Waiting for the Trade – Hulk

Waiting for the Trade

Fall of the Hulks:
Prelude

Written by Jeph Loeb, Greg Pak, Jeff Parker and Fred
Van Lente. Illustrated by Ed McGuinness,

            Ron
Garney, Mitch Breitweiser, Dan Panosian, Michael Ryan and Peter Vale.

Collects Hulk#2 and 16, Son of Hulk #1, Hulk: Raging
Thunder, Planet Skaar Prologue, All-New Savage She-Hulk #4, Amazing Fantasy
#15, Hulk #9 and Incredible Hulk #600-601.

Why I Bought This: I liked the villain concept for this crossover, i.e. that Leader and a
few other super intelligent villains have had a secret alliance for years, and
now they plan to take out the eight men who are smarter than them in their
quest for world domination. I was less intrigued by the concept that there are
11 Hulks running around now or the spoiler I heard that every Marvel hero but
Deadpool becomes a Hulk during this thing. So, when I looked for the main
crossover title on Amazon it was more expensive than I was willing to pay, but
this Prelude existed and was a bit cheaper so I thought I’d pick it up to see
if I wanted to wade into the entire thing.

 

The Plot: More
or less a primer on the 17,000 Hulks running around who are going to be targeted in
the big crossover such Red Hulk, Skaar, Red She Hulk and Savage She Hulk
(alongside Banner and regular She Hulk).

 (spoilers below)

Chapter 1 – Maria Hill is
briefing Tony Stark (currently the head of SHIELD) on the recent assassination
of the Abomination as She Hulk listens in. Suddenly Red Hulk smashes in and
defeats She Hulk in seconds off-panel. Tony fights him for a bit as he growls
but has to abandon the battle when the Hellicarrier starts to crash. Red Hulk
uses the distraction to plant a computer virus that erases all files on the
Hulk and escape. Next we cut to Rick Jones hitchhiking. He also gets attacked
by Red Hulk only to transform into a blue Abomination known as A-Bomb.

Chapter 2 – We get the back-story
of Sakaar (“Planet Hulk”) and see that after Hulk left for World War Hulk his wife’s magic energy kept their child healthy in
her corpse long enough for him to be born in a pool of lava and climb out. The
naked infant is born knowing how to walk as well as hunt, kill and eat some
giant bug creatures. One year later he’s a boy/teen/young man (the art is
contradictory) and leading some nomads against a barbarian horde. Dragon’s
breath kills his companions but leaves him unharmed so he can fight the head
barbarian, who seems to kill him in one blow. Later that night however the
lesser barbarians get sliced down one-by-one before Skaar reveals himself for
round two with the head barbarian.

Chapter 3 – We meet Thundra
in her dystopian 23rd century future where men and women have formed
separate nations and are constantly at war, and see her kill an enemy. Thundra
is sent back in time to fight Hulk, allegedly to prove female superiority to
her soldiers, but in fact she has a secret mission. She ambushes the dumb savage
Hulk and they trade punches until her future tech shows her he is the candidate
she was looking for, at which point she seduces Hulk. She returns to her own
time pregnant. Fast forward 20 years in Thundra’s future and we meet Hulk’s
green skinned amazon daughter.

Chapter 4 – We meet teen boy
Amadeus Cho, who is being tracked by spies. Cho is “the seventh smartest person
in the world.” He broke the record of some televised game show thus garnering
the attention of said spies, who then firebombed his home. He’s at a diner
where some cop hassles him over bringing a dog inside so Cho goes all Matrix-fu
by seeing various geometric angles before attacking and escaping. During his
escape he bumps into the Hulk, and they seemingly become friends.

Chapter 5 – In a previous
issue She Hulk, Valkyrie and Thundra were fighting Red Hulk. Now a bunch of
other female superheroes join them: Invisible Woman, Tigra, Black Widow, Storm,
Hellcat and Spider-Woman. They all bull rush him but Rulk shrugs them off. She
Hulk gets mad and gets some good shots in. Sue cuts off his air with a force
field around the head and then Storm creates a thunderstorm inside the force
field for the KO. They tie him up with Thundra’s chain and then gossip while
they wait for him to revert to human until someone points out that She Hulk
doesn’t revert to human when she goes to sleep. Rulk wakes up and snaps the
chain with ease, aiming the debris to KO Spider Woman and Storm (the only two
flyers). He then grabs Thundra and leaps off. He then says he has an offer for
her at which point we cut to her calling She Hulk on the phone to say Rulk let
her go without speaking to her.

Chapter 6 – Skaar comes to
Earth. His presence is psychically felt by Hulk, She Hulk and, for some reason,
Kate Waynesboro (a brief love interest of Bruce’s in the 80s prior to issue
300), who brings the information to Norman Osborn. Reed Richards’ equipment
also detects the dimensional portal Skaar used to arrive. Skaar wants to kill
his father. The FF meets up with She Hulk and they decide to intercept Skaar
together. Kate summons the War Bound (from World War Hulk) to help find and
protect Skaar. Reed is worried if Hulk meets his son he will change from dumb
Hulk to his potential planet destroying Green Scar personality. Skaar sees some
park rangers kill a coyote so he breaks their helicopter. She Hulk intercepts
him and attempts to talk but the army shoots her with a tank. Skaar tosses Thing
to the ground with ease while the army attacks the FF for some reason. Skaar
attacks the army as the fight goes live on TV (and we see various heroes and
villains react). The army (possibly on Norman’s
orders) bombs the hell out of the FF-Skaar battle site. In the wreckage Skaar’s
sword is broken and there is no sign of him. She Hulk can no longer psychically
feel him (implying he his dead) but in the cliffhanger he has changed into a
human teen and is petting the coyote.

Chapter 7 – We are once again
joined in progress, this time Llyra (Hulk’s daughter with Thundra) traveled
back in time to assassinate Norman Osborn only to be captured by him, but then
started making out with him in a prior cliffhanger. We pick up with her
rejecting Osborn despite her talking future tech sidekick saying he would make
a good father genetically. Llyra decides she hates her home reality and wants
to stay in the present. Osborn calls in the Dark Avengers to prevent her
escape. Llyra’s powers are the opposite of the Hulk: if she gets angry she
loses them, but when she is calm she taps into gamma energy from the big bang
and basically turns into Neo from the Matrix. She beats the heck out of Ares,
Wolverine v2.0, Bullseye and Venom v2.0 before Moonstone and Iron Patriot use
their energy powers to take her down. Meanwhile She Hulk is attempting to
rescue Llyra but is delayed by Sentry and Captain Marvel v6.0. Jen outmaneuvers
them so that she can get to Llyra. The two She-Hulks then turn the tide long
enough for a subset of SHIELD called ARMOR to teleport them to safety. ARMOR
deports Llyra to her home dimension where we learn she succeeded in her true
mission to download some computer files from Osborn’s HAMMER records. Llyra is
then granted freedom from the sisterhood of her future so she returns to
exactly when/where she left in the present and trades Osborn’s secrets for
immunity to stay in the main Marvel reality as an agent of ARMOR.

Chapter 8 – She Hulk recruits
Ben Urich (Daily Bugle reporter, usually found in Daredevil) to help her uncover the identity of Red Hulk. He brings
Peter Parker along and She Hulk gets Doc Samson and the four of them sneak into
Gamma Base, where they find Modok, AIM and Thunderbolt Ross are working
together and have captured A-Bomb and Bruce Banner. Seeing Modok makes Samson
wig out as he’s apparently been brainwashed to have an evil personality. Samson
and She Hulk fight until Modok blasts them both. Red Hulk finds Urich but Pete
switches to Spidey and pulls Urich to safety. Spidey uses his agility to keep
away from Red Hulk and frees the prisoners. Hulk and Red Hulk fight briefly
until Red Hulk uses an energy drain power to turn Hulk back into Banner
(allegedly permanently). Spidey escapes with Urich and A-Bomb escapes with
Banner, leaving She Hulk and Samson behind. Later, Red Hulk meets up with Urich
and threatens him into killing his story (not that he learned who Red Hulk is,
but that Ross and AIM are working together to make gamma powered super
soldiers).

Chapter 9 – Banner stops some
dude from beating his kid on the subway. When he gets off the Avengers and FF
are waiting for him as this has first time back in NYC since “World War Hulk.”
Bruce has come to meet with Reed for info on Skaar (who apparently in some
other issue not reprinted here fought the savage Hulk and stabbed him in the
chest). While he’s there Marvel’s smarted heroes (Reed, Pym, Beast, Black
Panther and Cho) test Banner’s blood and confirm that he can no longer become
the Hulk. Bruce doesn’t believe them since Hulk always comes back, and then
steals the Green Scar Hulk’s sword from Reed’s lab and teleports away. Banner
then seemingly transforms into Green Scar and challenges Skaar to a fight, but
in fact Banner is wearing some Gamma-absorbing armor from his early 60s’
comics. While Skaar’s gamma strength can’t dent it, when he switches to his
mother’s “old world” seismic power he shatters the suit. Banner explains he
can’t become Hulk anymore right now, and believes Skaar only wants to kill Hulk
(specifically Green Scar) and not Banner. Banner adds that Green Scar wants to
kill his son as well because Skaar destroyed his mother’s planet. Banner offers
to align with Skaar and train him so that he can defeat Green Scar when the
Hulk power inevitably returns. To that end he sends Skaar to pick a fight with
Juggernaut as his first test in the cliffhanger.

Chapter 10 – We start with
another JIP with a previously page for an issue not in this trade. In this case
Domino may have discovered the secret of Red Hulk’s identity so he hired Elektra
and Thundra to capture her, which caused Wolverine to come to the rescue.
Wolvie stabbed Red Hulk in the eyes and blinded him only for a Red She Hulk to
show up and make the save. On top the new stuff as Red She Hulk claims she
killed both Elektra and Domino (and is no wielding their weapons). Wolvie
responds by stabbing her in the leg while stabbing the third rail of the subway
line causing them both to be electrocuted. He then stabs her in the chest,
which seems to casually take in stride. She spits fire on him and gets a few
punches in, while claiming to have killed She Hulk too, causing Wolvie to go
berserk. Then for some reason Punisher shows up and shoots Wolverine. Deadpool
is with Punisher until Red She Hulk stabs him with Elektra’s sai. Archangel arrives to help Wolverine though Thundra
dispatches him with ease. Red She Hulk helps Red Hulk escape and as they talk
we get all clues about their secret identities (ultimately revealed to be
Thunderbolt Ross and Betty Ross shortly after this story). Meanwhile a mystery
person arrives and convinces Wolvie to leave and tend to his wounded X-Force
teammates. He then makes an offer to the remaining antiheroes. Back in the
tunnels Red She Hulk turns on Red Hulk and beats him down then delivers to Doc
Samson, who has the antiheroes and reveals he has been pulling the strings all
along.

 

Critical Thoughts: This is mostly terrible. I think the basic concept is flawed in much
the same way the Clone Saga was flawed. One or two alternate versions of a
major character are fine, but more than that gets ridiculous. Let’s assume
there was a good story to be told in the Red Hulk mystery or there is a good
story to tell involving Hulk having a grown barbarian son from another planet
(I’m dubious of that second claim since that origin story is this trade is
awfully dumb, but for argument’s sake we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt).
Red She Hulk still feels like one step too many, where the writers are being
more cutesy than clever. Once we give Hulk yet another grown child in that
amazon She Hulk or we turn Rick Jones into an Abomination clone it feels like
we’re just piling on nonsense for no reason (not to mention Hulk has yet
another alien child not in this book that for some reason has vast cosmic
power). This is a perfect example where less would be more; especially since
Hulk has a basic straightforward superpower that is probably the most
widespread in comics anyway. Thus it is not like we haven’t seen Hulk fight
other super strong characters before, it’s pretty much his most common story
traditionally so the writers need more of a hook than just color and sex
variations to make these alternate Hulks interesting, and that’s not being done
in this sampler. And if we go beyond the pages of this trade, once this story
finished it’s revelations it has the effect of decimating Hulk’s civilian
supporting cast as now Rick Jones, Betty Ross and Thunderbolt Ross are all
gamma monsters leaving Hulk with exactly zero normal humans in his orbit, which
I can’t imagine is a positive development for any series to radically alter the
entire supporting cast, especially to alter them all in the exact same way.

Next, it seems the villain is
Doc Samson. A character no one has ever given a crap about so why would we care
if he turns heel in a general sense? And specifically how does he measure up as
the potential main villain of this crossover, when we are already have the much
more interesting secret alliance led by the Leader, and the year long Red Hulk
mystery as selling points? Of course I say Samson seems to be the main villain
but in one chapter Samson is just a brainwashed dupe of Modok but then in the
ultimate cliffhanger he seems to be the one pulling the strings, so who the
heck knows?

This leads to the related
criticism of how little I care about these new characters. Skaar is at best
two-dimension and at worst jaw-droppingly ridiculous (he’s born able to walk
and hunt?). Cho doesn’t do it for me, although at least other writers have
tried to make him interesting. Thundra was not interesting in the 70’s when she
hung out with Thing, and now this book completely erases her subsequent history
(she had married Arkon in the pages of Avengers
decades ago) and reverts her back to basics with the end result of giving Hulk
another, less interesting child from the future. And here’s a little thing, why
are we naming that character “Llyra?” when Namor has a green-skinned female villain
with the exact same name and look. Then we have Red She Hulk, whose attitude in
her first appearance is like a parody of the worst of 90’s comic. Actually that
entire fight issue that closes the trade is like a bad parody as numerous
characters are stabbed in the chest and aren’t even phased; which removes all
stakes or sense of danger from the action.

There are really only two
positives about this book: one minor and one major. The minor one is the fight
scene with the Lady Liberators and Red Hulk is entertaining. (Although if She
Hulk was recruiting female superheroes to take down a Hulk-class foe why isn’t
Spectrum there? Spectrum is likely the most powerful female hero in the Marvel
Universe and served with She Hulk on the Avengers. Instead lightweights like
Tigra, Hellcat and Spider Woman, all of whom could not possibly hurt a Hulk are
recruited. Dagger would also be much better choice than half the women chosen,
though I’m not sure She Hulk knows Dagger). Still as written it is a fun issue
both in terms of the fight and the ladies’ banter.

The best thing about the book
is the characterization of Banner himself. I like how Banner does not doubt for
a second that he’s not actually cured of the Hulk despite Reed and company’s
tests. I like the way he confronts Skaar. I like the way he scares the abusive
father on the train. I like how he seems to be in control and planning ahead
for once. It’s been a long time since Banner has been written with clarity
(probably not since Peter David’s Pantheon era in the 90s). And since Banner is
the lead character in the book finding an interesting take on him is a major plus
in this thing’s favor.

 

Grade: D. In
terms of providing a primer of who the various Hulks are, this book succeeds in
its goal, which prevents it from getting a failing grade. However, while it may
give someone a general idea of who all these new Hulks are, it does not entice
me to want to read about any of them again.