Jeph Loeb’s run on HULK doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a fun, glib, action-packed extravaganza, and a breath of fresh air in this age of humourless Hollywood adaptations; c’mon Superman, would it have killed you to crack a smile in MAN OF STEEL? Readers hoping for a deep exploration of Bruce Banner, or his supporting cast, should look to the esteemed Peter David run; those hoping for a roller-coaster ride of big, dumb fun, should look no further.
In RED HULK, the first volume in Loeb’s run, the veteran writer teams with frequent collaborator Ed McGuinness, whose style is perfectly suited to the action-oriented story. Large, dynamic layouts perfectly capture the cartoon violence of the mysterious Red Hulk pounding Wendigo into submission, battling with Iron Man atop the S.H.I.E.L.D. heli-carrier, and going toe-to-toe with his green counterpart; not to mention a spectacular punch to the Watcher’s jaw. McGuinness has always exaggerated the physical characteristics of his characters, and he’s always made it work; here, it’s a match made in heaven. The Hulk has never looked more imposing.
Framed as a mystery, RED HULK is light on plot and heavy on the action set pieces. “Who is the Red Hulk?” our heroes want to know, consisting of Iron Man, She-Hulk, Maria Hill and more; but we never find out, as Loeb dangles potential clues without exposing the identity. Some readers might feel cheated by the lack of closure; but this is comics, and serial storytelling: if you want to learn the truth, you’ve got to stick around for a while. I certainly will. While I wouldn’t want such glibness present in all of my comics, every so often it’s nice to be reminded that, ultimately, we’re reading stories about irradiated humans wearing spandex, and shouting eye-roll-worthy lines such as “Oh the humanity!” It’s okay to have fun every once in a while; I get the feeling Loeb and McGuinness were beaming as they pieced together this blockbuster.