The Long and The Short Of It Review for Incredible Hulk #99

Planet Hulk: Anarchy Part 4

Writer: Greg Pak
Pencils: Aaron Lopresti
Cover: Ladrönn
Inks: Sandu Florea
Colours: Chris Sotomayor
Letters: VC’s Randy Gentile (which is indeed, as a certain Mr Burnside pointed out a few weeks ago, a great name. It sounds like an unwelcome guest at a Barmitzvah who’s turned up just to get laid).

The Long of It

Let’s be honest here for a moment. The Hulk should be one of the easiest characters in comicdom to write. Hulk smash. Hulk is the strongest one there is. Why little people not leave Hulk alone? That’s a lot of the character right there in those three sort-of-sentences. Easy, right? Wrong. Because as simple as that sounds, it isn’t easy to make that interesting for more than a few issues. That’s the reason there are so few “classic” Hulk runs. Peter David managed it, largely by deconstructing the whole Hulk / Banner relationship. However there are very few that have actually managed anything of note while basically ignoring the fact that there is someone called Bruce Banner hidden somewhere inside the Green Goliath. That is a very risky strategy to take, and very difficult to make into something interesting. And to take it outside of the main Marvel Universe, and deal with a whole new bunch of characters, with nothing to ground the Hulk for long-time readers, is almost suicidal.

Greg Pak is doing all of that, and yet somehow establishing what may in time come to be remembered as one of the definitive Hulk runs.

It shouldn’t work. It’s one of the simplest premises of all time. Hulk is a stranger on a distant planet and he must fight to survive and to overthrow the despotic regime of an evil ruler. It’s like Flash Gordon after a very unfortunate tanning incident. From the basis of the story alone this should simply not work. But it does.

Because it’s all about the details. Pak is creating a wonderful supporting cast for the Hulk. Between the characters of Korg, Miek, The Shadow Warrior, Brood, Caiera the Oldstrong and the rest, he is establishing a rich vein of characters which could form the basis of innumerate Hulk stories in the future. He has confirmed Hulk as an almost messianic figure in this oppressed wasteland, and really got to grips with Hulk’s reluctance to be a hero to anyone. I will say that this specific issue is not the greatest in the run, mainly because it’s a development issue. The team is being finalized in preparation for the big showdown against the Emperor, and that’s the point of the issue. The Spikes don’t necessarily come across as the great threat that they’re supposed to be, and the fight scenes are much too short. But then if Westley and Buttercup had made too much of the Rodents-of-Unusual-Size in The Princess Bride, then the showdown against the Prince could have been a letdown. Let the roadblocks be just roadblocks, and don’t worry about it too much.

As far as the art goes, Lopresti is definitely delivering the goods to match the story. He can do large-scale scenes brilliantly, but can also do the close-up details. There is one panel of the Hulk in particular after the Spikes first attack that is quite simply gorgeous (if a little grim). He most certainly has the skills to pay the bills and is clearly enjoying the opportunity to express himself on this epic project. The inking and the coloring here are only adding to the rich visuals of this book. The whole package has been stunning since the series started, and this issue is no exception.

At this point I feel it only right to make (cough) a partial apology (cough cough). Let me make this clear to those of you who have never read my views in The Roundtable or the Forums: I FUCKING HATE LADRÖNN’S ART!!! When he was the regular artist on Cable, he made me slaughter endangered species with impunity every time I picked up an issue. It was as if Jack Kirby had suffered from a stroke sometime prior to Fantastic Four #1 and was drawing it from his hospital bed (no offence, King). But from the covers to Planet Hulk, I have discovered that apparently well now, the boy can draw. The covers are actually very good. I still wouldn’t trust him to do the interior art for a monthly series without regressing to a blind toddler with broken crayons, but I will say this: I’m sorry I said you had no talent. You clearly do. Which makes the rest of the bilge you’ve ever produced that much more frustrating.

Before I sum up in The Short of It, I’ll leave you with this thought: How would this book have looked if The Spikes were Spike Lee, Spike Jonze and the dog from Tom & Jerry? Hulk smash would certainly have a more satisfying sound to it with the first two, wouldn’t it?

The Short of It

This is a filler issue, and as such it serves its purpose. It’s not a classic in itself, but is a part of something bigger which could turn out to be a classic. If you haven’t been collecting this on a monthly basis, do yourself a favor. Get the trades. You too can enjoy a Hulk story. And with World War Hulk being Marvel’s big story of next year, it might help to know some backstory.

Grade: B+ Because a filler-ish can’t score any higher than that.