Friday, January 23, 2009

HULK versus RULK
Blood Red (Marvel)
Hulk #6 When: November 2008
Why: Jeph Loeb How: Ed McGuinness

The Story So Far...
Investigation into the shooting-murder of gamma-irradiated Russian superhuman, Abomination, reveals an unexpected twist: a gun-toting assasin dubbed, Red Hulk!

The powerhouses of the Marvel Universe are drawn into battle as the Red Hulk continues his murderous rampage across the globe! Having defeated regular Hulk grapplers; Iron Man and She-Hulk; the Red Hulk inevitabily comes face-to-face with the original when his battle with a newly transformed Rick Jones, aka; A-Bomb, frees Bruce Banner from a military cell.

In a clash that threatens to destroy San Francisco via the resulting earthquakes, the two Hulks clash in an epic, gamma fuelled showdown.
Shockingly, "Rulk" proves the superior in every respect, over powering and out-fighting his predecessor with bone-shattering results! Fortunately for the city by the bay, the battle attracts the attentions of the Norse god of thunder, Thor! However, even the endless gulf of space fails to contain the fury of Rulk, who defeats and escapes Thor, making an uncontrolled descent to Earth! If Rulk survives his fall back to Earth, the Hulk will be waiting...

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Rulk 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Hulk 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting Ability: Hulk 6 (Warrior)
Energy Power: Rulk 3 (Explosives)

- 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, particularly provoked by any challenge to the identity of his persona, particularly where matters of his physical dominance are concerned. This provocation comes to the fore when he encounters his red counterpart, "Rulk," with whom he shares an immediate hatred. Hulk is able to sense Rulk at a great distance, detecting his unique gamma radiation.

- The creature known as "Rulk" remains a mystery to the heroes he bedevilled in his early appearances, but his true identity is known to a select few, namely those who helped create him in secret -- Thunderbolt Ross and Doc Samson.

Created into a world that had already survived an intelligent Hulk's declaration of war, and successfully imprisoned a powerless Bruce Banner; Rulk made his debut not battling against the green goliath he was designed to oppose, but rather, in Russia, where he used advanced weaponry to kill Hulk's nemesis, Abomination.
This activity brought Rulk's existence to the attentions of many interested parties, including then-Director of SHIELD, Tony Stark. The Red Hulk subsequently rampaged through Wendigo, Stark's SHIELD Helicarrier, She-Hulk, and Stark himself in his Iron Man guise, before butting heads with A-Bomb (Rick Jones) in a clash that freed and revived Bruce Banner in a familiar child-like state, as Hulk.

Rulk possesses strength, speed, and endurance to rival any of Bruce Banner's transformations, minus any of the customary strength fluctuations associated. Instead, Rulk's rages trigger an increased emission of radiation, and intense heat. Red Hulk also differs in maintaining a cunning intelligence, and combat training, complimentary to his aggressive and sadistic manner.

Math: Draw Ranking: Hulk (#5)

What Went Down...
Emerging from the massive crater caused by his landing, Rulk finds the Hulk waiting eagerly for a rematch. Despite getting the jump on his Red nemesis, Hulk finds the tables quickly turned, having his chokehold countered with a kangaroo-esque dropkick!

Hulk resists his opponent's following advances, declaring his intent with a straight shot to the face and a short uppercut. His simplistic babblings reveal a desire for vengeance, maybe even justice, as according to his own confused perspective. Alas, this grander goal fails to save him from the Red Hulk's persistent bullying.

Rulk brings his massive hands colliding together with Hulk's skull sandwiched between. The devestating blow stuns the green goliath, leaving him wide open to a crossing hook that punctuates Rulk's merciful offer to kill him quickly. It's a threat the raging Rulk might have followed through, if not for an interruption...

MJOLNOWND!!!Verily, bitches!
Returned from his defeat in space, the mighty Thor lets his blessed hammer, Mjolnir, do the talking for him. With the hammer's enchantments restored by the weight of Earth's gravity, Thor unleashes his full fury upon the Red Hulk, launching an attack with unforgiving blows to the jaw and knee!

A-Bomb, the gamma-mutated Rick Jones, arrives on the scene while Hulk recovers from the blows he already suffered. Watching Thor collide with his newest nemesis, the Hulk declares himself the only one who can beat his crimson doppelganger. It is unclear if his inflection is of capability, or right.

As he so often has throughout his partnership with Bruce Banner/Hulk, Rick Jones provides vital clarity to the jade giant, providing him with a course of deduction that inspires in the simpleton, a strategy!

Hulk launches himself between Thor and Red Hulk, tackling his dark mirror amidst a field of crackling lightning. A-Bomb stays the thunder god's hammer, explaining to him the necessity for Hulk to overcome this challenge alone. Thor reluctantly steps aside, allowing Hulk a final chance at personal redemption.

STOP! HITTING! YOURSELF!Having, by his own admission, nearly suffered defeat by Thor's hand, the Red Hulk rallys to once again get the better of his opponent. Rulk delivers a verbal spray, mocking Hulk's inability to strategize in battle, while pounding away at his mid-section with two devestating body blows!

Rulk smoulders a little more with each blow as he unleashes a storm of punches and rage, his irradiated body converting both into radioactive heat. As his body reaches breaking point, the Red Hulk learns a harsh lesson in Hulk's cunning.

Dazed by the build up of heat, Rulk throws a final punch that puts him on the ropes. With that, an enraged and empowered Hulk unleashes the entirety of his strength on an exhausted Rulk that sends the villain hurtling through the air as a result of one single knock-out punch!

Green Hulk is strongest one there is.

The Hammer...
Supplying the vital assist is Thor and A-Bomb, but I give you the last man standing -- Hulk!

As you might've noticed from the post-date, we're continuing our overdue look back on the characters that finished 2008 on top, here on the Infinite Wars. In an effort to speed the process up, we won't be featuring the entire top ten as originally planned.

It's very fitting that we managed to stay on target with the Hulk however, as he's currently starring in Marvel's direct-to-video animated double feature, Hulk Versus. It seems very unlikely that anyone would not know, by now, that the shorts bring Hulk into fully animated battles with two of his classic sparring partners -- Wolverine and Thor.

A site like ours is uniquely primed to appreciate the simplicity of a project like Vs, but the beauty is in the story that goes much farther than a simple case of superhero smackdown. This is where Hulk Vs outshines it's most recent comics counterpart, launched in 2008 with Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness.

Anyone tracking the weekly shipping lists would've seen our excitement for the new series turn quickly to dismay. Hulk has meandered from month-to-month, serving little plot to accompany it's chain of headlining superhero match-ups.
As already mentioned, we are somewhat uniquely skewed to appreciate a series dedicated to the exploits of warring superpowers, but even the Comic Book Fight Club demands more of a story - and battle - than an endless parade of foes.

The greatest crime committed by Loeb is arguably the detachment of the series from events that recently occurred in the Greg Pak event-epic, World War Hulk.
Despite being presented as a similar action-adventure to the current line-up; World War Hulk actually managed to invest in the relationships of characters, exploring aspects that could have potentially redefined the basic landscape of the Hulk universe upon the hero's return from space (Planet Hulk).

More frustrations come from one of the few plot points explored in the series, the secret identity of a new "Red Hulk." Rulk, as he has come to be known, remains obscured from readers, despite promises that by this sixth issue, the truth would be known. Writer Jeph Loeb claims enough information was revealed to make assumptions, but a year later, the series still makes very little effort to come clean with the identity of it's character. This isn't necessarily an inherent problem, but given the series' reliance upon this mystery as it's core story, readers are more than entitled to feel frustrated.

I could not rightly described "Hulk" as a good comic.
Having had a few tastes over the Christmas break, however, I do find myself reassessing because, as frustrating as the construction of the series might be, it isn't necessarily a bad comic, either...

Despite clashing with some of Marvel's most iconic heroes, the entirety of Rulk's contribution lies within the pages of Hulk issues, touching the Marvel Universe in only imaginative ways. Rulk appears curiously comparable to Loeb's 2002 DC creation, Hush, in that they have both been shallow creations bound almost exclusively to the relevance of their initial stories. Not explicitly revealing Rulk's identity might even be a response to the volume of negativty expressed toward Hush's anti-climactic reveal, contrasting Loeb's use of ambiguity in more popular Batman tales, like The Long Halloween.

If I'd been reading all along, I imagine I'd still feel the negativity I had writing previous monthly release blurbs. With only a couple of tastes to go on, however, I find I'm enjoying what I read despite myself. Picking random issues to browse leaves little important information to be pondered, this is obviously a plodding comic of little longterm significance. I don't have all the pieces to try to draw my own conclusions about the status of Rulk's mystery identity, but I also don't feel that's really an interesting enough topic to rectify.

If you're an avid Infinite Wars reader, then you might find the positive.
Observing Marvel's past forty years of superheroes in a context comparable to an oversized fighting competition, we see Rulk in a different light.
He's the young raging bull, fixing to be a contender before any of us are ready to accept him. Part of me wants to go back and track the fights through every issue, just to capture Rulk's meteoric rise through the battling ranks of the Marvel Universe. That, for the time being, is where the value of the character lies.

Ed McGuinness is a joy to behold.
His bold, clean lines compliment the bulky giant-size aspects of Hulk and all of his current supporting characters. I'd be inclined to say he's honed his craft to surpass anything he could've achieved ten years ago, (ie; Deadpool #4).

Unfortunately, I would have to cast some doubt on Dexter Vines, whose inks don't seem to serve the artwork as well as others have. I find I prefer a very slick and confident black on McGuinness' work, but against some colour choices, the blacks look occasionally too heavy handed, and then a little bit liney.

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 4

Have an insatiable lust for combat? A morbid curiosity about the Red Hulk's identity? Get the whole story in one gut-busting block with the first trade, available soon! You'll find that, along with many other collections of varying quality, in the Infinite Wars Amazonian Gift Shoppe! By using purchase links provided on the site, you not only benefit from Amazon's service and prices, but also help sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars. Which means more fighting! Hey, speaking of which, why not pick-up "Hulk Vs" while you're at it, now on DVD!

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