As Sam Humphries and Marc Laming’s “Planet Hulk” #4 opens, Steve Rogers is hauled into the Mud Kingdom, hunting-trophy-on-a-spit style. Here, Rogers hopes to complete his mission for Doom: killing the Red King and liberating Bucky, Rogers’ lost warbound partner.
Humphries packs plenty of action into this issue as Rogers finds himself outmatched and immersed deep in enemy territory. Readers familiar with Steve Rogers will find that set-up familiar, but the results are not as expected as one might think. Humphries does a fine job of keeping the story moving and unpredictable with each page turn. He does, however, provide the payoff as Rogers meets this level’s boss: Red King. The King is intimidating and imposing, and the conversation he shares with Rogers is certain to fire up readers (and Rogers) as it sets up one heck of a scrap for “Planet Hulk” #5.
Laming continues to impress with a wide array of Hulk models. While it would (presumably) be easy to draw the same face again and an again from a variety of angles, the artist finds a way to craft a number of hulking faces, each showing significant gamma influence while projecting a range of emotions. The Tribal Hulks are just a bit different from Doc Green, who is different from the Red King, but there is no question whatsoever that each is a poisoned, transformed human at the core. The setting of the Mud Kingdom doesn’t require a vast amount of detail, but Laming provides plenty of identifying marks for readers throughout the tale. His real focus is on Rogers, Devil, Doc Green and the rest of the Hulks flooding the issue. The artist keeps Devil in scale and clearly has fun drawing the dinosaur alone and interacting with other characters. I’m not sure what the plans are for Devil Dinosaur beyond “Secret Wars,” but Laming continues to make a most convincing argument for more time with the scarlet Tyrannosaurus.
Jordan Boyd colors this tale with efficiency and neutrality. Even though Devil is red, he’s never so red as to not fit into the rest of the environment shown in this issue. Boyd uses a similar value range throughout the tale, whether the tones are blue, red or green, giving the story a very used, extremely rough finish. Laming’s work is crisp and encouraging for Boyd’s colors, and the end result is another strong issue of “Planet Hulk.”
I’m of two minds on a missing sound effect. The sound is supposed to be of “metal striking vibranium,” but letterer Travis Lanham (and perhaps writer Sam Humphries) leave the sound effect unwritten, inspiring the reader to imagine a new sound. It is not integral to the flow of the story, but the mention of it seems as though there should be more to it. While I have no doubt this is a deliberate choice, it seems as though the sound should be described for readers, just as we see the “FWAK” of heads butting among other. Lanham provides loud, boisterous word balloons and, once the Tribal Hulks start chanting “SMASH!,” the letterer infuses the word with green and uses a most appropriate font choice.
While “Planet Hulk” #4 has a few minor wobbles like that, this series continues to provide readers with adventure and camaraderie, adding depth to Rogers, Devil and their shared time. This is the fourth enjoyable issue of the series, and the fourth unpredictable installment as Humphries, Laming, Boyd and Lanham continue to develop a world readers want to see more of.