I was a little surprised that “Hulk” survived past issue #25. With the various Hulk crossovers having come to a close, it seemed like a logical place to let it wind down. Of course, since sales were still good, the chances of that happening were fairly low. So, enter Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman to try and help justify having “Hulk” continue.
All things considered, Parker’s doing a good job of selling the idea. Having the Red Hulk now being used as an ally (or should that be tool?) for the Avengers makes sense, although it does make you wonder for how long that status quo can continue. But for now, it’s entertaining, and Parker has fun with the smaller details. Having the Watcher explain that some black holes can form gateways to other parts of the universe or parallel dimensions, but not the one that’s trying to drag the Hulk in past its event horizon? It’s a pretty fun skewering of how that sort of story normally goes.
Parker also has the unenviable task of turning the Red Hulk from an adversary to a hero, or at least an anti-hero. It’s not a bad job so far; Red Hulk’s personality is still gruff and recognizable, but at the same time Parker’s sanded down a lot of the rough edges and made him into a character that can still support a book. I do appreciate that no one really trusts him at this point, because there’s no reason for them to do so. It’s an admittance of the strange situation Parker was given for the character, and making it work.
The art in “Hulk” #27 isn’t bad, but it isn’t wowing me either. I remember liking Gabriel Hardman’s art more in “Atlas” than this, but it’s hard to figure out what the difference is. I do think Hardman still has a bit of work to go on making the Red Hulk look reasonable. In the opening splash where he’s clawing onto the Moon, his head looks so small compared to his shoulders and hands that it’s unsettling, and Uatu bears more of a resemblance to Hector Hammond from “Green Lantern” than the Watcher we’ve grown to know over the years. On the other hand, Thor rescuing the Red Hulk is a beautiful and dramatic panel, and that’s more in line with the Hardman whose art I remember. Mark Robinson pencils the back-up story staring Rick Jones as A-Bomb, and while some of the images are funny (I love the gold chain and sunglasses), it’s a tiny too cartoonish for my tastes. It’s not bad, but I think there needs to be a little more realism in the regular characters (like Bruce) so that the monstrous creatures actually look monstrous instead of just as distended as everyone else.
For a book I never thought would have a life post-Loeb, “Hulk” isn’t doing bad at all. Time will tell if it can play a long-term game, but for now it’s entertaining. Not bad for a book that seemed destined for a limited time on the stands.