“The Omega Hulk” storyline kicks off in “Hulk” #5, the first issue written by Gerry Duggan. Mark Bagley is still on assignment for the art chores, as are inker Andrew Hennessy, colorist Jason Keith and letterer Cory Petit. Dealing with the fallout from Mark Waid’s final arc, in which Bruce Banner was shot in the head and saved by Tony Stark’s Extremis, Hulk would now prefer we all call him Doctor Green.
This new persona is not as gruff or tough as Joe Fixit, but that is a notable comparison. In this case, however, Duggan is pushing the Hulk — er, Doctor Green — up the spectrum and helping ol’ Jade Jaws exceed his alter ego’s ingenuity and, possibly, intelligence as well. Compelled by science and the possibility of “curing” gamma radiation-induced transformations, Doctor Green sets Banner’s former team of assistants to work. Duggan’s Green is not a very far leap from what Waid was doing with Banner, there’s just heightened ruthlessness and stronger determination focused on a single goal at this point. Duggan covers a lot of ground in “Hulk” #5, and gives readers plenty to process in a story that has a couple of nice surprises.
Duggan’s story, starring Doctor Green, allows Bagley to cut lose a bit and try some things out, like giving Hulk a Mohawk (although it’s brushed back), or letting the behemoth stroll around in a lab coat and bare feet. “Hulk” #5 opens with the jade giant pondering his existence and being rudely interrupted before wreaking havoc on the nation of North Valnon, seven pages of space for Bagley to play with shadow and angle, and generally give Hennessey a workout while opening up panel real estate for Keith to vibrantly fill. While the art is generally solid, Bagley wavers between making Green beastly and enormous or simply an oversized human who happens to be green. Ross’ cover, which is also a nice homage to Kirby, is a decent template/suggestion that will hopefully serve as inspiration in the future. As has been my concern with Bagley’s work on this title, the “normal” inhabitants of the Hulk’s world are plagued by flat faces that inker and colorist don’t always address. Bagley, Hennessey and Keith would do well to address this situation, which would elevate the other characters to more than paper cutouts. As for the Hulk and the other powered occupants of this title, Bagley excels there.
“Hulk” #5 launches a new approach for the Hulk, which comes with a great deal of potential for fun and adventure. By the very nature of Doctor Green’s new mission, however, Duggan is treading a fine line between innovative and engaging stories and formulaic, patterned tales. The writer shows no trepidation in trying something different with the Hulk, and for now, Doctor Green has my attention.