Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Marvel Adventures: Hulk #7

This month's Marvel Adventures Hulk boasts appearances by a handful of characters who should be familiar to the Marvel faithful: the Silver Surfer and galactic threat Terrax, along with perennial sidekick Rick Jones. Of course, since the Marvel Adventures line is supposed to be about simple, out of continuity storytelling, this means there's a page or two wasted on explanations and introductions. Typically, those moments are where a book like this one lives and dies: if they're handled quickly and concisely, the story doesn't miss a beat. If the process goes on for a while and doesn't feel conversational, it's tough to get the tale back on track. This issue is closer to the former, although that doesn't mean it's all wine and roses.

Paul Benjamin's dialog is awful, almost a parody of Marvel's Silver Age comics. These characters are written as stereotypes, without motivation or personality. The good guys stand for everything righteous and true, and the villains are there to aimlessly thwart them. When the Hulk shouted, "With great power comes great smashability," I nearly choked on my drink. The unbelievable nature that brings all of the characters together in the first place only adds to the indignity.

I understand that this is ultimately a kid's book and there needs to be a certain degree of dumbing down to meet that audience, but that can be achieved without losing any characterization or turning back the clock to the dark ages. Hayao Miyazaki's films manage to appeal to a young audience without sacrificing any individuality or insulting older viewers, why should I expect any less from a Marvel Adventures title? This is so poorly written that I'd be embarrassed if anyone caught me reading it. It's everything that comics have been fighting to get away from for the last 20 years.

David Nakayama handles the issue's artistic chores, and has his moments. When he's at his most raw — quickly sketching a clean, notably under-detailed superhero — his work is at the very least interesting, slightly reminiscent of Phil Hester. Too frequently, however, he moves in for the kill with an abundance of linework, awkward angles and an uncertain grasp on the characters. The size of the Silver Surfer's board varies throughout the issue, as do the proportions of Terrax's face. His work has a few merits, but largely reminded me of something you'd see from a fan, not a paid professional. When he's on, he's almost average, but he's rarely on — and when he's off, it's by a mile.

On just a few glittering occasions, this issue shows promise. The resolution to the big conflict that drives the story is an original concept, but as always seems to be the case with this imprint, it's very light reading. Paul Benjamin's story sets its sights far too highly for the format, and as a result its conclusion carries no weight. Avoid this issue. Even if you're interested in getting a young friend involved with comics, there are far better stories to do it. Skip it and keep looking.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 2

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