By various (Marvel/Panini Publishing UK)
In recent years the number of Gamma-mutated monsters rampaging across the Marvel landscape has proliferated to inconceivable proportions. There are assorted Hulks, She-Hulks, Abominations and all kinds of ancillary atomic berserkers roaming the planet so it’s no more than prudent to thin the herd.
The days of Bruce Banner getting angry and going Green are long gone too, so anybody taking their cues from the TV or movie incarnations will be wise to assume a level of unavoidable confusion. Nevertheless this epic story is worth the effort so persist if you can.
Even if you are familiar with Hulk history ancient and modern, you might still founder on the odd point of narrative as this book continues the spectacular saga of the myriad rainbow-coloured gamma-morphs cluttering up the Marvel Universe becoming a brawny army of conquest for the world’s wickedest brain trust. This interim volume collects most – but by no means all – of the issues involved in a major storyline which ran through the various Hulk-related comics during the first half of 2010.
Depending on many lost crannies of lore and broad continuity this book (collecting Incredible Hulk #607-608, Hulk #21, Savage She-Hulks #1 and Red Hulk #2-4) resumes the tale of The Intel, a gang of super-smart bad-guys – the Leader, Egghead, Red Ghost, the Wizard, Mad Thinker and Dr. Doom – who stole the Lost Library of Alexandria, repository of all arcane knowledge, to further their schemes of domination.
Coming together during the early days of the Marvel Universe the cabal also purloined a cosmic-powered Hulk robot designed by Galactus which furthered their long-term plans which included creating a legion of Hulk-like servants, capturing the eight most brilliant men on the planet and of course ruling the world.
Contemporarily if not consequently there are eight Variant Hulks and analogues, but Bruce Banner is not one of them. The mysterious and all-conquering Red Hulk has stolen Banner’s gamma power, leaving nothing but a determined mortal – albeit a brilliant, determined and incredibly driven one. Banner has never been more dangerous…
The origin of the Red Hulk was partially revealed after The Intel replaced Egghead with the biological computer Modok. Events moved swiftly after Dr. Doom betrayed the cabal. Banner joined Red Hulk to stop his assorted foes as the Intel began to capture their intellectual opposite numbers.
Natural enemies, Banner and Red Hulk have become uneasy allies until the Intel are defeated, always pursuing their own agendas and watching each other for the first sign of betrayal. The Intel meanwhile have taken Reed Richards, Dr. Doom, Henry (the Beast) McCoy and T’Challa, the Black Panther and as this volume opens are moving to capture their next target – Henry Pym, size-changing superhero and Earth’s Scientist Supreme in ‘Man With a Plan’.
Chaos builds globally as the assorted Gamma gladiators: Skaar – Son of Hulk, Lyra (Hulk and Thundra’s daughter from an alternate future), Doc Samson, A-Bomb (venerable sidekick Rick Jones transformed into an atomic Abomination), Red She-Hulk and the Red Hulk all clash in interminable, inconclusive battles. Earth’s many costumed champions gather to save the day and Banner gathers his own select team of ruthless Avengers to take the battle to the Intel’s heart…
Doc Samson has been working with the evil geniuses for years and his recent indoctrination of Red She-Hulk has drawn attention from mutant warriors Elektra and Domino. More revelations about Lyra’s origins come to light in ‘The Deal’ whilst Red Hulk’s plan to destroy the cabal comes undone as the superhero assault is thwarted and the rescuers become more super-soldiers for the Intel.
In ‘Mindgame’ Banner’s schemes are no more successful: his team’s raid gathers lots of intelligence but once more The Intel’s forces ultimately overcome all opposition. The only problem they face is the increasing instability of their grotesque pawns – such as the ‘Big, Red, and Deadly!’ She-Hulk.
‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The A-Bomb’ uncovers more of Samson’s perfidy as Rick Jones realises he has been programmed as a sleeper agent to kill Banner, whilst Lyra clashes with her time-lost mother Thundra and Red She-Hulk in ‘The Savage Sex’ before the book ends on an anticipatory cliffhanger with ‘Best Case Scenario’ as, with the Intel in control of the planet Red Hulk and Banner prepare to bring it all crashing down…
Taken on its own this middle volume sounds utterly incomprehensible: a thin strand of coherent narrative picking its way through a bewildering assortment of block-busting punch-ups and arcane references, but I would advise readers to re-read the previous volume and trust to the writing of Jeph Loeb, Greg Pak, Jeff Parker and Harrison Wilcox, whom I’m sure will produce clarity and closure in the next collection….
Moreover if you’re e a fan of spectacular art the monumental illustrations by Paul Pelletier, Ed McGuinness, Carlos Rodriguez, Fernando Blanco, Ryan Stegman, Salvador Espin with Zach Howard, Vincente Cifuentes, Mark Palmer, Jason Paz, Danny Miki, Tom Palmer and Crimelab Studios 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
Still flawed, but still not fatally; there’s an ominous gathering impetus that rockets the action (oh, so much action) along here despite all the problems and I’m confident that the conclusion will iron out all my current frowns. However it’s probably sound advice to re-re-read the previous volume before tackling this one and best to study both before the next one comes out…
™& © 2010 Marvel Entertainment LLC and its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved. A British edition published by Panini.