Jeph Loeb had written dozens of comics before “Batman: The Long Halloween,” but that collaboration with Tim Sale was where he planted his flag into the earth of comicdom. Loeb’s new “Hulk” series, although it looks nothing like “The Long Halloween” on the surface, resembles it in two ways: (1) It’s structured, ostensibly, as a mystery story, and (2) It provides a chance for Loeb’s artist to do what he does best — in “The Long Halloween,” that meant giving Tim Sale ample opportunity for snazzy page layouts and moody panel compositions, while “Hulk” allows Ed McGuinness to draw bulky characters pounding on one another for pages on end.
And nobody since Jack Kirby draws a better bulky character battle than Ed McGuinness.
So as a showcase for his work, “Hulk” #3 is about as good as you can get, with a giant red Hulk bashing on a giant blue/green A-Bomb (Rick Jones as the new Abomination) for page after page. Throw in some heavy machine guns and robot harpies, and you get a cataclysmic free-for-all worthy of Ed McGuinness’s unleashed pencil madness.
The mystery of who this red Hulk really is, and why he used a gun to kill the original Abomination, is the supposed spine of the story. Loeb, as he’s shown in “The Long Halloween,” isn’t averse to using a mystery to drive the plot, but as he’s also shown in “The Long Halloween,” (and, later, in “Batman: Hush”), he’s more interested in trotting out a costumed menagerie than he is in laying the groundwork for a satisfying conclusion. And that’s what he’s doing in “Hulk,” giving us Doc Samson, She-Hulk, Iron Man, the Soviet Super-Soldiers, and, in this issue, several immense muscle-bound monstrosities engaged in battle.
If you’re looking for subtle character development or intricately layered plotting, this isn’t the comic for you.
But if you’re willing to embrace the absurdity of multiple Hulks, color-coded for your convenience, and a character who refers to himself as “A-Bomb,” and you look forward to various degrees of pummeling, then you can’t go wrong with “Hulk” #3.
One sequence did bother me quite a bit, though, even after I gave myself up to the ridiculous fun of this Loeb/McGuinness slugfest. On pages four and five, we see security camera footage from Gamma Base, images of Bruce Banner’s interrogation from a few days earlier. Like you might see in a bad made-for-television movie, the security camera actually changes angles and provides close-ups. The whole point of a security camera is that it shows the entire room in a wide shot, so everything is visible. But I might be able to let that gaffe slide, allowing for the possibility that the camera was being manually operated during Banner’s interrogation. But the whole point of page five is that General Ross blocks the camera’s view of Banner’s face. Even though the camera seemed to be able to move and reposition itself on the page before, now it remains stationary, causing Banner’s words to be inaudible and his lips to be obscured. The lack of camera movement is a plot point, but McGuinness (or maybe Loeb in the script, although I doubt it), showed us the camera moving on the previous page. It’s an annoying inconsistency, and it could have been easily remedied by showing a stationary camera the page before.
Even a ridiculous, giant monster battle comic should have some internal consistency.