Review: Hulk #39

Published on August 24th, 2011

This month’s issue of Hulk begins with a quote from William Faulkner,stating: “The past isn’t over. It isn’t even past.” With that, the brilliant team of writer Jeff Parker and artist Gabriel Hardman begins its descent into General Ross’s past. I bring this up at the start because, just like every other thing Parker has written for Hulk, it is completely original and unexpected. We have had 15 issues (counting the Point One issue) where Parker has given us something I have never seen in ANY Hulk book – tons and tons of character building – but is issue #39 a departure from this? Read on to find out!

hulk39Many times in comics, we take for granted that we know everything about a certain character or character type. Then, occasionally, we get a great writer who comes along and turns our perceptions on their heads. Jeff Parker excels at that, not only in Hulk but also in Thunderbolts. So far, with our Ross version of Hulk, he has given us a different Hulk: one who isn’t just a monster, but rather a man who is trying to understand who he really is and what he is truly capable of. Parker has given us a Hulk with morals, who needs friends – not one who is always on the run and who wants to be left alone, like Banner’s Hulk. He is a kinder, more gentler Hulk. Having said all that, now let’s take a look at Hulk #39 or, as I like to call it, “Fightin’Across Massachusetts!”

The issue starts with Ross (as a child) and his friends, 50 years ago. They are basically being kids and playing “war,” until a plane goes down in the woods and the group of kids goes to investigate. They find a crashed plane with a dead pilot inside, who turns out to be the father of one of Ross’s friends. For some reason the last panel has the now-old Ross next to the downed plane, telling the story to Zero/One. I’m still not sure of the reasons for this, but I know they will be revealed much later on. (Right, Parker?)

Ok, so after the little flashback to Ross’s life as a kid growing up in the countryside, we see a Hulk-a-fied Ross and his female L.M.D. companion still on the run from Ross’s protege General Fortean. They end up at the now-dilapidated country home of Ross, and they rest for a second. Parker does a great job in these quiet moments of character-building, showing us who Ross really is and getting you to feel almost sentimental about Hulk/Ross’s long-gone childhood. The two also research this mysterious “Black Fog” character and come to the conclusion that it was Black Fog who assaulted Hulk at the old Airplane junkyard a few issues back. The tone quickly changes to an all-out brawl when Ross goes to check out his old barn stormer, but discovers the being known as Omegex! The rest of the issue is an all-out slugfest with Hulk and Omegex across the state of Massachusetts, masterfully handed to us by Gabriel “The Man” Hardman. Good lord, this guy knocks it out of the park. Every panel till the end of the issue is simply beautiful, and the issue ends abruptly when Omegex gets a sword pushed through his chest by Black Fog.

Final Veridict: “Hulk” is a book I never knew I could enjoy. Parker and Hardman have made me not only care about General Ross as a character in the Marvel Universe, but they have made me love him far more than the original… That happens too few times in comics. Once again, the team of Parker and Hardman are as unstoppable as the Hulk himself!

Sheldon Lee