactic cliffhanger, but even though it sounds utterly incomprehensible a thin strand of coherent narrative carries through this spectacularly cathartic, bombastic action epic, thanks to the inclusively referential writing of Jeph Loeb, Greg Pak and Jeff Parker.
Moreover if you’re more a fan of art than artifice the monumental illustrations by Paul Pelletier, Ed McGuinness, Carlos Rodriguez, Ryan Stegman, Vincente Cifuentes, Mark Palmer, Danny Miki, Tom Palmer and especially John Romita Jr. & Klaus Janson are cumulatively breathtaking in scope and power. As always the book includes a gallery of the many cover variants that graced the original comicbook releases
Flawed, but not fatally, there’s a heady impetus that carries this tale along despite all the problems and perhaps the concluding volume will assuage even those quibbles. Best then to read the sequel before deciding whether or not this is another “Hulk Smash”…
™& © 2010 Marvel Entertainment LLC and its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved. A British edition published by Panini.