Hulk Winter Guard #1

Apparently, this story was originally released through Marvel's Digital Comics Unlimited portal, but since I don't subscribe to that service, this is the first time I've ever seen this stuff.

Sort of.

Because half of the issue is a reprint of "Incredible Hulk" #393, which features a (classic?) battle royal between the post-Soviet Winter Guard and Hulk and his Pantheon Pals. Normally, I find that when Marvel chooses to reprint something just to pad out a floppy comic and charge an extra buck, it actually works to detract from the comic as a whole. The reprints of the old issues of "Ghost Rider" doesn't make the new miniseries any better, and the reprints of "Spider-Man 2099" doesn't make some "Amazing Spider-Man" special any more interesting. It just makes it thicker.

But here, the Hulk story recalls the glory days of that series, and the Dale Keown artwork provides a curious contrast to the inky work of Steve Ellis on the Winter Guard framing story. And, yes, the new material by Gallaher and Ellis is a framing story for the 17-year-old "Incredible Hulk" reprint, but it's a framing story that's also a complete story by itself. It mostly deals with Darkstar, and her legacy.

It's a bit of a continuity patch as well, clearing up some inconsistencies with the character, but what makes it work as more than that is the power of Steve Ellis's pages. Overall, the team from Zuda's "High Moon" does a good job with these third-tier Marvel characters, and David Gallaher writes a crisp story that starts off a bit overly simplistic, but ends with some nice, powerful moment, but it's really Ellis who brings a fresh perspective to these characters and situations, visually.

Ellis draws the lantern-jawed Red Guardian, the ferocious Ursa Major, the metallic Crimson Dynamo, and the lithe Darkstar with equal panache. And his pages drip with heavy lines, bold compositions, and grace. It's very good stuff, and I'd love to see more of Ellis in this kind of superhero universe.

Ultimately, this is an inconsequential story set in the obscure corners of the Marvel Universe, so the only reason to read it is because of the way the story is told. But that's really the only true reason to read any comic, and at least this one is told with some of that Steve Ellis style.

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