I almost feel guilty by having laughed my way through “Hulk” #12, but I have to give Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuiness full credit for making this a fun comic. I think it helps that after setting up the situation in the previous issues — Hulk, Namor, Strange, and the Surfer each fight their counterparts of Red Hulk, Tiger Shark, Mordo, and Terrax — everything falls apart despite the best laid plans of the Collector and the Grandmaster. And those plans, of course, are collapsing because of the Red Hulk.
Don’t get me wrong, as the Red Hulk begins disrupting the other tournaments, complete with destroying one or both of the opponents, you can see the end of this issue coming a mile away. But in some ways, that’s what makes “Hulk” #12 so utterly silly in a good way. Even the other characters end up staring incredulously as the Red Hulk ruins everything, pulverizing his way across the universe. It’s so blatantly over the top that you can’t help but laugh, each new set piece more goofy than the previous one.
Of course, the book is helped along by Ed McGuinness’s pencils. McGuinness is probably one of the best artists working in superhero comics these days, and “Hulk” under his care is gorgeous. He’s able to tackle it all, from the sublime (Hulk receiving his “reward” for the matches) to the silly (the Red Hulk versus Psycho-Man). There’s both power and softness in his art, and this issue of “Hulk” working as well as it does is in no small part thanks to McGuinness’s work.
I do have to say, though, that with the new $3.99 price tag (but no additional material offered), “Hulk” is probably going to need to step up its game. At the end of “Hulk” #12 we’re once again back to the status quo of the previous six months; plus, the book has fallen into a storytelling pattern of guest heroes and villains and what they actually accomplish at the end of the day. Things need to start happening and changing quickly with “Hulk.” Otherwise as beautiful and silly as this book may be, I think we’ll see just how many people are willing to accept a 33% price hike.