Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Piotr Kowalski
This is one of the harder reviews I’ve written. The main reason this is so hard is because I’ve left the issue not hating and not loving, but genuinely not caring. There is no part of this issue that jumps out as me wanting to encourage anyone to read it, but if someone told me they did enjoy it I don’t have a strong enough negative inclination to fight them and call them “stupid” (because this is what’s supposed to happen on the internet). Honestly the best word I can give to describe this book is “apathy.”
This issue starts with at the ruins of the Louvre in Paris where two gamma irradiated men blew up which an amnesiac Banner survived. He is then kidnapped by an off-shoot of A.I.M. who is currently fighting A.I.M. They give him a super-soldier type drug to turn him into the Hulk but make him manageable to their will to help turn the fight in their favor. That is the entire plot of this issue. A little exposition and the introduction of pointless characters also occurred, similarly to the first issue.
I have no knowledge of Joe Keatinge or anything he has written in the past, but as I read this issue I kept feeling like he was failing miserably at channeling Warren Ellis. It felt like there were attempts at humor and ridiculousness like Agents of H.A.T.E. but after a down-to-Earth tone set at the introduction of the first issue I kept questioning if it was intentionally supposed to be humorous or if it was just really bad writing. And I think that was my major issue with this. I reread issue one to remember what had occurred right before I read issue two, and honestly it could have been two different writers handling each issue and I would’ve probably been more on board. The last Hulk story I really read was the end of Jason Aaron’s run called “Stay Angry” which was incredibly ridiculous and while not a classic I thought it was fun and enjoyable. I also loved Peter David’s masterful arc which had a much more serious tones. So I can accept either tone in a Hulk story, but the disjointed feeling between these two issues is enough to make me not care to continue reading. Also the language in this book (which I’m fine with cursing and have the mouth of a sailor anyways) feels forced to give the series an edge but isn’t really strong enough to actually make it edgy. It is kind of like when the f-bomb is dropped in a PG-13 movie and you’re offended, not by the word, but by some strange marketing ploy to use that word once just to get a PG-13 rating.
I understand that Marvel is using the Marvel Knights imprint this time around to give an indie feel to superhero stories, and with Spider-Man (which is Amazing!) and X-Men (not too awful) I get that feel especially in the art. With Piotr Kowalski, they’re just drawings. I’m not sure if it is because of how apathetic I feel about the story, but I’m as equally apathetic about the art. It isn’t bad, and given the right story I think I could very much enjoy his artwork. But it rides this weird line where it isn’t really indie enough for me to accept some of the sloppiness as style. I think the best way to compare his work is to Emma Rios (The Amazing Spider-Man, Osborn, and Pretty Deadly), who has a stylistically sloppiness that helps build and defines the worlds in which she is telling the story. Kowalski’s art doesn’t help define a world or define the story, and for the most part, if Keatinge is trying to be humorous, his art style doesn’t help get that point across.
I think it is pretty clear that I can’t recommend this book. It isn’t awful and it isn’t the worse issue out this week, but there are so many other great books out every week (beyond just Marvel) that I really recommend spending your $3.99 elsewhere. But if you like you Hulk books sans the Incredible Hulk, here you go.
Rating 2 out of 5