Totally Awesome Hulk is a great series mostly in part because Greg Pak has managed to squeeze so much interesting character work out of it. Characters seemingly underwritten are now fleshed out and interesting. This week marks the latest trade paperback release from the series which in fact features other writers as it’s a hodgepodge of one-shot stories. Sounds like a good place to get a smattering of perspectives on the characters.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Weapons of Mutant Destruction explode in the face of the Totally Awesome Hulk! An incredible crossover begins as Amadeus Cho is hunted by Weapon X – the program behind deadly new soldiers targeting Sabretooth, Old Man Logan, Domino, Warpath and Lady Deathstrike! With deadly Adamantium cyborgs on the loose picking off seemingly unconnected targets, Amadeus must keep his wits about him to uncover the mystery behind Weapon X – but how can he maintain his cool against the most savage threats he’s ever faced? Meanwhile, the program’s scientists are closer than ever to perfecting Batch H…and when it wakes up, it’ll be as mad as hell!
Can I jump in easily?
Not really! This trade paperback is extra dicey for casual readers because it not only opens with a new arc and doesn’t complete it, but loops in a done-in-one tale with Moon Girl, has a Monsters Unleashed tie-in issue, the special Generations issue, and then ends with the next adventure currently taking place in the single issue format. All in all, this trade is all over the place, but (and it’s a big but) it does tell a universal story of Amadeus Cho losing control of the Hulk. Cue dramatic music.
Reason 1: Amadeus is not fine, guys!
Jay-Z makes it into this collection.
For the longest time, Greg Pak has been writing this character like he’s perfect. It’s true he Hulks out due to his pride which is a character defect, but he’s kept the Hulk in check and seems perfectly normal. This volume aims to show how that hasn’t been the case. Pak makes a strong point about how pride may not be as bad as anger, but it still stems from fear and weakness. The green monster inside him is well aware of that, which we get to see in a key scene that ends this volume, but also a hint at in the Monsters Unleashed tie-in (written by Bryan Hill) and again in the excellent Generations installment.
Reason 2: There’s great art throughout worth peeping.
This collection contains six issues of comics, all of which were drawn by different people. The art ranges from Robert Gill’s excellent hyper-detailed superhero-comics look to a bright and cartoony style from Natacha Bustos. Both are good, have their merits and pull off different things. Ty Templeton’s Monsters Unleashed tie-in issue has a clean Saturday morning cartoon look that suits the ego on Amadeus. Then later, Ricardo Lopez Ortiz drops a gritty style, anime like in its kinetic energy, that suits the monster madness and mind bending stuff going on. Matteo Buffagni’s Generations issue is also gritty, but more realistic looking which suits the deeper meaning of the story.
Reason 3: Collects a few oddball issues you wouldn’t find unless you dug through the single issue bins
Let’s face it, not every story fits into a six issue story arc that’ll one day be collected in a trade paperback. Some of the greatest comic book stories are those that are told in a single issue and this trade paperback has three of them! It is a bit odd the first issue in this book starts a story that is finished elsewhere and then the last issue in this book starts a new direction for the character (which will need to be read elsewhere) but that almost gives this book a bookended feel. Bravo, editors, for thinking that one up.
Two Hulks…at the same time!
Reasons to be wary?
As I said above, this book can be schizophrenic to say the least. It opens with a tale that weaves in Logan of all people, cuts to a Devil Dinosaur and Moon Girl Adventure, and then pops around some more after that. There is a singular thread of Amadeus losing control of the Hulk though admittedly that isn’t apparent in every chapter of this collection.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
If you give this book a chance you’re bound to enjoy yourself. The problem is, the narrative is wonky and jumps around and doesn’t follow a singular path. That could be a dealbreaker for anyone wanting a complete story, but if you’re interested in this version of the Hulk, each chapter within is worthy of your time.