The Red Hulk, with all of the paranoid bluster readers have come to expect from General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, summarizes the adventures he has had to endure quite succinctly as he tumbles into unconsciousness, "Like he [Bruce Banner] wants me to live every bit of his life, see what it was like for him."
Sure, "he" could easily be Jeff Parker or Jeph Loeb, as those two have shared the writing for a vast majority of the Red Hulk's adventures, but prior to the piece I pulled for that quote, Ross does refer to Banner by name. The adventure that Ross finds himself on in this issue is a parallel to Hulk being jettisoned to his eventual exile (and rule) on Sakaar. The big difference here is that no one truly sent Ross to the alien world of Tiran. He winds up there by pure accident and comic book happenstance. That is what Parker excels at: comic book happenstance. Under Parker's scripts, Ross has fought giant monsters, faced new bad guys, fought would-be allies, and ran from former comrades. Each and every one of those stories plays up to the strengths that comic books allow. The most important of those being the suspension of disbelief.
Taken for what it is - pure, big-screen entertainment - this book delivers the goods. To make it more of a wild ride, Parker parallels Red Hulk with the original green goliath. On the world of Tiran, Ross finds himself faced with fighting for the entertainment of others.
This plays to Pagulayan's strengths. Coincidentally enough, Pagulayan drew a great deal of the original "Planet Hulk" story and is no stranger to working with Jeff Parker, having drawn a few issues of "Agents of Atlas" that Parker wrote. Regardless of their history together, the two creators bring a completely different vibe to this book.
Few books can adjust from a radical shift in artist and not lose a beat, but this one does just that with this very issue. As you know from previous reviews of this title, I do like Gabe Hardman's work, but trying to compare Hardman and Pagulayan is a bit like trying to compare John Byrne and Bill Sienkiewicz. Both of those artists are very good, both are very distinct in their styles, and both draw comics, but it kind of stops there. That's where style comes into play, and in this case, Pagulayan is perfectly suited to draw the story of Ross' adventures on Tiran.
I don't know how much longer Pagulayan will be around, but he is doing a wonderful job fitting the tale handed to him and giving Gabe Hardman a break. I'm satisfied with the art, the story, and eager for more. Ross isn't my favorite Marvel personality, but this title is sure making a run at the favorite spot.