Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman conclude their first “Hulk” story this month, and it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Overall it’s not bad, but there’s a certain punch that isn’t quite there.
There are some moments here that I liked a lot. The early scenes with Ross trying to change and getting pursued by various monsters are great, from him stabbing one with a spear to getting menaced by a gigantic head with arms growing out of the temples. (Why more Marvel comics don’t use Monster Island is beyond me, because it’s a story jackpot.) Hardman’s layouts here are great, with the diagonal panels kicking in as things start tumbling down around Ross. Likewise, the reasoning behind what Ross needs in order to change into the red Hulk is a fun moment, both in terms of idea and also how Hardman has the off-kilter panels showing a close-up on Ross’s eyes and mouth as everything changes.
Once the Hulks and A-Bomb enter M.O.D.O.K.’s lair, though, it’s not quite as exciting. The fight feels over rather suddenly, and a little too easily. The amount of jeopardy that existed while going up against the monsters has suddenly evaporated, but it never quite amps back up when our protagonists fight the mastermind behind this entire story. It’s a little disappointing.
The talk at the end, explaining how the red Hulk’s power works, also feels slightly misplaced. It’s important information, but I can’t help but think it should’ve been before the final battle; instead it comes across as a little too much epilogue (although fortunately “Hulk” is no “The Return of the King” in that regard) and my attention was starting to drift.
I was also a little underwhelmed by the second half of “Things Best Left Unseen,” which felt more like a huge exposition dump for an upcoming comic than a compelling story in its own right. With so many alien names and races tossed around, it felt more like a cautionary tale that a story starring the Watcher is bound to be, well, a little boring. After all, he’s the Watcher, not the Goes-Out-And-Does-Exciting-Things-er. It’s nice that Parker is laying out all of this information in advance, but it just added to the perception that this was a comic that hit its climax far too early.
The strong parts of this issue (the Monster Island fights, the fun layouts, the general look to Hardman’s art) ultimately balance out any rough patches so that overall “Hulk” #29 is an entertaining enough comic. But I think next month will need to get a little peppier so that any lingering impressions from the second half of this issue being slow will get quickly swept aside. Fortunately, that’s something I think Parker and Hardman can do easily.