Pull of the Week:
After reading the abysmal The Incredible Hulk #600, there was a little trepidation in jumping right in to Spider-Man’s 600th issue. There couldn’t possibly be two epic failures released in the same week could there? Thankfully for the little Spider-Man fan in us all, this issue did not suffer the same fat. Instead, Dan Slot continues the work that the Spider-Man brain trust has pieced together resulting in the marriage of Peter Parker’s beloved Aunt May to J. Jonah Jameson Sr. But much as the cover and the past months have hinted at, nothing is going to run smoothly for the Parker/Jameson clan.
The story opens with Dr. Otto Octavius recalling past traumas he has suffered at the hands of his super powered opponents like Spider-Man, Captain America and the Hulk to a doctor who gives him the grave news that he only has a year and a half to live at most. Otto, the self-righteous and megalomaniacal genius that he is, cannot accept this and vows to leave something great to the world, worthy of his genius. The little eight legged creeper droids that had showed up in the past few months of Amazing Spider-Man are revealed to be a part of Otto’s plan to leave a perfect world behind as he left as they are controlled by his brain patterns.
As much as Otto has tried to turn a new leaf, his subconscious forces it way to the surface and instead of helping the city, the droids end up carrying out attacks on Spider-Man and disruptions to the pending nuptials between May and J. Jonah Jameson Sr. including abducting the groom. Peter, always prepared to do the right thing goes off to find Otto and put the city back together with some help from his good buddy, the Human Torch. The story comes to a feel good conclusion like many other superhero wedding issues have with Peter’s friends, past and present, being there for the sentimental moment.
Slott does a fantastic job working the dialogue between this large cast of Spider-Man stalwarts as he is able to handle Peter, May, Flash Thompson and Johnny Storm just to name a few. Every character carries their distinct persona with them well, especially the now wheelchair-bound but still cocky/cool Flash. John Romita Jr.’s art also stands out in the issue much as it had in the “New Ways to Die” story arc. The work is trademark Romita which isn’t a bad thing if you are a fan of his style.
Also in the issue comes a few shorter Spider-Man stories as this wedding story wouldn’t be able to fill the full 104 pages on its own without starting to get a little draggy. Stan provides another quick tale from the perspective of a psychiatrist who is visited by Spider-Man as he deals with his ongoing identity crisis. The one short story that doesn’t fit comes from a group of children playing in the park as Peter Parker enjoys some much needed downtime.
One of the children claims how cool he thinks it’d be to be Spider-Man only to realize the danger involved in such a decision. The only thing that doesn’t feel real about this is how mature and seemingly educated these grammar school-aged kids are about the dangers of being a superhero. And if it was so obvious, why wasn’t a genius like Peter Parker able to figure it out himself before donning the mask?
The issue concludes with a short story about Madame Web who has returned to the place of her birth to deal with visions she has been having with regard to Spider-Man and his fate. Without spoiling any of the sights she sees, it looks like some traumatic things lay in Peter Parker’s future. Madame Web also finds herself confronted with two individuals who have begun hunting the spiders.
There feels like a lot of strong, quality reading in this book’s pages. While the support stories wouldn’t have been strong enough to sustain an issue on their own, they do a fine job feeding in background and planting seeds for future Spider-Man tales. The issue doesn’t live up to the epic feel behind a 600th issue but held on its own without the milestone number associated with it, it is still a very good Spider-Man comic that is a must for any Spider-Man aficionado. Who can really call themselves a Spider-Man fan if they didn’t pick up the issue were Aunt May gets hitched after all?
Propelling off the momentum of Blackest Night #1, Hal Jordan and the Flash are caught off guard by an attack from their former ally, a newly ringed Black Lantern, the Martian Manhunter. Upon seeing him, Hal instantly has his ring scan Manhunter only to read that he is indeed still dead. At the same time, Martian Manhunter scans Hal and the Flash to see Hal’s green aura of will while the Flash exhibited the blue aura of hope.
A battle breaks out as the two living friends must defend themselves from their resurrected ally who claims he has come to try and help them. Throughout the encounter with Martian Manhunter, the Flash occasionally has bits of his skin and costume change color to the coagulating black muck they found on the remains of Bruce Wayne. The battle ends rather quickly and gives no definitive conclusion, letting the reader know that these three will likely face off again over the next seven months as the Blackest Night continues.
The remainder of the issue further explores the motivations of Scar, the Guardian who released the blackness in to the universe, and sets up for next month’s tale focusing on Green Lantern Jon Stewart and the Star Sapphire as they deal with the emergence of the Black Lanterns.
This story takes a very opposite turn from Geoff John’s storytelling of Blackest Night. The focus of the issue lies in the action as opposed to the character building. Luckily, Johns has spent so much time over the previous months establishing the characters and the story that the much needed action feels very apropos for the issue. Hal and the Flash get the chance to really duke it out with their former friend only to catch a glimpse of how powerful the Black Lanterns can be.
Johns even throws a dig in at Superman at one point which could hint to a future confrontation between Martian Manhunter and the Man of Steel. Though not as amazing as Ivan Reis’s work in Blackest Night, Doug Mahnke does a fantastic job illustrating this issue as he did with all of the buildup issues he worked on for the event.
To ask if Blackest Night and its tie-ins are living up to their hype, it is still too early to tell. Having only had four total main book and tie-in issues to look to, there are still many ways the event can go. Unlike Final Crisis though, Blackest Night seems to be written on a level much easier for the reader to understand and appreciate.
Now, with the Green Lantern movie seemingly finally being a go, DC has the opportunity to bring up the Green Lantern as its number three, right behind the unseatable duo of Superman and Batman. As for now, time will tell if Johns ultimate vision in the epic trilogy of Green Lantern stories he has set up will conclude as magnificently as they started.
So comes the conclusion of this sleeper series which never got the due it deserved. A critical darling, Captain Britain and the MI:13 came to its final issue this week with the finale of the war between Dracula’s vampire nation and England. In dramatic fashion, the plans of Pete Wisdom who is as much of a star in this series as Captain Britain are followed through upon for better or worse. Paul Cornell’s dry British humor showed why he was the perfect writer to place at the helm of this title.
Reading the issue felt like watching a quality BBC program. There was an authenticity to the series that felt like it was missing in previous runs with Excalibur. There had always been great stories featuring Brian Braddock but this series felt like it really defined the voice of the British league of heroes that exists within Marvel.
Catching up with the big reveal from the end of the previous issue, Dracula stares at Meggan who has come back from hell only to be sent over by Doctor Doom as an offering to Dracula. With careful planning, Pete Wisdom and his team do what needs to be done in order to repel the vampiric strike and take the fight to Dracula’s forces. Back in New York Comic Con, as had been previously referenced in the Pull List, Paul Cornell said any character could be on the chopping block and he wasn’t kidding. After seeing the entire MI:13 team cut down in Dracula’s dream sequence two issues ago, it made the losses in this issue feel even more real knowing that this was for real.
Being the last issue, there was no question of how they were going to work their way out of these deaths. Another nice treat came from the spotlights given to the actions of Fazia and Blade who had an interesting dynamic with their teammates through the series’ run. Fazia looks like she has the possibility of being a strong asset in a future book while Blade has redeemed himself from the last poor solo series and anthology stories he had been a part of.
It is with deep regret that we have to see this series go to the wayside. There has not been a single bad issue amongst it which is more to say for many of the better selling titles if you look at their last fifteen issues. Sadly, Captain Britain hasn’t been able to carry a long running title for some time but at least Marvel hasn’t completely given up on him and tries new ways to keep coming back with more. Everyone should hope that the next series featuring any of these characters is penned by Paul Cornell.
While it might not be able to capture the same magic of Captain Britain and the MI:13, hopefully it can sustain itself as a longer running series. Hey, if Nova has been able to finally pull it off, what’s to say that Captain Britain can’t do the same? And the nice part is the story has already been set up for them. All the evil magic that was unleashed at the end of the Secret Invasion which attacks England is still there and someone needs to protect the motherland. And now, with Meggan back and finally in a costume that doesn’t make him look like the clown he had worn for so many years, Captain Britain can be that hero.
Who is the Red Hulk? This is the question that has been asked since his first appearance where he killed the Abomination following the events of World War Hulk over a year ago in the pages of Hulk. All of the hype going in to this 600th issue of the Hulk franchise pointed towards the final reveal of just who Rulk is. And as we often avoid spoilers here on the Pull List, it only feels fair to let the reader know that despite all the hype in revealing this identity they have been lead astray.
Instead of answering the question, this issue only maintains the status quo. The true identity of Rulk is never revealed in the over 100 pages that comprise this issue. Instead, the only thing left for the reader is a bad taste in their mouth after reading it and knowing that the marketing hype behind had misled them.
The Incredible Hulk #600 is a five part issue. The first is a story focusing on Frontline reporter, Ben Ulrich, who has received a tip in a classic abandoned garage from the She-Hulk that there is a second Hulk, a red one that the public is unaware of and is being kept heavily under wraps. She-Hulk has Ben accompany her to a secret base where Bruce Banner is being kept in hopes of finding out Rulk’s identity. Ben brings along Peter Parker to photograph the events they will come across.
This is the first major issue that appears in Jeph Loeb’s writing. Jen Walters is an intelligent and experienced superhero. Why would she take a civilian reporter and his photographer in to what will most likely be a volatile situation involving the Rulk? Jen Walters has seen the damage that Rulk can do and has been decimated by him first hand. If anything, it feels like a force just to allow Spider-Man to make a cameo in the issue. Upon meeting up with Dr. Samson, her contact, She-Hulk, Ben and Peter head in to the base to find out the origins of Rulk lie in M.O.D.O.K. and A.I.M. but never actually find the answer that everyone was expecting, Rulk’s identity.
The only “reveal” comes from finding out that Dr. Samson is not actually Rulk. A huge battle breaks out as expected between the Hulk who has been entrapped by A.I.M. and the Rulk. But unlike many of their previous entanglements, there is actually something of substance as a result of the battle altering Hulk moving forward.
The second piece of the issue comes from Stan Lee and is just a small, quick story out of continuity featuring a battle between Hulk and Rulk featuring a cameo from one of Stan’s other favorite creations. Next comes a piece of the book that felt like a total rip-off for someone looking for a Hulk story as the Savage She-Hulk battles mechanized invaders from another world. The story itself is trim on content and feels like it was only there as a way to give some publicity for the fledgling title by piggybacking of the milestone issue number of Incredible Hulk #600.
Probably the most impressive piece of the issue comes from the reprinting of Hulk: Gray #1. Back in 2003, Hulk: Gray explored the origins of the Hulk from the perspective of Bruce Banner as he talked to his psychiatrist friend, Dr. Samson. It’s unfortunate that the best part of a five dollar issue comes from reprinting an issue from six years ago which is quickly followed by the advertisement of the Hardcover reprinting of Hulk: Gray. The final piece of the book comes from the cover gallery of the Incredible Hulk series. Much like Captain America #600, every issue of the long running series is put to page but are sadly too small to be able to appreciate the artistic quality of any of them.
Overall, Incredible Hulk #600 comes across as a disappointment. The answers that were expected never came and the issue is carried by a reprint. The storytelling in the main ongoing tale feels poor and forced. McGuiness’s artwork is fine for the issue but doesn’t have the power under it to carry the issue out of the negative territory the story itself stuck it in. With deep regret, this issue would quickly get put in to the Pass List if anyone were to ask what books they should avoid on store shelves this week.