May 21, 2011

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Quick Hits: Hulk: Gray

Written by Jeph Loeb
Illustrated by Tim Sale
Marvel

After enjoying Daredevil: Yellow a whole lot on a re-read, I decided to give this one another chance. I had picked it up in single issues way back when and was definitely dissapointed at the time. It paled in comparison to Long Halloween and Daredevil, both in the story and the art.

This time around, I liked it better, but there's still something missing. I think the problem is that Bruce is just too maudelin and trying to capture those early days are tricky because Stan and Jack just did not know what to do with the Hulk. There is so much better work that Mantlo, David, and even Bruce Jones did with the character that trying to recall a simpler time just doesn't work here.

The Hulk in Loeb's hands is complex and simple, at the same time. He can barely speak but he thinks hard. Rick loses his charm and is far more punk kid than wily partner. And Betty is not quite independent but not quite helpless, either. Loeb trips over himself trying to make all this work, and the story suffers for it.

Sale is also not at his best here, opting to use a Hulk parody as his model, for reasons that escape me. Nothing looks right because every time the Hulk shows up, perspective is skewed. Sale is always an artist of impression not realism, but here he's taken it too far.

Overall, while this story still captures the essence of good, old fashioned capes comics in a way I appreciate, it does not hold up as a classic to be read over and over again. This one is probably only worth seeking out for the most fervent Loeb and Sale fans.