Hulk Captured, Sequentially, in Comic-Book Compilations

Article excerpt

Byline: Joseph Szadkowski, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

This chronic feature lets me review what has recently passed my bloodshot pupils. So pull up a chair, break out the sarcasm filter and welcome to:

Mr. Zad's comic critique

The Incredible Hulk, Nos. 34 to 49 (Marvel Comics, $2.25 each). Now that I've exhausted just about everything related to the Incredible Hulk, how about concluding this month's Zadzooks columns with a review of the first 16 issues of the comic-book series from its latest writer, Bruce Jones?

Mr. Jones, best known for his horror work in the magazine-size sequential-art anthologies Creepy and Eerie, brings to the title a fine development of scary characters and conspiracy-rich subplots that will make readers forget they are perusing a superhero book.

The issues, conveniently packaged in three separate trade paperbacks, "Return of the Monster" ($12.99), "Boiling Point" ($8.99) and "Transfer of Power" ($12.99), feature three artist contributions that consistently spend more time highlighting the weight problems of Bruce Banner and less time displaying his pea-green-colored powerhouse.

As the story arc begins, readers learn that the Hulk has been accused of killing a child during a Chicago temper tantrum and that his mild-mannered alter ego is on the run. This leads to the malnutritioned scientist hitting the road in "Fugitive" style, and it reminded me a lot of the 1970s "The Incredible Hulk" television show starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno except incredibly more violent.

Bruce's journey takes him from Illinois to Kansas to Colorado as he has run-ins with unusual bounty hunters and a hostage negotiator who has lost her nerve, a reunion with Doc Samson and an introduction to the gamma-steroid-fueled bad guy named Special Agent Pratt who wants the blood and body of the Hulk for diabolical research no matter whom he kills or destroys along the way.

Relying on contact via e-mail by the mysterious Mr. Blue and mass media outlets, the tortured Banner ducks death and even manages to develop an X-File relationship with one Sandra Verdugo, who harbors many a secret and doesn't know how to die.

He eventually gets himself out of the murder rap in a showdown with the Hulkified Pratt and finds himself at the end of a bullet for all of his trouble.

Overall, Mr. Jones' plot remains compelling throughout, but the artwork is a mixed bag through the three trade paperbacks.

"Return of the Hulk" provides six issues of the illustrative style of John Romita Jr., whose work, especially in facial detail, always seems unfinished to me, and that I could do without.

The trio of issues contained in "Boiling Point" present the much more palatable stylings of Lee Weeks, while the six issues of "Transfer of Power" create an artistic tour-de-force brought together by Stuart Immonen that matches the writer's intensity with a moody and nightmarish style.

Bottom-line rhyme: Bruce Banner gets a new writer to chronicle his "it ain't easy to be green" woes, and Bruce Jones doesn't disappoint through some very chilling prose. …