Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist/Cover: Marc Silvestri
Hulk and Banner have seperated once more and Hulk in an effort to find peace has found some form of solace in the caverns of the Subhuman population inhabited by the Mole Man's people. Hulk just wants to be left alone, but as usual he never is.
Jason Aaron has big shoes to fill taking over from Greg Pak, arguably the best Hulk writer since Peter David penned the Green Goliath nearly a decade ago. Pak's Planet Hulk and World War Hulk rejuvenated the character and made him a palpable menace again as well as a solid part of the Marvel universe, with a character evolution that had not properly been explored since David's heyday at the titles peak in the early 90's. And right from the beginning I was dubious of Aaron's coming on board. Early interviews revealed his decision to split Banner from the Hulk once more (albeit this time at the behest of the Hulk) was a dance that had been done before, in fact repeatedly over the years and it was seriously old. So what else new did the writer have to bring to the title?
Character-wise the Hulk has stayed similar to Pak's interpretation. He's brooding and dangerous; less the man child that he's often been portrayed as over the years, this Hulk is self aware and dangerously so. The opening monolgue gives Aaron the chance to shine in his dialogue but it's the plot where he falls down and this book nose dives. The same old tropes begin to appear and we're suddenly faced with a title relaunch that's giving us absolutely nothing new.
I was initially excited by the addition of 90's superstar artist Marc Silvestri, an Image Founder and the head honcho at Top Cow, but for all his detailed line work his action seems to lack the raw power it's aiming for and seems instead drowned out and overlaid by the colours. While Silvestri captures the characters well, he falls down badly when it comes to the 'SMASH' element that is integral to any Hulk title, and the foreboding cover never seems to deliver the expectations it sets on the insides.
And speaking of the 'SMASH' element: Hulk fights giant monsters, Giant Robots and just generally giant things that prove he's still the strongest one there is. This again highlights the books lack of originality, for while you could forgive these things as elemental to Hulk, whats harder to forgive is the pale characterisation and the slimly defined motivations (although these are hopefully going to be highlighted in later issues) that leave the cast almost palying stereotypes of themselves. This Hulk is just nothing new. Similar to Pak but not as daring, aiming for the psyhoanalysis of David of Bruce Jones but with nothing new to offer this feels more like John Byrnes tired and incredibly lacklustre relaunch in the late 90's than it does a suitable follow up to Pak.
Part of me thinks that Aaron, one of the most promising new writers of the last few years is spreading himself too thin, and is stuck writing new directions for characters that don't necessarily suit them. The writers take on Hulk seems to come from a darker era, a more classic run juxtaposed against the new and what we get is something that just doesn't seem to add up based on all his recent history. Similarly Silvestri has all the artistic chops in the world to draw the character but what we get instead in some very flat looking panels and an almost lack of momentum in what looks more like a canvass panel than a piece of storytelling.
In a nutshell I am not hopeful for this new Hulk. It's writer hasn't quite got a handle on the character yet and nothing about it smacks of a newer bolder direction, while paying attention to the continuity of the old. A lacklustre first issue with serious room for improvement.
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