January 23, 2009

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World War Hulk Incredible Hercules

Written by Greg Pak and Jeff Parker
Illustrated by Gary Frank, Leonard Kirk, Carlo Pagulayan, Jon Sibal, Scott Hanna, and Jeffrey Huet
Marvel Comics

If there is nothing else to like about this trade (and frankly, there's actually a lot to like about this one), it's the fact that Pak should be given credit for daring to use an X-Men character that's not Wolverine. That takes guts!

Continuing my read-through of World War Hulk, this collection, while technically still called Incredible Hulk in single issue form, is really the launching pad for the blog-acclaimed series "Incredible Hercules," which is what the title changed to in the aftereffects of the war. After reading this one, I can see why.

The basic plot is that Amadeus Cho, a character I didn't know existed, wants to help the Hulk. He tries to recruit She-Hulk to assist, but when that doesn't work out like he planned, he turns to former Champions Hercules and the Angel. Soon, they're off to Atlantis to recruit another old Hulk ally, Namor. He turns them down, but Namora agrees. Once our players are gathered (with a few additions I'll leave for the reader to see and smile at), Cho leads a team deemed the Renegades in an attempt to help the Hulk out of his problems.

But does the Hulk want to be helped? Or has he crossed a line, with no going back? Can even the seventh smartest person on earth find a way out of this one?

Pak does an amazing job with a tie-in to a crossover. He winds his cast in and out of the action of the main crossover with ease, repeating a few scenes here and there when the story dictates it, all the while filling out the main story itself by looking at things World War Hulk didn't have time to provide details on, like civilian endangerment, the aftermath of the Hulk's battles with the Illuminati, and so on. This in and of itself would have made for a good story, but Pak's handling of Hercules is the best since Bob Layton. He is by turns the bragging demi-god and comic figure (Herc explaining why keyboard shortcuts are better than mouse clicks had me laughing out loud) while also giving him a tender heart and loyalty that's touching rather than overdone.

It's no wonder that Herc got his own series out of this. He's a great character, in the right hands, and clearly Pak is one of the people who can do him justice.

I should also mention that despite the bevy of artists on this trade, the artwork holds up well. This is in no small part to a selection of artists who do good work, like Frank, Kirk, and Hanna, and others that, while unknown to me, compliment the work around them. It's rare for a comic to have that anymore, so I want to praise it. The story has a great script, but it's helped immensely by people who read the plot and then drew it in such a way that I always knew what was happening, just by looking.

There's one more thing I want to mention in this review, namely Pak's use of old continuity to tell his story. This could have very easily been a series that tromped all over past Hulk stories--after all, the whole point of this World War Hulk is that old Greenskin is gonna kill people. But instead, Pak uses old continuty to tell his story, making the current events match past facts without rehashing plots from twenty years ago. Imagine, actually building on what's come before instead of making your first act tearing it all down? Why, that's so crazy it just might work!

If you only read one World War Hulk crossover, and I may wish that's all I did by the time it's over, you definitely should pick up this one. I am really looking forward to reading more Hercules and also more work by Pak, who's definitely a new favorite of mine. Cho may not have all the answers, buy Pak sure has the answer for how to do a crossover right.