Jeff Parker and Patrick Zircher continue the story of Red Hulk’s adventures in the Middle East. Seeking to avenge a fallen former comrade, Red has entered Sharzhad, a mythical city ruled by Dagan Shah, the self-proclaimed Sultan Magus. The city itself is cloaked from the plethora of prying eyes that are in that region of the world, but that doesn’t stop Red and his traveling companion, Machine Man, from finding passage into the city. From there they find Shah’s bad side and the rest is smashing, slashing, and Machine Man’s “crazy robot mess.”
This issue struck me as a little clunky. Save for the addition of Machine Man and the appearance of the Rigellian Cosmoreceptor, much of the mystery of Sharzhad would remain mysterious. Where we once would have had a villain monologuing about his dastardly plan, Parker has to find alternative, believable means to provide the explanation for just what Red and Machine Man are facing and what the implications are.
Shah strikes me as an interpretation of Black Adam from the “52” era DC Universe, but Parker quickly shifts the character into a more tyrannical light. Shah has the power and the forces to not only stop Red, but to seriously threaten him, and it makes for an exciting tale.
Zircher’s strongly detailed artwork gives the issue tangibility, but I found Rachelle Rosenberg’s coloring to be a little too ethereal for the story. Everything around Red feels washed out and Red seems like an obvious stain on the pages, adding to the clunkiness of this issue. The story does deserve some mystical appearance, but in this case it’s just a little too much.
This issue strikes me as less an issue of “Hulk” and more along the lines of “Secret Defenders,” with Red teaming up with Machine Man and rescuing Arabian Knight. That’s not a bad thing, but it certainly isn’t what I had in mind when I opened the front cover of this issue. All the same, it’s a Jeff Parker book, which is always enjoyable. His knack for providing amusing, entertaining stories featuring characters I would never even think twice about is one of the greatest assets in the comic book market today.