Saturday, May 19, 2012

HULK SMASH AVENGERS #1, #2, & #3 – A Review

“It’s time to light the candles…” – all 42 of them.  Well, that was actually yesterday (still today for me as I write this beginning at 20:30 EST).  However, since it’s still technically my birthday I’ve set the timer for one hour and if I’m not finished writing this post by then…  It was a pretty memorable day, but I’ll spare you the play by play (including the pond burial service for Rocky the turtle).  I will say that I saw Dark Shadows last weekend and thought it was really good.  I considered talking about it at length, but I figured I’d keep the month-long (haven’t you noticed?) Avengers theme going instead.   One more important note before we begin…THE LORD OF THE RINGS LEGOS ARRIVE IN LEGO STORES ON MONDAY (MAY 21st) AND THEY’RE AVAILABLE FOR ORDER ONLINE RIGHT NOW!!!  I could just talk about that, but I’ve still got to atone for my last “Toy” post. J

HULK SMASH AVENGERS is a weekly five-issue mini-series that just past the half-way point this week.  Each issue is $2.99 (which is a nice break) and features a gorgeous Lee Weeks cover.  Weeks (who had an excellent run on Daredevil [that issue was fantastic this week] once upon a time is one of my favorite artists.  He’s also responsible for some really good Spider-Man mini-series and I think a Captain America one too.  Regrettably, he doesn’t handle any of the interior art on this title.  Instead, it’s a bit of a mix bag with rotating writers and artists for each issue telling an untold tale of the Hulk and his relationship with the Avengers over the past nearly 50 years.  One neat thing about Lee’s covers is that despite all the physical changes the Hulk has gone through over the decades, he illustrates him consistently with the same “look” on each one.

Issue one takes place in continuity (remember when that actually mattered?) between Volume 1 #7 and 14.  It’s by Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz with Sal Buscema handling the inks.  I was destined to love this chapter with the creators of Spider-Girl on board and seeing Sal on the Hulk again was pure joy.   The Avengers are trying to get the Hulk to rejoin the team (after he helped them against the Lava Men), but instead end of fighting him (surprise surprise) when he loosely teams up with Baron Zemo’s Masters of Evil.  It’s the great old-school action you’d expect for this team and the Hulk was making a good go at it until Zemo threatened Rick Jones.  I would have been happy if this team had been scheduled for the whole series, but alas they only had this one issue.

Issue two takes place in continuity immediately AFTER Volume 1 #181.  It erroneously says “prior to”, but I know that story very well and it only makes since AFTER Gyrich has picked the team’s roster.  It’s written by Joe Casey and illustrated by Max Fiumara with colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu.  One of the hard things for me with this creative team is that the style is SO different from the Byrne era issues of that time.  Call me crazy, but I’d like for my Untold Tales to actually fit in nicely with my back issues.  Still, if you take it by itself, the art is very moody and enjoyable with the coloring really bringing the book together.  There’s a good deal of time spent setting up the current state of affairs in the then Marvel Universe, but the basic plot has Gyrich send the team to subdue the Hulk (in hopes that they get their butts kicked for giving him so much grief), but here the battle ends peacefully with the Avengers leaving the Hulk alone.

Issue three takes place in continuity between Avengers Volume 1 #227 and 228 and Incredible Hulk Volume 1 #280 and 281.  This chapter is written by Roger Stern, who was the scripter of the Avengers at that time and illustrated by Karl Moline (penciler) and Jay Leisten (inker) with Beaulieu on board as colorist again.   The art reminds me a little of Stuart Immonen’s Superman work and serves the story adequately.  The framing sequence has two artists (based on the dedication meant to represent Mark Gruenwald and John Buscema) selling paintings outside Avengers mansion, arguing over the Hulk’s past history with the Avengers.  Meanwhile, we have Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) learning the ropes as an Avenger –in-training, when the recently amnestied and intelligent Hulk shows up to borrow a Quinjet (providing a long missing continuity piece in his series).  Of course there’s a misunderstanding and a short tussle (that’s the point of the series).  All in all a good chapter and I really liked the heavy continuity, except…

Yeah, you just knew there was going to be an “except” in there somewhere.  I can’t stand the sliding timescale reality bending continuity mal-forming updates that Jim mentioned briefly in a recent Monday post about the Samnee Daredevil issue.  In issue one, we have more modern army uniforms (or at least in the last ten years).  In issue two, we’ve got cell phones and EMP arrowheads.  In issue three (worst of all), we have some unnecessary dialogue between the Wasp and She-Hulk at a spa discussing the latest eligible bachelors like George Clooney and some other person I didn’t even know!  It reminded me of a Marvel Tales reprint of the Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 from the 80’s. In the original issue, Aunt May refers to The Beverly Hillbillies Show, but in the reprint she instead talks about the Dukes of Hazzard.  Now that was a pretty harmless switch and actually pretty compatible, but the point is WHY IS THIS NECESSARY?  Sure we have the sliding time scale, but unless you’re totally rewriting the origins (like Ultimate Spider-Man) if you ever wanted to read the referenced continuity issues (or reprinted trade or hardcover), then you’re stuck BACK in that time period anyway!  Like Jim, it totally takes me out of the story.  Instead, I’d like for them to keep it in the era that the original stories were set in and that includes fashion, technology, and jargon.  I’d really like for it to be written in the style of those stories too, but that’s too much to hope for I guess.

Uh oh, the timer just went off…Luckily I’m at the concluding paragraph anyway, so I think I can devote a few more minutes.  The next issue (on sale Wednesday) has the 90’s Mr. Fixit Hulk battling the West Coast Avengers.  I tried to find the writer, but the Marvel site didn’t say (that I could quickly see), but I hope they tapped Peter David to write it or someone else from that time period.  And the fifth issue?  It features the RED HULK!!!  I may not even get that one.  I guess that’s one drawback to the series; there is no real thread to bind the whole thing together.  It’s really just five stand-alone issues.  So, check out the ones you like and get those, but leave the rest.  For the ones I’ve read so far though, it’s a nice companion piece to my AvengersReading Initiative that I spotlighted last time.

That’s it for this week.  Looks like I’m going to see the Avengers for the fourth time today (tomorrow morning for me)! [21:46 EST -- done!]