Alan Davis writing and penciling a comic is, generally speaking, reason for celebration. He’s an excellent artist whose soft pencils are lush and full, and when he took over scripting “Excalibur” in the ’90s, it turned out he was also a talented writer. But with Davis and Mark Farmer’s new “Savage Hulk” #1, there’s a certain distance present here that sucks all of the energy out of the comic.
Part of the problem might be the setting. “Savage Hulk” #1 takes place immediately after the original “X-Men” #66, the final issue before the reprints running from #67-93 (and which ended with “Giant-Sized X-Men” #1) kicked in. With the X-Men having just tangled with the Hulk to try and knock Professor X out of his coma, this follow-up shows what happened once the X-Men examined the device they liberated from the Hulk, as well as where Bruce Banner went next.
With this being a flashback story, though, it means that the characters are all in a safety net. Neither the Hulk nor the X-Men can have any substantial changes to their status quo, because it would all need to be put back together once this interlude ends. And the revelation that one of the Hulk’s foes comes to early on also is lacking in any sort of punch as a result, too. There just aren’t any real long-lasting effects here. So right off the bat, Davis is at a disadvantage.
The other (and larger) issue, though, is that the story itself is lacking any sort of energy. When described in a plot summary format, it sounds like it could be exciting: the Hulk being attacked, several long-time foes making appearances, the X-Men also hunting down the Hulk, Bruce taking refuge with a couple who doesn’t know about his darker half. But it never quite clicks. Maybe it’s the heavy narration in the Hulk’s sequences that drags it down, maybe it’s the lack of any real urgency in the plot. But none the less, it just doesn’t work.
Happily, there is one thing that clicks together perfectly, and that’s Davis and Farmer’s art. The duo have been working together for almost a quarter century now, and the skill brought to the page shows. Watching Havok power up and blast through rock is simple but effective, for instance, and the two-page spread of the Hulk being barraged by missiles is beautifully drawn. From start to finish, every page looks fantastic here. The lines are smooth, and pages are well composed. It’s hard to not feel your heart soften just a bit when you see the Hulk’s childlike face staring up at the stars around the halfway point; it’s a bit cliche, but it’s drawn so well that it’s ultimately charming.
“Savage Hulk” #1 is a book that you’ll buy for the art, not so much for the story. There’s a certain fun thrill to see the team from the end of the original “X-Men” run all together again, but that’s not enough to buoy your interest. This is a truly gorgeous comic, one the most beautiful of the week, but I wish the story had the same level of entertainment built into it.