And we reach the fourth issue of the new Hulk/She-Hulk book with no sign of the title character all muscled-up and ready to smash. Will this issue change things? Is it good?
Hulk #4 (Marvel Comics)
Do you recall what I said in my last review of the book? It was basically that the writer was taking a very slow and deliberate pace with this story, wanting to handle the subject matter of PTSD or the issues that one experiences with the loss of a family member or being knocked into a coma. That remains very much true here, but to a lesser extent. Writer Mariko Tamaki is, at this point, just repeating the same idea over and over into the story, saying how this is incredibly difficult for people and everyone reacts in their own way. Some people can try to rise above it and fail, while some just can’t even get started on the road to recovery. It’s a very thoughtful approach, but we’ve heard this repeated over and over. It only gets truly interesting towards the end of the book when Jennifer finally talks to Maise after learning everything about her and talks about her own troubles with her. That’s when it feels a bit new and fresh, giving us another angle to look at the situation that Jennifer experienced (along with flashbacks). It is a scene that was much needed, especially with the story spinning in circles.
Speaking of which, the other thing I mentioned in my last review was how drawn out and poorly paced it was. That’s unfortunately still true here, to a big degree, and it’s starting to wear the story down. Checking, there are about 20 pages of actual comic and story doesn’t go anywhere until around the 14 page mark when Jen and Maise talk. The rest of the book just repeats the same points from the last issues over and over again, saying nothing new and adding nothing to characters. Nothing really happens either until then and one page is wasted on a very out of place comedy bit about drop-in alien client and her breaking an expensive chair. Six pages are just on Jennifer slowly getting up to Maise’s apartment to talk with her as well, which was not remotely needed at all. There are basically five pages of story and character in the entire issue and they’re all at the end. This is easily one of the most egregious, poorly paced, and terrible use of page space in a monthly comic that I’ve seen in a while. Tamaki has a limited amount of comic pages to tell a story that costs readers four bucks a pop each month and she’s not remotely making the most of what she has, not giving the readers enough substance to justify any of this. This feels like a graphic novel poorly cut up and reedited into a monthly book.
You tease me with Banner Wing, but you never show it comic! Why do you toy with my heart?!
The writing is also starting to come apart here because of this approach. Neither the pacing or the storytelling are very good. While appropriate for the type of story the writer is trying to tell, it’s causing each individual issue to lack value. There’s not a lot of characterization beyond Jen and Maise being tragic figures held back by guilt, which has been repeated constantly at this point with very few new angles. The dialogue can be good, but that’s not often the case. The interaction between Jen and Maise is the best part of the book due to the strong dialogue, showing the tragedy of both of their situations. When the dialogue tries to be witty humorous, however, it doesn’t fit. It’s rather awkward, feels incredibly out of place at times, and too forceful with interjecting humor (the final two pages are especially bad) into this kind of story. It doesn’t lighten the mood at all, which is what I think it is trying to do.
And there’s the artwork by Nico Lean, which is still the strongest part of the series. Lean does a solid job of drawing the characters, conveying their emotions through their expressions and body language like in previous volumes. The layouts are constructed well, there’s a good sense of motion as the story moves from panel to panel, and there’s a decent amount of detail in the backgrounds and locations to make them more real. However, like the last issue, the artwork really does not save the book much due to the writer not taking advantage of Lean’s skills. Everything feels so quiet and there’s very little going on until the very end, so it doesn’t really make the most out of the artist’s skills. I’m hoping with the action picking up next time that things turn around.
Is It Good?
Hulk #4 is where my patience has run dry. While what Tamaki is trying to do with the story is noble and thoughtful, it’s approaching way too slow territory. The story is painfully plodding and decompressed, constantly hammering in the same point it has made several times over, and really does not accomplish anything until the very end of the comic. This is a story that suffers in a monthly format by being overly drawn out and padded, when it could easily work better in a number of different formats. For the time being, Hulk is not worth checking out until the first trade arrives.