When this series was launched, its charm — its stupid, ridiculously, bombastically fun charm — came mostly from the pencil work of Ed McGuinness and the inking of Dexter Vines. Without their bold visuals, Jeph Loeb’s story of mayhem and mystery would have been yet another silly superhero showdown without much substance. After all, the mystery of the Red Hulk’s identity wasn’t enough to drive the narrative. It was just a tease. The real momentum was gained from seeing what insanity McGuinness and Vines would slap on the next page.
That’s most of the pleasure in “Hulk” #19 as well, and it’s great to see McGuinness back on the series after his brief absence. Dexter Vines isn’t around this time with his thick, inky brush, but Mark Farmer is about as good as you can get without being Dexter Vines, and the long-time Alan Davis collaborator does some nice work on McGuinness’ pencils, particularly in making each rocky scale of the Thing’s hide seem to have depth and texture.
Yes, the Thing is here, along with the rest of the Fantastic Four, the Red Hulk, Bruce Banner, M.O.D.O.K., the Wizard, Klaw, and I could go on for another two dozen words, listing the cast of characters in this “Fall of the Hulks” tie-in. Since I haven’t read any of the other “Fall of the Hulks” comics yet, I don’t know what the uber-story actually is, other than what we’re told in the opening text page (which, like the interior pages, is short on words, but long on action), and I don’t really need to know.
“Hulk” #19 is not a self-contained story, certainly, but as a dose of superhero fun, it’s pretty good. It has some nonsensical moments — the Thing punches the Red Hulk just because he used to punch the Green Hulk whenever they met up? And if the Red Hulk just needs to absorb the Negative Zone energy, why go through the trouble of putting the Thing in harm’s way? — but those are easily overlooked because they allow McGuinness and Farmer to show off some of their best stuff. It’s a big, dumb, fun superhero comic, and big, dumb, fun images need to accompany the story.
In the larger “Fall of the Hulks” context, this story might have some deeper meaning, and the ominous words between the characters might have more relevance, but as a single issue, it’s pure spectacle. In a good way.