Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What I've Been Reading - Amazing Spider-Man and Hulk

I'm back with another edition of What I've Been Reading with two collections I checked out from the library. Although many of the original Brand New Day stories in Amazing Spider-Man where unappealing to me, putting it nicely, things started to improve with New Ways To Die to the point where I could enjoying the series again. The Death and Dating collection was the only post-New Ways To Die collection that my library had that I hadn't read yet so I gave it a look. I also picked up the third volume of Jeph Loeb's Hulk run. Why? Who knows! I sure don't. Well, maybe I do. Hit the jump to find out why and see what I thought both of these collections.

Written by Mark Waid, Roger Stern, and Dan Slott
Art by Marcos Martin, Mike McKone, Lee Weeks and Barry Kitson
Collects Amazing Spider-Man #578-582 and Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2008

Although I think the shorter story arc, rotating creative team approach for almost weekly Amazing Spider-Man has generally been a good way to play to the strengths of its release schedule, it's also something that could work against it's eventual collection, this trade being a perfect example of that.

The collection includes a two issue disaster movie-esque arc, an annual focusing on Jackpot, a rather unremarkable done-in-one, a two issue arc dealing with Harry Osborn's return and past and an one issue character study of Betty Brant. The only real constant between any of the issues is that Mark Waid or Mike McKone worked on it, which is true for all but one of the issues. Other than that, there is really nothing to tie the issues together other than that they are in sequential order.

There is no "point" to the collection, which I think weakens it. If there is no selling point to it, a reason why I should buy it other than "Spider-Man," why should I pick it up if there are other, and better, options for me to buy? Of course, this is by-product of the fact that Marvel, and DC, have decided that their big properties have to have a new comic, or sometimes more than one, come out every month, regardless of whether or not there is a story that has a purpose to exist other than to make sure there is comic out every month. In fact, the only issue that I thought that broke this rule in the collection was the Betty Brant issue. Not to say that any of the issue were bad, they were all solid, enjoyable works, but none of them seem like they had to be published to me. And, while I'm definitely not the first person to voice this type of opinion, this was one of times where I really felt that about Marvel's or DC's output from first-hand reading experience.

As for some specifics, Jackpot is easily the lamest character from a industry full of lame characters. All of the lame cliches that make up the character have some sort of awful synergy where the whole is so much worse than the parts. Okay, there is some exaggeration to what I just said but the character is just so generic and uninspired it's unreal. Harry Osborn's return took the obvious route, resurrection by Goblin serum, just like dear old dad. Still not convinced he needed to be brought back even though Slott did some solid character work with him. There is just nothing about him that seems like it's a vital part of the Spider-Man mythos that has to be there.

As already mentioned, the Betty Brant issue was fantastic, it's just too bad that it is marred by this god awful cover. Aside from the Barry Kitson art, Waid actually did a very good job of proving why she not only adds to Amazing Spider-Man, but why she should be a fundamental part of the series as well. This, I think, is something that's been lacking from a lot of the Brand New Day changes. Sure, some of them do add something to the series that might have been missing but so few of them have been shown that they need to be a fundamental part of the series, which is something that you have to do when you introduce a massive shake up like One More Day.

Written by Jeph Loeb
Art by Ed McGuinness
Collects Hulk #10-13 and Incredible Hulk #600

"Hulk SMASH!" A simple catch phrase that is also an apt description of how to do a simple, yet enjoyable Hulk story. One so simple that you'd think that it would be impossible to screw up but Jeph Loeb decided that he wanted to write the Hulk so here we are.

Anyway, the Hulk is offered the resurrection of his dead wife, Jarella, if he wins a game set up by the Grandmaster and the Collector. The Hulk then goes on to recruit the Defenders from different points in the time stream which leads to a repeat of the first-meeting-conflict scene THREE TIMES IN ONE ISSUE. It's then revealed that the Defenders have to fight against the Red Hulk's Offenders - Red Hulk, Terrax, Tiger Shark and Baron Mordo.

Red Hulk eventually kills the Hulk then procedes to not only kill the rest of the Defenders but the Offenders, as well, and then the Psycho Man and Dormammu (who where added to the game to make it more "interesting"). Next he tries to kill Galactus, taunting him with the fact that HE PUNCHED OUT THE WATCHER, and while Loeb thankfully thinks better of that, he then has Red Hulk BEAT THE GRANDMASTER TO DEATH WITH HIS BARE HANDS. Question - How does a character like Red Hulk beat a cosmic-level character to death with his bare hands? I mean, seriously, this isn't rocket science or anything but come on, use some common sense damnit! Well, common sense that works for superhero comics anyway.

You know what though, this wouldn't be half bad material for, say, a tongue-in-cheek comic titled something like Hulk Pwns The Marvel Universe but Loeb doesn't do tongue-in-cheek so this all comes off as an adolescent wet dream, especial when there is a splash page of of Red Hulk on the Silver Surfer's board with Terrax's ax uttering the line "Most fun I've ever had with my clothes on!" But, man, if McGuinness doesn't make the whole moronic mess look awesome. Well, except for Spider-Man. McGuinness draws a decidedly average and disappointing Spider-Man.

As for Incredible Hulk #600, it's equally moronic but in a completely different way. Leonard Sampson "Hulks out" and turns evil, MODOK is part of conspiracy that somehow managed to dupe SHIELD (easily the most cliched plot point since the launch of New Avengers), Ben Urich has clandestine meetings with both She-Hulk and Red Hulk in a parking garage, Spider-Man shows up know what? I really don't feel like typing up the dumb shit that happens in this issue anymore. In fact, all the issue did was make me think (or know, really) that the whole Fall of The Hulks/World War Hulks plot line, which is set up in the issue, is just going a massive clusterf$%& that's going to be undone at the first chance another writer  takes over the franchise. Why? Because it's going to include shit like Doc Sampson turning evil or Betty Ross being Red She-Hulk. That's right! I'm calling it! A resurrected Betty Ross will end up being Red She-Hulk. Weep is despair fanboys!

In case you are wondering why I'm at Vol 3, I get some sort of perverse joy out of reading shitty comics and my public library system carries all of the Hulk collections that have been released so far and yeah, I guess this does make me part of the problem. And if, most likely when, my library gets Hulk vol 4, I'm going to read it because I'm a comic book sadomasochist.

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Monch said...

Eric, I complete relate to you on the Hulk... if it wasn't for Ed McGuinness I would not be "reading" this comic book. The good thing is that it's a fast read ;)

And I also agree with you on the Betty Ross thing, looks that way from the FoH: Gamma. Also Glenn Talbot as Read Hulk.

Here's hoping Greg Pak can save this thing.

Ethereal said...

Somewhere I'm hoping that people didn't receive these for christmas. Although, I'm sure alot of people did :(

Phillyradiogeek said...

I skipped Loeb's run on the Hulk after issue 7 or so, but I've been picking it up again with the introduction of Red She-Hulk, and I have to admit it's getting interesting again. I'm surprisingly looking forward to Fall of the Hulks, and I hope that your bad experience with this trade doesn't keep you from checking it out.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha great hulk review! I read those issues as they came out and I'd forgotten how dumb that book is. Thanks for reminding me.

Primewax said...

For some odd reason I really want to read Fall of the Hulks, even though I know its gonna suck.

Klep said...

I go through the issues of Hulk as they go up on Marvel Digital Comics, and each time they manage to plumb new depths of fail. I can't imagine Fall of the Hulks will be anything less than an utter catastrophe.

btownlegend said...

But it has MODOK...and stuff.

Tom Brevoort said...

A John Romita Sr. cover godawful? What strange Bizarro world is this I've landed on?

Steven said...

I've thought Glenn Talbot will be revealed to be the Red Hulk almost since his first appearance, but I don't think Betty Ross-Banner will end up being the Red She Hulk. I think Jennifer Walters is and that's where she has disappeared to.

Paul said...

Maybe Jeff Loeb was sent on a "secret mission" to destroy all of Marvel's best characters for DC Comics. If he takes over writing duties for Spiderman, Avengers, & Deadpool...we'll know. Just kidding.

That said, I don't mind his Hulk writing so far....or maybe I'm mezmorized by Ed McGuinness's stellar artwork! I hadn't read the Hulk since the 80's, and started back up during Planet Hulk. I loved Grep Pak's work, and I really like Loeb's as well. It's no BM: Hush, Long Halloween, or Superman/Batman....but it's not bad.

Hulk is still Smashing....just from directions nobody thought of. I'm fairly certain that Fall of the Hulks & World War Hulks will be putting everything back in order......

Jerem said...

I don't know, I like the current Hulk direction. Theres the big stupid book with Loeb, and then theres the more down to earth, intelligent series with Pak. I kinda enjoy it!

Klep said...

The problem is Hulk isn't just big and stupid. It's aggressively and offensively stupid, and Red Hulk is a blatant Mary Sue character that doesn't have any redeeming qualities. There's nothing about the book that's good. It's not even so-bad-it's-good. I actually feel bad after reading any of it.

It doesn't say much to say that another book is "more down to earth" and "intelligent" than Hulk. A geosynchronous satellite in high-earth orbit is "more down to earth" and a rock is more "intelligent". That said, what I've seen of Pak's book with Banner is definitely good stuff. They should just fire Loeb and let Pak take over.

smkedtky said...

I've said it before now but I'm enjoying HULK (both versions) more now than I have since the days of the Pantheon and Peter David. Yes, it is a little sophmoric but I can't help but love it (sue me....its a guilty pleasure). The Defenders/Offenders arc was probably the worst of the whole series but, as stupid as HULK can be, it's at the top of my READ PILE every month (I thought #600 was a lot of fun). Likewise for INCREDIBLE HULK, which has, finally, made Banner a compelling character and Skarr, somewhat readable.

I hated that Betty Brant issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN simply because of the back-up with the President and Spider-Man. The main story should have been a more mainstream Spider-Man story considering how much media attention it garnered (and Marvel had to assume that would happen when publishing the issue). If I didn't read comics and picked up that issue simply for Obama's appearance, there would have been NOTHING in it to interest me in ever picking up another comic book again.

Eric Rupe said...

Monch - Betty Ross came back in FoH? Didn't know about that.

Phillyradiogeek - FoH is a mini event leading into another event which pretty much killed any interest I had in it, regardless of whatever it's eventual quality may have ended up being.

Steven - I think Jen Walters has been shown not to be Red She-Hulk and, even if she hasn't, I don't think she will be.

Jerem - I have to agree with Klep. The closest Hulk came to be entertaining was the Wendigo/Vegas arc but that's about it. The art is always great but the plot just doesn't work or make sense, on any level. As always, your mileage may vary.

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