First, the bad news. If you’ve been reading any of the “Fall of the Hulks” titles, you’ve started to see the pattern: Intelligencia goes after one of the eight smartest people in the Marvel Universe, one of the Hulks try and stop them, Intelligencia succeeds. So as soon as this issue shows Black Panther, Beast, and Storm celebrating Storm’s birthday, the writing is already on the wall. You know exactly what will happen here.
Now, the good news. There’s still enough entertaining stuff going on here that it’s all right to have an otherwise predictable comic on your hands. The Red Ghost and his Super Apes has always struck me as one of the odder villain combinations to keep bringing back, but it’s an issue like this that makes me see the attraction. I like the familial relationship that Jeph Loeb shows us between the Red Ghost and what others would think of as pets; it’s sweet and touching in a way, even if his children are really apes with super-powers that attack good people. Loeb makes them almost sweet, if you can believe it, and for that alone I felt like I got my money’s worth. Less interesting is Loeb’s attempt to show the rift between the Beast and the other X-Men these days; it feels a little flat and too shoehorned into the story. I’d have rather just seen the other X-Men absent instead of trying to add in additional X-Men continuity into the mix.
Ed McGuinness’ pencils don’t seem quite up to par this month, either. They’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but they don’t seem quite as slick and inventive as they normally are. Only one page stood out as having a particularly interesting layout, the one with Mikhlo beating his chest and the other panels radiating out like shockwaves. With McGuinness I’ve come to expect sharp and out of the ordinary storytelling, so to get something just slightly above average is a little disappointing.
In the end, while “Hulk” #20 was predictable, it’s still fun if clearly a middle segment of a larger story. With “World War Hulks” coming to a conclusion in April, though, things do need to pick up a bit. Let’s get some action going on again next month, please?