Monday, June 9, 2008

Hulk: Raging Thunder

Crossover time! The time-traveling warrior Thundra is back, and her most recent leap through time and space has dropped her right into the middle of a heavy-duty throwdown between the US military and a rampaging Hulk. So what happens when the mightiest warrior of the twenty-third century faces off with the unbreakable green-skinned monster of today? Well, that's what we're here to find out.

Writer Jeff Parker may have been asked to tell too specific of a story here, and the end result is a slow-moving story that promises the world with its narration but delivers on very little. Although he's meant to be reintroducing Thundra to regular continuity, Parker doesn't do much to modernize the character... it's like he's been given a paint-by-the-numbers set and gone out of his way to stay precisely inside of the lines. She's a noble warrior, going out of her way to help her comrades even at great personal loss, but I've seen that a dozen times before and it's not really enough to excite me any more. The Hulk, likewise, is treated with kid gloves throughout the issue, and shows the reader nothing out of the ordinary. This is such a generic take on the character that if it weren't for the modern technology he's faced with, I couldn't tell you whether this was set in the present day or the 1970s. Hulk meets military, hulk destroys a few tanks, military flees, commence crossover. Yikes.

Parker spends so much time introducing the characters and repeatedly comparing them to each other that the issue is halfway over before the two even lay eyes on one another. But then, sadly, when they do, the end result made me yearn for the empty, repetitive storytelling that preceded it. There's an interesting story to be told with Thundra, about how her time, with its central battle between man and woman, was shaped by the sexism of our current era. Jeff Parker just isn't the man to tell it. His heavy-handed approach and relentless narration beats readers over the head with the concept until it loses all meaning.

Mitch Breitweiser's artistic contributions follow that same path. His work is hollow, rigid and hard on the eyes. His characters lack personality and enthusiasm; his splash pages rob the story of its already-infrequent moments of impact and importance. This is a genuinely ugly book, cover to cover. Breitweiser's inconsistencies are blatant and repeated, and his action scenes are stiff, unimaginative and tough to follow. I'd recommend you avoid it based on the artwork alone, if the story weren't every bit as bad.

For the sake of relevance, this issue is backed up by a classic Thundra tale from an old issue of Fantastic Four, evidently to remind readers of who she actually is. Don't be fooled by the appearance of a double-sized one-shot, because this is twenty three pages of original story and a reprint that's about thirty years old. It's probably a cool flashback for any old-timey fans of the character, but to me it seems like a cheap way to add to the cover price without developing additional content.

Something is rotten in Denmark, and its name is Hulk: Raging Thunder. There's no reason for this book to exist, save the obvious reintroduction of an old face to modern times. It's written poorly, illustrated poorly and conceived poorly. Skip it unless you need to punish someone for a heinous act... and even that might be considered cruel and unusual.

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

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