Posted by: Brian Hibbs on September 1, 2007
The interesting thing about WORLD WAR HULK: X-MEN #3 is that it’s basically a microcosm of the whole event, in terms of my critical approach to it. See, it’s not the kind of story I personally enjoy, so if I were to rate it subjectively, I’d give it an EH.
However, I can’t ignore the fact that as a genre piece, WORLD WAR HULK and its tie-ins are actually doing a damn sight better than their predecessors – unlike “Civil War” or “House of M”, the basic plot makes sense here, and that much-sought-after moral ambiguity manifests itself because on the one hand, you can sort of identify with the Hulk and his motives, but on the other hand, you can’t really support his decision to destroy the rest of the Marvel Universe… though I suppose many readers would like nothing more than to see the Hulk crush Iron Man and the pro-reg morons. But, you know, realistically speaking, it’s just not going to happen.
Of course, this is all window-dressing; the “point” of WORLD WAR HULK (perfectly encapsulated in WORLD WAR HULK: X-MEN #3) is to provide the punchy-punchy and lots of explosions. It doesn’t have to be profound, and I think Christos Gage understands that – after all, he built this three-issue miniseries around the shaky premise that the Hulk has targeted the X-Men based on what Xavier might have done, had he actually been present at that fateful Illuminati meeting. Of course, the logical error immediately presents itself: he wasn’t there, and if the Hulk is going to attack every person who could have been involved in his exile, this crossover would last eight years. Moreover, if Gage were seriously trying to sell the plot, he’d have a pretty big hurdle to jump – we, as comic fans, know the Hulk won’t kill Xavier because, as Rene Magritte would’ve put it, ceci n’est pas une X-Men comic.
Which is why, if you were to look at this comic in terms of narrative progression, what happens is the Hulk fights the X-Men, he fights them some more, Juggernaut turns up for a nicely-rendered double-page spread, and then Cessily of the New X-Men lectures the Hulk on all the crap mutants have to deal with. The Hulk, in awe of being out-angsted, takes off. It’s pretty self-nullifying, in that the story has no real consequences for the Hulk or the X-Men (well, except for Juggernaut), but the battle is entertaining enough to justify the miniseries.
On a broader scale, there’s a great degree of parallelism between what Gage is doing here and what Greg Pak is doing with the larger WORLD WAR HULK story. To some extent, it’s all about Hulk vs. Superheroes, and while I may personally find it tedious, I can’t fault it from a critical standpoint: Pak and the other WWH writers are doing exactly what they set out to do, and unlike Millar and Bendis, they’re actually achieving their objectives rather than aim high and hit low. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but WORLD WAR HULK: X-MEN and its parent story make for a GOOD summer-actionfest-blockbuster type of comic, and it’s probably all the more appealing to readers who are sick of debating the merits of Superhero Registration.