Thursday, April 10, 2008

Marvel Adventures Hulk #10

This month's Marvel Adventures Hulk doesn't beat around the bush – on the first page, the Hulk is facing off with Juggernaut at the edge of a cliff. By the middle of this issue, you'll find yourself wishing the mutant menace had just gone ahead and hurled Hulky over the edge, because the story goes into a straight free-fall almost immediately.

Paul Benjamin's writing is blunt and often dull. I didn't care for him the last time I reviewed an issue of MA: Hulk, and although this one is a good deal better than the last, it's still a far cry from anything I'd recommend to my friends. Benjamin sets the story in an interesting locale - the dank, unexplored jungles of Korea – but his writing is still full of holes. He frequently feels the need to remind the reader that Banner = Hulk and Hulk = Banner, most notably through the repeated use of a Hulk-themed narration that runs throughout Bruce's scenes. Maybe once or twice it would've been cute, (probably not, but hey, maybe) but the gimmick runs throughout the issue. It doesn't add anything to the story beyond the constant reminder that this is a Hulk book, and it's flat-out annoying. If it were a dialog box on my laptop, I'd click "don't show me this again."

His characterizations are almost universally weak and obnoxious, too. I realize that Benjamin is trying to get me to identify with the "everyman" Rick Jones character when he bemoans the lack of American Idol in an underdeveloped village or celebrates "pwning" the Juggernaut, but that only makes me want to see the Hulk step on his throat. His take on Caine Marko is one-dimensional and overplayed, slapping around villagers and monkeys alike in a vain attempt to look like a badass. Even his Bruce Banner is uninspiring, constantly worrying that the slightest jolt will turn him green and never really doing anything all that brainy. I know Banner is meant to be kind of a pussy, a direct contrast to the mindless physicality of the Hulk, but the guy has to have more on his mind than "OMG – Hulk time?!?" all day long.

Steve Scott's artwork is serviceable, although I have to wonder about his assignment on the Marvel Adventures line. His work is frequently moody, dark and mature, while the entire premise of this line is to provide a lighter, more welcoming atmosphere geared toward younger audiences. Normally, I'd be all about mixing and matching styles, trying new things in different places, but this is a poor pairing. His work is technically good, often reminiscent of Leinil Francis Yu, although not nearly as loose and sketchy. He makes the most of his opportunities to spotlight Caine Marko's intimidating physical presence when he's not wearing his Juggernaut armor, and his scene-setting backdrops are often downright gorgeous.

One thing that Scott's artwork doesn't do justice, surprisingly, is the Hulk himself. His Juggernaut is fairly pitiful too, while we're on the subject. When he's depicting Marko in his civvies, Banner with his glasses and a variety of Korean villagers, his work is fine. But once Caine dons that orange suit of armor and the Hulk is unleashed, the quality of his artwork goes right down the drain. How can you assign a guy to a Hulk story if his rendition of the green goliath is this bad?

This is rotten. Paul Benjamin may be revealing himself as one of my least favorite current writers, and this issue is all the evidence I need to justify that claim. Steve Scott's artwork can't save this story... skip it at all costs. This is the kind of story that could drive you to swear off of comics altogether.

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

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