Hulk: Gray #6 Review

Reviewer: Iain Burnside
Story Title: F is for Father

Written by: Jeph Loeb
Penciled by: Tim Sale
Inked by: Tim Sale
Colored by: Matt Hollingsworth
Lettered by: Richard Starkings & John Roshell
Editor: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley

Having heard good things about the previous efforts from the Loeb/Sale team, in particular Batman: The Long Halloween and Daredevil: Yellow, I decided to pick up their Spider-Man: Blue series. It was distinctly average. Giving them the benefit of the doubt I decided that Hulk: Gray might be a better series and ploughed ahead collecting it. After all, there would be none of the cumbersome rogue’s gallery touring that had distracted from the main narrative of Blue. Instead I could look forward to well-written, well-drawn exploration into the early days of the Hulk, something I admittedly know very little about. Well, that was what I thought I would be getting. However, it was not to be. Either people have vastly over-rated Loeb’s previous works or he has suffered some sort of writing aneurism and lost whatever semblance of talent he once had. After this and the shambolic Superman/Batman series, I am almost tempted to write and ask for my money back. Fortunately for him I am British and thus conditioned to accept whatever happens without putting up much of an argument. Oh yes, make no mistake about it, both this issue and this series as a whole sucks the big one. This is not going to be pretty…

We start with Hulk attacking General Ross, who has managed to track down our loveable brute after he kidnapped Betty Ross and headed off to the desert. Hulk seems to like the desert. He’s gone there and come back so many times in these six issues that he could probably get a job as a holiday rep there. Hulk Holidays. It’s a nationwide obsession in the making, I’m telling ya… So, yeah, anyway, Hulk decides to kill the General. The General orders his men to open fire, even though the bullets are likely to simply bounce off Hulk and kill him (and possibly his daughter) instead. Then Betty talks Hulk out of it by proclaiming her love for her father despite all of his flaws. And then Hulk leaves. Presumably to take some tourists for a little excursion to see some pretty flowers in the desert, I don’t know what he likes to do in his spare time. Then we return to the present for one last Hulk-Out in the offices of the esteemed Dr. Leonard Sampson. And that’s yer lot. So if somebody can see the point of this story lurking in the background somewhere then please, do not hesitate to let me know what it was. Seriously, how can Marvel even justify releasing such toss? People claimed that the Hulk movie was a disappointment, yet each frame of that was filled with more poignancy and emotion than the whole of this mini-series has been. Six issues to boil down to the fact that Betty saw certain aspects of her father in Bruce Banner? Well excuse me, Mr. Loeb, but if I wanted paint-by-numbers psychological insights such as yours then I would go and watch any one of the myriad of inane talk show confessionals cluttering up TV schedules everywhere. I certainly would not want to waste my time reading your childish two-tone thought balloon dialogues. As with Spider-Man: Blue, you have taken six issues to reveal a staggeringly obvious characteristic that has already been well-documented, done nothing new with it, and somehow convinced your publishers it was worth wasting their money on. I sincerely hope that writers such as Peter David (Captain Marvel) and Sean McKeever (Sentinel) can take some comfort in that while their critically acclaimed books fall by the wayside.

As for you, Mr. Sale, quite why you continue to follow this inept writer around is hard to swallow. Are you really so desperate for the money that you will gladly try to fool the readers into another supposedly must-have book by the Loeb/Sale team? Surely not… I find it hard to believe that. I’ve read some of your interviews and you seem like a genuinely nice person. So please, I’m begging you, stop encouraging him. Let him go and mess up yet another character if he really wants to, your artwork is far too beautiful to be tainted by such nonsense. Hell, according to page four even Banner doesn’t seem to know what he is doing in this “story”, which cannot bode well for anyone involve. So please, move onto a book that may actually read as well as it looks. Your Hulk is a monstrous thing of both charm and horror, marvelous to behold. Everything is brought to the forefront on each and every character with stunning detail. Betty’s petrified eyes, betraying her brave stance. Ross’ manic scowl that matches Hulk’s perfectly. The fire that burns within Hulk’s eyes, his chipped and crooked teeth, as he figuratively drowns in the rainstorm around him. Tremendous work, accentuated tenfold by the black and white section towards the end of the book set in Sampson’s office in the present day. You know, when Banner has his miraculous breakthrough. Your pencils and inks shine through without any colouring, proving just how capable you are once again. Please, Mr. Sale, choose your projects more carefully from now on so I can be assured of only seeing this fine art in books worth reading. This one I had to restrain myself from tearing it into pieces.

Well, what more can I say about it folks? This is amateurish pap spewing from the bowels of supposedly one of the hottest writers in comics today. In fact he was #4 on Wizard’s Top 10 Writers chart as of last issue. If that is anywhere near accurate then it would mean there are only three comic book writers on the planet with the capacity for both walking and talking at the same time, because I sincerely doubt Loeb is up to the task if this is anything to go by. You want to spread a story ridiculously thin in order to make it fit a trade? That’s fine and dandy but at least take a page out Bendis’ book and put some intelligent insight into the motivations of the characters, preferably while finding their true voices. Do not under any circumstances write a book if every single person sounds exactly the same and you have no particular point to make. Not unless you want to really piss people like me off. Christ almighty, at least everybody’s favourite whipping boy Chuck Austen tries to do something new and interesting with his books. He might fail more often than it succeeds but I can respect him for trying.

Just so we’re clear, the score below represents a mark out of 5 for Sale’s contribution to half of the collaboration. Loeb’s gets as many marks as he will be getting pennies from me buying his work in the future, i.e., none.