Friday, June 27, 2008

World War Hulk #3 When: October 2007
Why: Greg Pak How: John Romita Jr

The Story So Far...
After an emotionally unstable Scarlet Witch unleashes her powers in an event that threatens reality, and tears Earth's mightiest heroes apart; a secret sect of superhero powers dubbed, The Illuminati, are forced to reconsider the potential threats they harbor within their own number.

Recognising the erratic rampages of the Hulk as a longstanding and overlooked threat on their back porch, the group, though morally divided, conspire to lure the jade giant into a craft that will rocket him into deep space. Their message is one of peace, but for the Hulk, it is the beginning of a dark period in his existence.

After crash landing on the planet Sakaar, the Hulk becomes a gladiatorial warrior amidst an ethnically diverse alien community. He rises through the combative ranks and recovers from his initial wounds to become the new ruler of Sakaar, leading a rebellion by might. As King, Hulk would find love and sire an heir to his throne, but his happiness would sour when the ship that brought him to Sakaar detonates in an explosion that kills thousands, and sets off an environmental chain of events that would destroy the planet.

Rallying the survivors, the Hulk leads his Warbound to Earth where he seeks revenge against Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Dr. Strange, and the other heroes he believes responsible for the carnage. Hulk gives the innocent time to clear, and swiftly takes Manhattan, leaving the military no choice to turn their weapons to New York City.

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: John Romita JrARTWORK: John Romita JrStrength: Hulk 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: General T. Ross 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Hulk 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Hulk 6 (Generator)
Agility: Hulk 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy Power: General T. Ross 4 (Arsenal)

- In his career as a life-long military man, General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross's defining moment would come as head of the Gamma Bomb Project, designed to test and develop a new radioactive weapon for the United States.

Sabotage during the testing phase of the project would result in the mass exposure of one of the scientists working on the project, Dr. Bruce Banner. The accident would radically alter Banner's genetic composition, giving birth to the rampaging behemoth that would become Thunderbolt Ross' green whale; the incredible Hulk.

The Hulk's constant ability to overcome and escape military opposition has earned Thunderbolt Ross his share of disgraces. In the pursuit of his foe, Ross has held memberships with SHIELD, Hulkbusters, and even allied himself briefly with the gamma irradiated villain, the Leader, which would eventually result in his dishonorable discharge for treason. Even so, General Ross prevails in parallel to his violent counterpart, always ready to step into battle with the Hulk.

- Dr. Robert Bruce Banner, a slight and insignificant scientist, lives slavishly dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, as funded by the United States military.
Though Banner justifies his goals as means for peace, he becomes one of America's leading weapons designers after inventing a gamma radiation bomb.

During preperations for a test launch in the desert, Dr. Banner spots a reckless youth on the testing ground, and in a moment of magnificence, knowingly throws himself on a bullet that would grant a far crueller fate than death.
Bitterly aware of the Communist conspiracy of his fellow scientist, Banner struggles to usher he and the boy to safety while his colleague continues to countdown the launch.

After succumbing to an ordinarily lethal doses of gamma radiation, Dr. Banner soon finds himself undergoing a horrific transformation. Originally by night, but soon triggered by rage or unease, Banner discovers the superhumanly strong alter-ego within himself, dubbed simply - the Hulk! As the Hulk, Banner's brilliance is reduced to a childlike lumbering, while his slight frame conversely comes to possess size, strength, and durability never before imagined.

Hulk has no specific known weaknesses, but is fiercely protective of the few who earn his favour. Though generally good hearted, Hulk is prone to wild rages and varied personalities, including the calculating persona adopted during his time on the planet Sakaar, where he adopts a military savvy.

The Math: Hulk Ranking: Hulk (#5)

What Went Down...
With Mr. Fantastic and Black Bolt among the many heroes already felled; General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross takes grim responsibility for taking down an opponent he has watched through many revolutions. For Ross; World War Hulk is the event he has spent decades attempting to avert, and anticipated as leaders have continued to pardon the Hulk at his changing whims.

A rain of missiles fired from attack copters signal the military's entry into the skirmish. In the middle of a ruined Manhattan street, the Hulk does not see the attack coming. It does not seem to matter much.

The spray of munitions leaves the Hulk bathed in his own blood, but the raging warrior remains unmoved by the military forces. With a defiant leap, Hulk launches himself at one of the passing choppers, using the power of his bulging muscles to crush the machine in a mid-air bearhug!

Hulk's mid-air attack is cut-short as the jade giant suddenly stops.
Watching on, General Ross and his men are unaware of the struggle beginning within the Hulk, as Dr. Strange makes his astral presence felt in the battle. [That, however, is a battle for another day, folks!]

Having plummeted to Earth in a trance state, Hulk experiences an out-of-body experience within his own mind, courtesy of Strange. The Warbound are forced to protect their fearless leader, forming a protective phalanx around him, until he emerges once more with the bile of vengeance on his breath!

The behemoth throws himself into the heart of the battle, this time turning his destructive attentions to the earthbound machines of war used by the military. Like so many times before, Hulk effortlessly bends the metals of their tanks, turning their weapons against them in the most barbaric of ways.

A tank canon quickly becomes a giant-sized club for the rampaging Hulk, who smashes through three tanks, before launching the barrel as a missile that destroys a hovering chopper.

Soldiers move in bravely to face the Hulk at the frontline, but their bullets do little to phase the target. With a simple clap of his mighty hands, the Hulk sends a shockwave that fells the entire platoon of puny humans.

Renewed fire from the above suddenly pours down upon the Hulk as General Ross personally interjects from a mounted gun turret aboard his helecopter. Like all other weapons used in the skirmish, it proves ineffective in stopping the Hulk, who once again uses his powerful limbs to leap skyward.

Ross meets his arch-nemesis without fear, drawing a pistol as they both tumble at the whim of gravity. With nothing but animosity for the Hulk; Ross unloads his entire clip point blank into Hulk's eye, declaring the infinite scope of a military dedicated to rising again and again in pursuit of Hulk's death.

They fall, and fall, until they hit the ground.
What happens during impact is unclear, but against all odds, Thunderbolt Ross survives. An act of fate, or perhaps a mercy from an incredible Hulk who, despite his volitile nature, remains a force for good.

Bruised and beaten, Ross joins the Warbound's prisoners in the gladiatorial arena of Madison Square Garden. World War Hulk continues...

The Hammer...
Better late than never!
As is plainly evident, Hulk walks away with yet another comprehensive victory against the establishment, after dismantling the toy soldiers of the US Military!

Much like the feature film that debuted in June; it probably helps to know you aren't in for a complex psychological analysis when you approach World War Hulk. That, however, as previously noted [World War Hulk #5], is not to say that there aren't some interesting underlying elements beneath all the smashing, bashing, and destruction of New York City!

For many fans, it's Sam Elliot's performance as General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross that provides the resounding voice of approval for Ang Lee's otherwise maligned feature film, Hulk. With that in mind, it was always going to be a point of comparison when William Hurt stepped into the role for the detached 'sequel.'

One finds many cues from Elliot's Ross in the pages of World War Hulk, which I find quite interesting. It's here on the page that we're explicitly reminded of the distance put between Ang Lee's version of Thunderbolt Ross, and what we knew from the source material. Like so many others, Elliot's Ross marks one of the few examples where license taken might be more favourable than the original version of a character.

The iconography of a starchy moustache and militant dedication to destroying the Hulk remain much the same, but it's Elliot's physicality that brings new life to the role. Traditionally a bellowing, pudgy General in the comics; Elliot's Ross becomes far more present in every battle, despite rarely engaging the Hulk personally. I'm inclined to think to Frank Miller's intentions as he describes them for Jim Gordon in Batman: Year One. It's his notion of making Gordon Captain, rather than commissioner, to give the illusion that he was fighting on the frontlines as much as Batman, that helps infuse the relationship between supporting and lead with a sense of tangibility and importance.

While Ross' role is of antagonist, I feel the same can be said for making him a physical presence as a commanding officer. It not only places Ross stylistically in range of action pieces, but also alludes to a more even footing in the arch-rivalry between two very big, but very different, characters.

William Hurt reverts the character back to less involved roots.
Perhaps as is in the inclination of the actor, he appears to approach the role with a characteristic distance that only further emphasises the differences between his, and the far more involved Sam Elliot version of the character.

Hurt ultimately takes this more traditional role in an effort to facilitate the graduation of Emil Blonsky from soldier, to Hulk's sinister gamma-irradiated counterpart, Abomination. In this respect, it's easy to forgive the structural shift in the Thunderbolt Ross character, but that can't change personal preference.

Inspite of the endless cycle of reptition, I still kinda like Thunderbolt Ross.
[Greg] Pak deserves credit here for painting one of the most pragmatic and agreeable versions of the Ross character in years. As is the case across the entire series, he fleshes out the superhero-fight vehicle by investing in the [not-so] subtlties of the characters. His Ross becomes less arbitrary than previous versions that provide abstractions of establishmentarian figures and sentiments of brainless war mongers -- instead embodying a damned soul who sees what we, the reader, do not.

For a book like this, Pak rather cleverly references the tumultuous history of the Hulk, recalling his shifting roles as hero and villain, and the concessions that have had to be made to allow that. For those of us who still indulge in the heroic qualities of Hulk - perhaps even now in Jeph Loeb's post-WWH romp - Pak's Ross is the counter balancing realist. He sees the constant threat the Hulk has represented (and fulfilled) over the decades, and manages to remain unmoved by incidental, or trinket, efforts to the contrary.

Unfortunately changing whims, and the luxuries afforded to 'superstar' creative teams, mean this Ross has quickly been undermined by certain qualities in the recent Red Hulk series. As with the film, I'm pretty willing to forgive these shifting tones, but again, they do little to change my personal preference.

As Warren Ellis jetisons from his run on Thunderbolts - one can't help but see potential for the post-Norman Osborn team! It was the Baron Zemo-led team who got their start antagonising Hulk in their first appearance [Incredible Hulk #449], and despite a lasting association with the green goliath, the team has remained unassociated with General Ross against all odds! Could it be time for a promotion for the former overseer of the Hulkbusters?...

I've said nothing of Romita Jr's pencils which are at their bombastic best here, fully indulged with sweeping splash in a series with an explicit premise. Those like me who are typically not fans of Romita's excessive use of lines might find the grimey destruction of New York a welcome justification for the dirty style. Ultimately, love it or not, you have to acknowledge a certain skill for the entertainment quality of JRjr's work here. Together with Pak's underrated effort to elaborate on the smash fest, the team are quite successful!

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 5

Enjoyed Edward Norton and the CG troop in "Incredible Hulk"? Tittilated by the prospects of a Hulk/Iron Man showdown? Want to know more about Hulk's mindless rampages through the Marvel Universe? If you've been unconvinced until now, hopefully the Infinite Wars has helped sway your decision. By using Amazon purchasing links provided, you help sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars! Which is good for everyone! Except puny humans who hurt Hulk... What won't hurt are the low prices you'll find on World War Hulk, and all other titles reviewed and available in the Infinite Wars Amazonian Gift Shoppe! Hulk is cheapest one there is!!! Grrr!

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