Now that “Starship Hulk” has made its escape, the beast is hurtling between dimensions. Bruce Banner’s ultimate goal has yet to be revealed, but one thing’s for sure: Hulk is the strongest there is, no matter the universe.
The opening scene of this issue is truly unhinged, in the funniest possible way. As Hulk drifts silently through the slipstream, he’s unknowingly confronted by a coalition of multiversal protectors. The results are devastatingly gross and hilarious, quickly cutting off what many books would treat as the A-plot and reducing these heroes to little more than a punchline. It’s the perfect encapsulation of the anarchic “throw everything at the wall” spirit of this new era of Hulk.
The action scenes that follow are also a good bit of violent fun, showing once again what the Hulk is capable of when he’s let off his leash. As it turns out, even some of the most famous monsters in the Marvel universe (or at least, mental projections of them) are no match for the green Goliath, who makes short messy work of them. This leads to Banner calling out the big guns, resulting in an unexpected cameo that I won’t spoil here. Suffice to say, Ryan Ottley gets to do a bit of a John Romita, Sr. riff here, while Donny Cates sneaks in a pretty funny line clowning on an old Marvel Comics naming tradition.
However, while these fights are fun, they’re also the main meat on the bones of this issue. After sequences just like these took up so much real estate in the first issue, it does feel like the series is already repeating itself a bit. This issue seems to serve the purpose of reiterating some of how the Hulk’s “engine room” functions, but the brief scenes outside of this fight offer very little in the way of context.
It’s still unclear to the reader why Banner is on this mission through the multiverse or why he has Betty Ross as a kind of devil on his shoulder. It makes sense that the creative team wants to tease these revelations out for a bit, but the unfortunate result is that this issue feels like it’s stalling for time.
The fights are well-done, but — aside from an extremely funny opening scene and an intriguing final page — it’s difficult to grab onto anything around them at this point. The groundwork that Donny Cates and Ryan Ottley are laying for this cosmic odyssey is intriguing, but this series still hasn’t established what (if anything) is at stake here, and so the set pieces end up feeling hollow, regardless of how wacky and violent they may be. And yet, I’ve been thinking about the ending of this issue for a few days; there’s clearly a long game at play. I’m still on board for wherever this spacebound monster takes me next.
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