It’s time for the newest issue of the Hulk/She-Hulk series! Will our title character actually appear this time? Is it good?
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Nico Leon, Jeff Dekal
Publisher: Marvel Comics
It’s always complicated to talk about the Hulk series due to a lack of things happening within the comic. There’s lots of buildup and characterization (though constantly hitting the same points over and over), but very little forward momentum. The latest issue is a bit different in that things seem like they developed more, at least. For one, we finally learn more about this apartment complex and its tenants, indicating that they all seem to suffer from similar issues as Maise and have a control over this… thing that has been killing people. A good chunk of the comic is dedicated to establishing where Jennifer Walters was emotionally and mentally right after recovering from her coma in a flashback, which is a good thing. A big issue I had with the comic was that it didn’t establish or indicate why Jen was so worried about hulking out again, since we lacked proper context. With this flashback, it shows what we need to know and very effectively as well, indicating just how badly Jen was and still is hurting. So in a way, this is the big emotional climax of the story arc, learning how hurt and damaged everyone is and how they’ve been dealing with their situation. That is good and emotionally effective, especially when it comes to pushing the story forward.
That being said, the slow pacing and the monthly format of the story do not complement each other in the slightest. Hulk still moves at a very slow pace, taking its sweet time to go through the motions of establishing everyone’s state of mind. For a very character-driven tale about PTSD, even despite the character being used for it, this is probably the right pace to approach the story with. However, it absolutely fails on a monthly basis. The story rarely ever feels like it’s getting anywhere and with very little actually happening from month to month, especially with how it artificially pads a story out with giant panels that take up so much space on a page. This issue felt a lot better due to stronger characterization with Jen making a realization and us learning about the residents of the apartment, but it is frustratingly too slow. Like last issue, this comic ends just as it really picks up, grinding the story to a halt yet again. Add on the fact that She-Hulk has still not actually appeared in the comic, and the story just doesn’t feel like it works at all on a month to month basis. Again, we have seen Jen’s new Hulk form several times on the covers of the comic as well as in Civil War II. The six month buildup to the thing we already know and have seen before is just kind of silly at this point.
Once I get the paperwork done and my lawsuit against Hawkeye and you goes through, then I’ll be totally fine.
Tamaki handles the emotional aspect of the story very well here and when the dialogue or narration is not trying to be jokey, it is very effective. The flashback scene is incredibly powerful and packs a hell of a punch. The scene with Jen trying desperately to talk to the residents of the apartment about pain, and even the final bit of narration where our lead character finally accepts that things are not okay just works so well here. Issues arise when the comic tries to be funny, because it feels so incredibly awkward and forced. In a series that’s trying so hard to be taken seriously, the humor doesn’t work and goes against the tone constantly, like how the flashback transitions into Jen running for her life while her inner monologue is cracking jokes. Also, given what we learned about the apartment residents, the jokes at their expense in the last few issues now feels almost in poor taste. I understand what Tamaki is trying to do–liven dark situations with some humor–but the comedy is just not well implemented and feels completely out of place.
Lastly, we come to the artwork by Nico Lean and there’s very little to say at this point. The artist still does a great job when it comes to drawing characters, laying out the scenes, and capturing absolutely heartbreaking moments and making them feel so effective. For instance, it was almost a shame that there was narration or dialogue towards the end of the flashback. Sure, the artist contributes a lot to how padded out each pages feels due to an overuse of giant panels, but that’s a nitpick. The real problem with the artwork lies towards the end of the issue, during the action moments and when we finally see the monster that Maise has been “working with”. The monster looks absolutely goofy–flatly drawn, bloated, and it seems like it’s always yawning. The action looks very static and sometimes to depict movement, the artist uses what looks like a Photoshop blur tool. It’s not very interesting to look at and given what the next issue is setting up to be like, I’m worried about the quality of the art.
Is It Good?
Hulk #5 is an improvement over the last issue with much better plot and character development, but it still suffers from pacing and tonal issues. Plus, five issues in and the title character has still to appear despite being blatantly shown on every cover, making the comic seemed even more stretched out. Like I said last time, it is probably just best to wait until the trade comes out, because you are not getting your money’s worth at the series’ current rate.