Before Marvel enters into a new publishing era with Marvel Legacy, the company is publishing 10 Generations one-shots that introduce a newer iteration of an established superhero to their original counterpart. The first issue is Generations: Banner Hulk & The Totally Awesome Hulk #1 from the creative team of Greg Pak, Matteo Buffagni, Dono Sanchez-Almara and Cory Petit. Taken by itself, it’s a fine issue that answers the question of what happens when you toss Amadeus Cho’s free-spirited Hulk into the past to cross paths with Bruce Banner’s decidedly more pessimistic Hulk. Problems arise when the reader tries to patch together exactly where and when around the current Secret Empire saga these events take place.
Since the time Amadeus embraced all that comes with being a Hulk, fans haven’t had the opportunity to see him interact with his “big brother” until now. In that sense, Generations: Banner Hulk & The Totally Awesome Hulk is truly a first, as we get a few pages dedicated to Hulk-on-Hulk action. These gamma-charged fights rendered by Buffagni and Sanchez-Almara manage to make both Hulks visually different from one another. Whereas Bruce is a darker shade of green, Sanchez-Almara depicts Amadeus with a slightly lighter hue.
It’s not all fights and “Hulk smash,” with Pak cleverly breaking down the differences between Hulks. Amadeus tries his best to put on a confident brave face. But deep down he has just as much luck controlling the monster within as Bruce does. Pak has teased this revelation in the pages of Totally Awesome Hulk, with Amadeus finally coming to the realization here. All it took was coming face-to-face with his old friend. In the young Hulk’s mind, all it should take is remaining calm and not getting angry. Or better yet, embracing the anger inside. As Amadeus said, “But anger isn’t always a crime. We should be angry about some things!” Easier said than done, right? Bruce has been there, done that, and has the mental scars to prove it. If mental scars aren’t enough, the image of Bruce dumpster-diving for food scraps should be enough proof that being a Hulk isn’t easy.
Pak and company translate this smoothly by showing Amadeus lose control while battling a humongous sea creature — actually, that’s not totally accurate. Amadeus does fight the creature, but what really makes him see red is when General Thunderbolt Ross’ soldiers intervene. His efforts to eliminate the armed forces results in innocent lives being placed in danger. There are some great panels during this battle filled with artistic special effects, from military weapons being fired, to the sea monster screaming. Pak could have chosen to go with the familiar trope of a Bruce Banner Hulk menacing society. For Amadeus’ story to progress, he had to be faced with the ugly truth that he’s not totally in control of this power he sought out. The moment was made even better by having Hulk (not Bruce) deliver the scolding to Amadeus. A Hulk can make for one intimidating disciplinarian.
Before Bruce can offer up more words of wisdom, Amadeus is transported back to his home in the present, but the reader isn’t presented with exactly where in the Secret Empire timeline Amadeus was plucked from. Is he heading back to the Vanishing Point? Or are these trips to the past considered part of the larger mystery? Since we don’t know yet how our present-day heroes of Generations are transported to the Vanishing Point, all we have to go on are clues from this issue’s credits page. We’re told it’s a place “where true insight can be gained!” Additional phrases state, “Make your choice! Select your destination!” Amadeus definitely gained some helpful insight on what it means to carry the burden of a Hulk with you on a daily basis. The last clue makes us wonder how and why did Amadeus chose that exact moment in Bruce’s history to travel to? Did he have a say in the decision, or did a greater power make the choice for him?
Either way, Amadeus Cho exits Generations: Banner Hulk & Totally Awesome Hulk #1 a changed Green Goliath. Whether it’s a Hulk changed for the better or worse remains to be seen.