Sure, Marvel Comics has their summer event A.X.E.: Judgment Day, but they also have Hulk and Thor going one on one in their own mini-event called Banner of War to satiate action fans. Donny Cates and Martin Coccolo start the five-issue fight comics event this week with Hulk vs. Thor: Banner of War Alpha #1 spinning out of Cates’ Thor and Hulk runs. It’s an issue setting things up, but make no mistake, there is a lot of fighting too.
Cates does a lot of work in this opening issue to prepare readers for this battle. Not only does it exceptionally explain Hulk’s situation–which honestly has been confusing to some degree–but Thor’s as well. That makes this a great jumping-on point if you haven’t been reading either issue.
Thor and Hulk are both quite new to a few things, like Bruce Banner controlling Hulk like a starship and Thor’s father being trapped in Mjolnir. To set all that up, we also have Uatu enter the fray. Basically put, Cates makes it clear this fight is paramount to these characters’ lives because of where they’re at personally.
Coccolo does fantastic work with the action too. Let’s be honest, if you’re purchasing this comic you’re doing so because you want to see punching and smashing. Thankfully, you get that and more here. Cates and Coccolo also bring a bit of gore Hulk is known for which gives the horror fans some goodies to see too. As the preview shows, Thor and Hulk are fighting in some kind of cartoon world early on and Thor commands Sif to whisk them off to somewhere no one can get hurt. That explains the gladiatorial element of the series.
The art by Coccolo, backed up by color artist Matt Wilson, has a clean line with good textures and shadows. You see the hashed lines in Hulk’s skin, or in a cloud here or there that adds a bit of volume to things. Coccolo also has a manga style in some respects with speed lines and art that is in-your-face. Wilson’s colors are super bright throughout, giving the book a Marvel Studios cosmic feel. Lighting is always on point as well, be it inside Bruce Banner’s red control center or the light gleaming above our heroes.
It’s too early to tell why this story needs to exist, though. The cliffhanger may give a hint or two, but aside from having fights–which is perfectly fine–there isn’t a lot here. One might imagine Cates is using both of the characters he’s writing at Marvel to make them grow and learn something from each other, but they’re also not dealing with very similar issues. We do see in the preview they are being ordered around by voices in their head, but the scenarios are very different from each other. How these characters might connect remains to be seen, but they certainly can’t just be punching each other for 100 pages.
Hulk vs. Thor: Banner of War Alpha #1 is a well-drawn action comic that will satiate fight comic fans. It also does an exceptional job explaining the complicated backstory that has led Thor and Hulk here. For that alone, it’s worth the price of admission.
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