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Don’t make me bored, you wouldn’t like me when I’m bored: Graeme doesn’t dig Hulk.

It’s probably sad to point out that HULK #1 marks the point where Jeph Loeb has started recycling Al Milgrom plots, but I am a man cursed with a long memory for off-periods of Marvel history. But still, despite the seeming return of the Rick Jones Hulk – Didn’t Rick die, on panel, in World War Hulk, or am I misremembering? – and the (unfulfilled) potential for big dumb visuals, this comic ends up feeling much more flat than it should.

Part of that is that, for all the ideas that feel as if they should be popping, none of them are actually taken anywhere new. A Hulk shooting bad guys with a massive gun? Not only does it sound like a bad idea straight from the 1990s – well, this is a Jeph Loeb comic, and he is friends with Rob Liefeld – but we’ve just come from the Planet Hulk era where a Hulk using weaponary (and dressed like a gladiator, to boot) was commonplace. A second Hulk – who may or may not be Rick Jones – is, as I said above, straight from Al Milgrom in the ’80s. And the last page “shocker” comes directly from Mark Millar’s Ultimates… But, unlike other, similarly Magpie-esque, comics from Loeb, this doesn’t even feel like a greatest hits compilation for the character… it just feels done already.

For the sake of ease, I’m going to blame it on Ed McGuinness. It’s not that there’s anything especially bad with his work here, but somehow it’s missing the fun that he brought to something like Superman/Batman… His characters seem more generic, and his staging more dull. In the past, he’s managed to take books with less ideas or intelligence than this (See: Superman/Batman, for example) and nonetheless turn them into some bizarrely enjoyable pop moment of balloon-muscled square-jaws in colorful adventures. Here, that energy’s gone, and it makes the problems with the writing that much more obvious.

It’s a weird book in general; there’s nothing in the set-up that doesn’t feel temporary, which makes for an experience where it’s hard to really care about anything (An experience which is also helped by the melodramatic, surface-deep, dialogue and characterization, and by the turn-around of status-quo of the two main characters just a couple of months after their fates in World War Hulk). Most of the characters are borrowed from other series, lending the whole thing a cheap mini-series feeling (Because, come on, like anything’s going to happen to She-Hulk here. And isn’t Doc Samson in some other book these days as well?), and with a movie coming in the summer that features Bruce Banner as a green Hulk, it’s severely unlikely that we’re going to stick with a red Rick Hulk beyond the opening arc of the series… So, instead of thinking “Where are they going with this amazing storyline?”, the reader is left wondering “How quickly are they going to fix things?” before shrugging their shoulders, saying Eh, and going off to read something else.

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