Another year and another crossover blockbuster from the mighty house of Marvel – only this time it’s the Hulk – he’s angry, and what do you know? It’s personal.
Ever since Secret Wars in the mid-1980s, Marvel has been churning out these sprawling epics with varying degrees of success. Secret Wars itself succeeded on novelty value alone, while the original Mutant Massacre crossover for all the X-titles proved there was money to be made out of encouraging readers to buy as many titles as possible.
Last year, we had the Civil War – heroes turning against heroes – in a fairly blatant analogy of America’s political climate. This time around, it’s the Hulk, having been blown into outer space by Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Reed Richards and Black Bolt, then turned into a slave, met and then lost the love of his life, who, by the way, was also carrying his unborn child. It’s not surprising therefore that he has issues he needs to resolve. A group hug probably isn’t going to do the trick.
He’s mad. He’s mad. He’s really, really mad and Greg Pak’s writing never lets us forget just how annoyed he really is, particularly with some of his oldest and closest allies who all did the dirty on him. Bill Bixby used to tell viewers in the Hulk television show that you wouldn’t like him when he was angry, and you really wouldn’t want to mess with this incarnation of the Green Goliath.
John Romita Jnr’s art is gorgeous to look at and gives the whole event a summer blockbuster feel. The giant one page and two pages have plenty of action and dynamism. They do indeed pack a Hulk-size punch.
The only problem is that Marvel’s tried and tested approach to these events, i.e. have all your favourite heroes beat the living daylights out of each other, is starting to wear a bit then. Do their super villains just go on holiday while all this is taking place? Have they been made redundant? Where’s a scheming madman when you need one?
It maybe says a lot about the George W. Bush era of American history that the greatest enemy Marvel heroes can face is each other and in particular Reed Richards and Tony Stark, who it seems can always be relied upon to do the right (or rather the wrong) thing.
While Civil War showed Tony Stark as one of Marvel’s most flawed and better written characters, he doesn’t get to do much about from get bitch-slapped by the Hulk. In fact, that’s all everyone gets to do in this epic.
It feels like one long guilty pleasure with bags of action. If it were a movie, then it would have been produced by Michael Bay. A certain amount of logic has to be suspended, even in the normally logic-free world of comics. You can sit back and enjoy the luscious artwork, featuring the Hulkster versus everyone else and then afterwards you are left thinking – was that it? Did I miss something? It’s like a Chinese takeaway in that respect.
While last year’s Civil War did have lasting repercussions for many of the characters – not least Spider-man and Captain America. World War Hulk feels pretty shallow and once the wounds heal, everyone presumably gets back to doing what they do best – which is fighting the super villains, who have all been taking a well-earned vacation.
And without wishing to give any spoilers away, the ending does leave the door open for a World War Hulk Two – but frankly, maybe Marvel should look elsewhere for its next all-encompassing blockbuster.
Although a graphic novel showing Doctor Doom, Mystique and Green Goblin really got up to while sunning themselves in Lanzarote might not be such a bad idea.