The Incredible Hulk #3
Hulk faces undead horror as “The Age of Monsters” continues! Hulk investigates the creature being worshipped in an abandoned mining town…and finds a primordial horror as large as the mine itself awaiting him, using the town’s residents as human shields. From the darkest corners of the minds of Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Nic Klein, the first chapter of “The Age of Monsters” culminates in a battle between the Hulk and a monster unlike any he has faced before—but that’s only the tip of the iceberg!
The Incredible Hulk #3 is a whole lot of beautiful art, great characterization, and pretty soft in terms of plot. In the grand scheme of this run, it will hold up as an action-packed and exhilarating issue that showcases just how much Nic Klein is bringing to the book’s tone and atmosphere. On its own, however, as the next chapter in Phillip Kennedy Johnson’s epic, it’s pretty barebones from a plot perspective.
Besides the art, the best part of this issue is arguably the spotlight this issue puts on the Hulk’s character in a post-Immortal/Spaceship Hulk world. While the first issue set up the dynamic between Hulk and Banner, and the second set up Banner, then this issue is all about establishing PKJ’s take on Hulk. He’s stubborn and begrudgingly heroic in a dry sense, reminiscent of Geralt’s demeanor in The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. It leads to a warm dynamic with Charlie, who gets to prove herself in the Green Goliath’s eye in this issue as well.
There’s a good amount of world-building as well, which aims to flesh out Marvel’s mythological monster corner in a big bad way. While the Brother Deep story is disappointing in its actual plot, it does allow the team to lay the groundwork for bigger things to come. Overall, the arc from issue #1 to this feels like the prologue of a novel or the opening chapter to a role-playing game. As such, this issue feels somewhat empty in its writing. Outside of its very basic themes regarding anger, the book doesn’t have a narrative behind it that’s all that compelling at a character level, even if its plot is really cool.
After disrupting the sacrificial church sermon Banner and Charlie found themselves in, The Incredible Hulk goes into battle with Brother Deep and fully cements himself as a monster set to bring down the mother of all monsters.
In many ways, it feels like the opening arcs of both Hellboy and Berserk. Johnson and Klein, in the incredible simplicity of these opening three issues, have built themselves a springboard to launch off of to great heights, but have done so at the sacrifice of a deeper narrative.
But there’s still great writing at hand here at a technical level. PKJ’s voice as a writer brings so much to the table as well, his blend of character and action nearly perfect, brought to life by a true sense of human authenticity. The presentation of stroy sucks the reader into its crazy ride of guts and vengeful monsters with some really compelling action set pieces that aren’t just cool because of the art. They tie into the establishment of both Hulk and the growth of Charlie in a very entertaining way. This book feels so distinctly unlike a standard Marvel comic, which is something all the best Hulk comics have in common.
As mentioned previously, the art in this book is insane. Klein, alongside Matt Wilson, continues to be the best artistic duo on a Hulk book, period. Yes, it’s better than Kirby and McFarlane. It oozes so much atmosphere, horror, and tone unlike anything else Marvel is putting out at the moment. The fight with Brother Deep in this issue deserves to be hung in the halls of the world’s greatest art museums. Its blend of painterly artistry and punk rock horror is masterful.
The Incredible Hulk #3 is a work of visual mastery, leaving much of its story on the surface with explosive action and entertaining characterization. While Johnson's world building and moment to moment storytelling is beyond entertaining, the book's decompressed pace is leaving a lot to be desired in terms of narrative depth that is building at a snail's pace. As a result, judging the story is difficult, but overall this relaunch is still hanging tightly onto consistent quality.
Incredible Hulk #3: Down Beneath the Dirt
- Writing - 7/107/10
- Storyline - 7/107/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 8.5/108.5/10
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