Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness' "Hulk" is structured like a mystery story -- and as with Loeb's other mysteries like "Batman: The Long Halloween" or "Batman: Hush," it's really just an excuse for new guest stars to pop up in each issue. Last issue brought the likes of the Watcher, who the Red Hulk promptly punched in the face, and this issue is all about the appearance of Thor, who Red Hulk would punch in the face if he were a big-headed wimp like the Watcher.
I'd just like to point out once again that in the last issue, the Red Hulk punched the Watcher in the face. Literally. That should tell you everything you need to know about this series. Some of you might be thinking, "that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard." Others may be thinking, "that's awesome. The smug bastard had it coming." I'm with the latter group. I don't know what a "Hulk" comic should be, but this one is dumb and fun and I'm completely on board.
"Hulk" #5, just like the previous issue, is light on plot, light on characterization, and heavy on giant panels of punching. And jumping. And hitting things with a hammer. Because Thor's gotta do what Thor's gotta do.
Marvel is publishing a pretty interesting Thor comic, by the way -- one I compared to an Elizabethan court drama in a recent review. The Thor in "Hulk" #5 is supposedly the same Thor; the Red Hulk mentions that he's missed out on Civil War and all the other Marvel events of late, but doesn't talk or act anything like J. Michael Straczynski's Thor. No, Loeb's Thor speaks with "thou's" and "thee's" and generally talks like a refugee from a Ren faire. But that's okay, because Thor isn't here to develop any subplot from his own series. He's here to smash the Red Hulk in the face with his hammer. And that he does.
Of course, the Red Hulk won't let a magical hammer in the face slow him down, and any pretense at logic is completely abandoned when the Red Hulk jumps into space with Thor, takes Mjolnir away from him because there's no gravity in space -- allowing him to get around the whole "no mortal can lift the hammer" loophole -- and then spins the hammer and somehow propels himself to the moon with its momentum. (Wait, but if there's no resistance, how does it -- ?!? Nevermind, it's dumb and fun, and that's what matters.)
The real star of the show is McGuinness' artwork anyway. Loeb is great at writing for his artists -- allowing them to showcase what they do best, and what McGuinness does best is draw bulky figures in action. Loeb certainly gives him enough room to draw, and the lack of panels and the lack of words in this comic means that it only takes about three minutes to read, but it's three minutes of joy. And you could spend all the extra time looking back at McGuinness' cool poses.
It may seem like I'm mocking this comic in my review -- and I am -- but it's a mockery tinged with love. This comic is pretty much all I ever need from a "Hulk" series, and as long as each issue is this much fun, I'll be sticking around for a long time.