In the history of the Marvel Universe, there hasn't been a military figure more ruthless and relentless than General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross. When the U.S. military tasked Ross with taking down the Hulk soon after he surfaced for the first time, the general responded by chasing the Green Goliath across the country and attacking him wherever he reared his head. Unfortunately for Ross, the Hulk constantly overcame these displays of military might, causing the general's hatred and obsession with destroying the Hulk -- and his alter ego, Bruce Banner -- to grow exponentially over the ensuing years.
Recently, Ross' obsession with the Hulk became so great that he allied himself with members of the criminal think tank known as the Intelligentsia, who transformed him into a crimson counterpart of his hated adversary. As the Red Hulk, Ross renewed his war against Bruce Banner, but several months later he was forced to switch sides when the Intelligentsia attacked America. When his former allies were defeated, Ross was jailed for the crimes he committed as the Red Hulk.
However, his imprisonment didn't last long. He was given a shot at redemption when Steve Rogers offered him a job as a government agent. Ross accepted and has made an effort to atone for his sins. Part of atonement is understanding how you made others feel, and now Ross understands what he put Bruce Banner through for all those many years. For the past several issues of "Hulk," series writer Jeff Parker has brought in old allies and new enemies to hound Ross across the globe and even in space. Comic Book Rerources spoke with Parker about his plans for the series, which include a "Fear Itself" tie-in and a major showdown with the three newest members of his growing Rogue's Gallery: Omegex, Black Fog and Zero/One.
CBR News: Jeff, Ross hasn't had very many friendly interactions in "Hulk" since he began his new role as a government agent. The one exception has been Annie the Life Model Decoy, who's offered comfort especially with some of the trouble he went through when his old friend General Fortean began hunting him. How exactly does Ross feel about her?
Jeff Parker: She's clearly becoming important to him. I'd rather let his actions over the next few issues do the speaking on that, though.
In issue #36, in stores now, readers got a hint of just how important Annie was to Ross when his old ally in the Intelligentsia, M.O.D.O.K., attacked her. How dangerous is M.O.D.O.K. now that Ross has rebuffed his attempt to join forces? Does this new incarnation get angry?
This new M.O.D.O.K. is a bit more complex; he doesn't just go straight to rage like the old one did. Sometimes he gets amused by his adversaries. He doesn't even necessarily want to conquer the world anymore; he may just be trying to entertain himself! But he does not like being outwitted, and that's what happened to him with Zzzax.
The advance preview of "Hulk" #37 shows thatM.O.D.O.K. is part of the story, but it looks like this is mostly a tale of the Red Hulk versus the Thing, who is now one of the Worthy. We recently saw that fight in "Avengers" #14. Is the battle in "Hulk" #37 a continuation of that brawl, or is this some action that wasn't featured in "Avengers" #14?
It actually is much more about M.O.D.O.K. I wanted to show what happens with the other villains during one of these world-affecting crises. The people who are usually causing trouble but aren't responsible for the menace this time -- it's still their planet too, right? Do M.O.D.O.K. and Zero/One just stand by and let the fate of the world be decided by all the heroes? Or do they step up?
Artist Elena Casagrande came on board for issues #37-#38. What can readers expect from her work on this "Fear Itself" tie-in arc?
Elena is very inventive and brings more humanity to something like M.O.D.O.K. than you would think possible! I really like the way she draws Zero/One, as well. She may be our Marie Severin for the Red Hulk! Elena comes back in another arc where she gets to draw a more classic-type Hulk story soon.
After the two-part "Fear Itself" arc, you reteam with your frequent "Hulk" collaborator, artist Gabriel Hardman, to usher in a story you've been building to: the rise of the Red Hulk's three newest villains, Zero/One, Black Fog and Omegex. Ross recently learned that the living alien weapon Omegex is active because he physically assaulted the Watcher when he first became the Red Hulk. Is he feeling a little guilty?
Well, he feels responsible, which isn't the same thing. The key to this story is that he connects back to a time when he wasn't an obsessed general chasing a Hulk all over the world, an earlier Ross who I think readers will like to meet.
According to solicits, Omegex will have a bit of help in the form of Zero/One and the Black Fog. Each of these characters would be more than a match for Ross on their own. Will we see more of Ross' devious tactical mind at work?
The fact that Black Fog, who was recently trying his best (and getting somewhere with it) to kill Red is now helping him, shows how serious the threat of Omegex is. He's never been beat in millions of years!
Ross' showdown with the three villains takes place at the homestead where he grew up. Will Ross' childhood home offer any insights into his character?
It offers all kinds of insights and shows why Ross took some of the paths he did. It also makes some connections with other issues on points you may have forgotten about. Especially the memories Ross had when about to fall in the black hole that Thor rescued him from, and part of the dream he had before the mind of Zzzax intruded.
You've teased a showdown between Ross and these new villains for a while. What comes next? Can you hint about your plans for "Hulk" come fall?
Patrick Zircher and I are going to continue building Red's world and cast with some big new characters! It's something that readers will be talking and arguing about when it gets out.
This book makes so much opportunity for exciting and meaningful stories, more than I ever expected. I want to thank all the new readers who have given us a shot and come on board; we have a lot planned for you!