Totally Awesome Hulk has now concluded its first story arc involving the abominably named ‘Lady Hellbender’. It was a fun, vibrant short tale that sadly offered very little in the way of substance, but did it end in anything approaching a redeeming fashion?
Let’s first start with the positives to be found in this issue. Don’t worry, it won’t take long. As has been a constant in all three previous instalments, Frank Cho and Sonia Oback have crafted one of the most gorgeous books you are ever likely to lay eyes on. The colourful characters and surroundings convey the lighthearted and fun nature of this book perfectly. It appears that Cho really got a chance to let his creative side run wild this time out as he drew a slew of monsters for Hulk to do battle with. He certainly seemed more comfortable in drawing this than other aspects of the book, although there is never a weak part to his output. The real hero of TAH is Sonia as her colours are a huge part of the reason that this book is worth picking up. They draw you in immediately and it is very hard to take your eyes off of the book from that point on.
Another positive? It’s kind of a backhanded compliment but the Lady Hellbender saga is now over and that means readers could get a villain who matters in the next issue. The problem with Hellbender has been that she served no real purpose other than to give Hulk a kiss in this issue. She was never clearly defined as either an enemy or a friend which led to complete apathy towards her. Why should anyone care about this character if the writers don’t even seem to? She was there seemingly just to facilitate the plethora of monsters that this arc demanded.
This could also be backhanded but the biggest positive in terms of story is not held within the book proper but is rather a hint towards the future. Amadeus is still struggling to control The Hulk and a moment at the end of the book points to that theme being developed further in the next story. That’s something that holds a lot of promise and could well define this title as a memorable Hulk run rather than the gimmick that it currently comes across as.
Now, time for everything that was wrong with this book. First of all, there the fact that Greg Pak ruined the best thing he had created with the first three issues. In those books he explored how Bruce Banner stopped being Hulk a little more each time, and in doing so he bred a real sense of intrigue amongst his audience. That’s all gone now though as he capped off the side story in the most nonsensical way possible. After the brightest minds in the Marvel Universe tried and failed to calm Hulk down and stop him from literally exploding due to exposure to far too much radiation, Amadeus just steps up and solves the problem. In fact, he doesn’t just solve it but he literally takes The Hulk out of Bruce and somehow transfers it to himself. How? Not a clue, but it had better be explained in a damn good way next time out for this not to go down as the dumbest moment of the post-secret wars lineup.
Moving beyond this you also have the meaningless fight sequence that took up the bulk of the issue. Sure, the visuals were stunning as was previously mentioned but that counts for naught when the story doesn’t have an ounce of weight to it. There are no clearly defined stakes, no reason to care about this skirmish. No tension is ever built because the villainess is so laughably poor. Add to that the fact that the heroes seem more interested in engaging in awkward banter than actually doing their job and it all makes for a very unengaging mess of a book.
Yes, TAH is meant to be a fun read rather than one of the more serious titles out there. No one expected it to be a blood soaked, tear stained epic but it would not be unreasonable to ask for a little more meaning to the events unfolding. Give fans something to worry about, give Hulk a worthy foe, and for the love of God explain that moronic Hulk switch in the flashback.
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