Hulk #4

The Hulk has always been one of Marvel's biggest properties, and that's never been truer than now, with a hit movie in cinemas and the comic property riding high following Greg Pak's epic and acclaimed "Planet Hulk" storyline and subsequent crossover. Wanting to capitalize on the success of the character, Marvel gave the book to one of their big name creators -- Jeph Loeb.

Since then, it's hard to tell exactly what went wrong.

"Hulk #4" is a prime example of a comic that utterly revels in its own stupidity. How can one review a book -- much less enjoy it -- when the writer loses his storytelling craft, lurching instead from one nonsensical scene to another without reason or logic?

The issue opens with the new, uber-kewl Red Hulk punching out the Watcher. Why? No real reason! It's just funny, right? Well, no. It's stupid. The book then gets back to the Green Hulk, who showed up at the end of the last issue. Incidentally, the return of the Green Hulk, following his incarceration at the end of "Word War Hulk", has to be about the most anticlimactic return ever. The potential for gravitas was huge, but it's been wasted on a cheap Hulk Vs. Hulk fight designed to cement the credibility of the Red Hulk as being a badass gun-toting ball of awesomeness. With Hercules having nicked his other book, it's hard not to feel sorry for the real Hulk, who sold about a billion comics last year and now doesn't even have a title to his name.

The recap page is then full of that faux-swearing we've been promised Marvel will cut back on. Why rely on witty and interesting dialogue when you can say "The @#$%ing Hulk's is here!" Leaving aside the utter cop-out middle ground that it represents of "swearing without actually swearing," it simply doesn't make for an interesting read. At least when Bendis uses it, the purpose is to add texture to speech patterns -- here, it represents nothing but astonishingly lazy writing.

The book ends with the Red Hulk strangling the Green one into unconsciousness and then. . . taking him up onto a bridge. To shoot him. Of course, he has to wait until he wakes up to do this, which gives the Green Hulk time to escape. Suddenly, the Mighty Thor shows up, and the book ends with a cliffhanger page bearing the legend "VERILY! TO BE CONTINUEDETH!"

That is the point when I realized that Jeph Loeb might be playing a joke on us all. Whatever he's trying to do, it's clearly not clicking with me. This might well be the first comic ever to go under your head.

The book's saving grace is usually McGuinness and Vine's artwork, but even that looks fairly rushed this issue. McGuinness draws a great Iron Man, but countless panels in this book look like they could've done with a little more work to straighten out some wonky perspective or dodgy physiology. Ultimately the artwork only adds to the general feeling of underperformance that permeates the issue.

It's a crying shame that this is the Hulk book on the shelves at the point where publicity for the character is at the highest it's been in years. More's the pity that Greg Pak, who steered Hulk brilliantly over the last two years, isn't the one who gets to reap those benefits. Instead, no-one benefits from Marvel putting out this rubbish comic. Not the readers, not the retailers, not the creators, and certainly not Marvel.

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