A step up for the series, even if it feels nothing like the issues that came before it.
The latest issue of Hulk is here and Jen’s determined to save the day when a huge, hulking (get it?) problem lands at her feet.
While I have been down Hulk (soon to be She-Hulk come Legacy), I’m happy to report the latest issue is a marked improvement and step in the right direction for the series. This is a much more straightforward tale, focusing on Jennifer as she tries to find out what happened during the livestream of her favorite online show. We see her investigate the incident, balancing it between scenes with the camera crew and their plans, and how Oliver, the victim, is dealing with the chaos after transforming into a monster. The story as a whole felt far more focused–the storytelling was much smoother and it felt less like a collection of random scenes. Everything serves a purpose and goes on long enough without overstaying its welcome (except for the stuff with Steve).
There are improvements with the characters as well. Jennifer Walters got to shine a lot here, showing her intelligence and investigative skills as she tries to figure out what happened. We haven’t really seen at all in the series, so it’s nice to see Jen’s competent lawyer side shown. However, her internal struggles that have been the focus of this series so far were pretty much sidelined for most of this issue, only getting a mention about how she’s now fueled by rage at the end. Her assistant, while still coming across as a bit of a gay stereotype, helps contribute to the investigation and feels more like both a partner and character here. Oliver, our victim, is far more sympathetic as well, desperate to figure out what happened to him and worrying that he’ll lose complete control (if Jen didn’t feel more stable and in control of herself now, there might have been a good parallel here between the two). We understand him and hope to see him come out on top, which is better than before when he was a blank slate.
That would be sensible!
I find the biggest problem with the characterization is that the majority of the cast comes across as idiots. Oliver refusing to get help for his condition (if this drug is apparently known, you’d think the hospital would have some kind of treatment for this), Marla taking a photo of her infected hand and posting it online instead of getting help, Jen not warning Marla in the first place not to touch any of the green goop, and Steve’s plans to become internet famous all strike me as silly. This doesn’t ruin the comic by any means, but it was a flaw I picked up on.
The writing is a lot better overall, though. It isn’t always perfect and the story itself doesn’t feel as strongly tied to the series thematically, but the comic as a whole flowed better and felt solidly put together. The dialogue is solid and there are some powerful moments, like Jen’s inner monologue at the very end, though Steve going off about his plans can be so obnoxious that it’s hard to read. Thematically, the lessons and discussions regarding inner trauma and coming to accept them felt absent here. We’ve been told Jen is struggling a lot on the inside with containing her power and shifting into Hulk mode, but it never feels presented all that well. Plus, with the story rapidly pushing her into a state where she’s doing better, the central theme feels underutilized and glossed over to get her ready for Marvel Legacy. Still, the writing did improve here in the end.
Georges Duarte’s artwork feels like a step up as well. His art style still has that gritty, grimy look and tone, but it’s different here. The line work was smoother–cleaner, with less lines in people’s faces. The inking looked lighter as well. Due to this, the style feels more appropriate to the type of story the comic is trying to tell. Characters express more in their faces, and the monster aspect of the comic plays very well to Duarte’s skills. Now, there were still odd facial expressions, some stiff-looking art in scenes with motion, and tons of blank, featureless backgrounds, but the art did feel better. Matt Milla’s coloring had an odd habit of shifting color tones and styles throughout the comic, creating an inconsistent feel. The use of (I presume) Photoshop effects and graphics for certain items (like wood panels) were distracting at times. In the end, Duarte’s artwork had improved, but unfortunately, he’s already being replaced and changed out for a different artist for the remaining issues of this arc.
Is It Good?
Hulk #8 was an improvement over the last few issues, taking us down a more traditional and easy-to-follow route for the character. The writing, characterization, and even the art has improved on top of that. However, it largely ignores the themes of trauma and inner pain that have been the focus of the series so far. It feels like this issue isn’t even in the same series as the first arc. Still, maybe things will continue to improve as we get closer and closer to Marvel Legacy.