August 3, 2011

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Quick Hits: Incredible Hulk Son of Banner

Written by Greg Pak
Illustrated by Ariel Olivetti and Others
Marvel

Bruce Banner is/was The Hulk!
Skaar is his son who hates his guts!
They fight crime!

Actually, that's not really true. As Hank McCoy is quick to point out, the Hulk-less Banner is every bit as destructive and his desire to train his son ends up causing a lot of collateral damage, even if we're still using the "Hulk doesn't kill" conceit that I find a bit unrealistic.

This story is a tour of the Marvel U, as Skaar and Bruce lock horns with the Juggernaut, Wolverine and Son (who have their own issues), Norman Osborne's deadly manipulations, the Leader, and even a few good old fashioned Mole Man Monsters, along with a few other cameos. You'd think this would read choppily, especially given that it has ties to the larger Marvel crossovers, but it all hangs together very well, with the usual blending of new ideas and hard-core continuity that's the trademark work of Pak (and his writing partner, Fred Van Lente).

By now, I should know never to doubt Hulk work in Pak's hands. I loved Planet Hulk and enjoyed World War Hulk, and now I can add this one to the list. There's so many little touches that make this volume work, from the gathering of Marvel scientists to the friendly antagonism of Logan and Bruce to the resurrection of the rivalry of Mole Man and Tyrannus, two old Hulk foes united again in their hatred for the Son of Banner. We even get the tried and true Marvel use of comic books as an in-universe device for a great set of jokes I won't spoint. Pak's best achievement here, however might be making Osborne a believable master villain. The last frame of his The List one-shot is perfect.

My only main issue is, as per usual with modern capes comics, the art. Olivetti's strong when he's on art duty, but it's not nearly often enough, so we end up getting a lot of really drastic art shifts, made worse because I think Olivetti paints while the others do not. Can't anyone do more than a few issues in a row anymore?

Son of Banner is very, very tied to continuity of all kinds, and is certainly not for those who are just casual comics readers. But if you're a long-time Marvel fan who knows the little histories that Pak references, this is a real treat. Give this one a shot, and revel in the nods to the past while Pak sets up a very dangerous future. Is Bruce Banner worse than the Hulk? Can the world survive a Hulk hybrid with ideas of his own? These are just some of the great questions Pak puts together in this nifty trade that I'm glad I got a chance to read. It's easy being green if you have the right writer--and Pak definitely fits the bill. This one's recommended for Marvel fans.