Jeph Loeb is gone, but the Red Hulk remains. What next for Thunderbolt Ross under the esteemed pen of Jeff Parker?
Credits & Solicit Info:
Written By Jeff Parker
Artwork By Gabriel Hardman and Mark Robinson
Take cover, here comes a rampaging engine of awesome force- and we're talking about our new creative team of Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman bringing Hulk into a new age of sci-fi adventure! The score has been settled, Red Hulk has been beaten by Green Hulk decisively. The war is over and Steve Rogers is on tap to give these explosive characters a sense of direction! Red Hulk heads out to deal with a deadly contingency plan left behind by Leader and MODOK, for once on the side of the angels. But IRON MAN didn't get the message...
Say what you will about Jeph Loeb's controversial run on the Hulk, but he certainly contributed a lot to the world of the character. After Loeb, the Hulk will never be the same again, as this first issue of Jeff Parker's run ably demonstrates. The Red Hulk is here to stay, and he may very well become a hero.
Parker picks up right where Loeb left off in #24, with Bruce Banner and Steve Rogers visiting the Red Hulk, General Thunderbolt Ross in Prison, where he's been expecting them to ask for his help. Parker however undercuts this by having Steve immediately reject Rulk as having the one attitude and subjecting him to some form of Immersion torture, after this we get our first glimpse of Rulk as a hero rather than villain, as he and Cap bond over shared Military history. It's interesting to see the character in this way, a as a Soldier who has lost his War. Parker may be dealing with big red and green monsters, but he's not writing a cartoon.
The main thrust of the story is also picking up straight from Loeb's run, with the Intelligencia's contingency plans for their possible failure unleashing untold horrors upon the Earth. Steve Rogers and Bruce Banner have given Ross the task of stopping these events in order to pay the piper for working with them. The conversation between Bruce and Ross here is fascinating, these characters have been at odds since #1 of the Hulk, but now their relationship has been irrevocably altered, Ross compromised and became everything he hated, but he still lost. There's been actual character development here! In a Loeb comic! And it looks like Parker is only going to take it further, whilst still remaining faithful to the all-action ethos Loeb brought to the book.
What follows is a great action sequence, featuring both Rulk against some creepy Bio-Zombies, and also Rulk Vs Iron Man, who in a classic super-hero team-up misunderstanding, has not been told by Steve Rogers that Ross is on the side of good now. Gabriel Hardman's art is quite a large departure from Ed McGuinness' larger than life style, it's more realistic, well as realistic as a book about the Hulk can get, but it's still a strong fit for the title. It actually makes the sheer size and impact of the Red Hulk bigger if he's contrasted with more realistic backgrounds. Parker and Hardman had a great partnership on Atlas (look out for a little cameo appearance) and I'm glad to see them continue it.
This issue also features a back-up story focussing on Rick Jones, now known as the 'A-Bomb', a Gamma monster similar to the Abomination. Rick is taking on another one of the Intelligencia's contingency attacks, and this is a fun story with nice cartoony art from Mark Robinson. Rick Jones may be the ultimate superhero hanger-on, but he's got a long way to go in order to become a hero on his own, and I look forward to following him follow the same journey as Ross.
Hulk #25 is a great start to Parker's run on the title, he's always been a strong writer who's been bubbling under the surface, but hopefully having a run on titles like Hulk and Thunderbolts will help him reach a larger audience. People who hated Loeb's run will likely be disappointed, the changes he enacted are still very much in effect, but all in all, I like these changes. Now that we know who he is, Rulk is a much more interesting character, and as long as Parker and Hardman keep the action a-coming, I'll keep a-reading.
Review by: Niam Suggitt