Writer: Donny Cates
Art: Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, Frank Martin, Federico Blee, and VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: February 16th, 2022
As the quandary behind the HULK’S alarming new representation exacerbates, Banner helms Starship HULK to Earth 122 where Thunderbolt Ross has become President with a battalion of gamma-infused nightmares under his authority. Let’s smash into HULK #4 as readers prepare themselves for an action-packed, no holds bar, melee that only Donny Cates and Ryan Ottley can possibly foster!
Cates opens by giving readers the lay of the land for Earth 122 in order to catch our Bruce Banner, as well as readers, up with the current status quo of this Universe. And might I add, it was quite interesting to see what happened to IRON MAN as well as the X-MEN. Cates basically furnishes the outlook that heroes are nonexistent in Earth 122 and that Gamma was indirectly the cause. Plus, readers get the sneaking suspicion that General Ross. (President Ross here) was somehow responsible.
Moreover, HULK fans will appreciate this opener, as well as the backstory developed by Cates. It provides a reasonable history that gives credence to Earth 122. Sure, parts are a bit stretched. Yet, the only shocking aspect of the issue is our Banner’s line of “what about BLADE, MOON KNIGHT, or SPIDER-MAN?”. Really Cates? Does Bruce Banner ask what happened to BLADE or MOON KNIGHT? Come on man. Out of anyone Banner would mention I could think of a half dozen more suited names to ask about than those two. Granted, I know it’s a nitpick but it just didn’t make sense and threw me out of the comic which is why I mention it.
But alas, the story continued with some high-octane, aggressive battles outside of HULK’S mind as well as inside. Ryan Ottley throws everything at the HULK, and I mean everything. Moreover, President Ross from Earth 122 has some pretty killer tech that manages to make things a bit more difficult for our HULK than anticipated. Yet, as outstanding as the illustrations and fight scenes were, I couldn’t help notice how cocky Cates writes this Banner. Sure, HULK is angry and we know he always says things like “I’m the strongest there is.” But, that’s HULK who says that not Banner. And Banner is the one driving this ship… literally… which made it harder to believe the action sequences and behavior in this issue.
However as the fight unfolds in HULK #4, things begin to get a bit bat$&@& crazy. Cates’ spin on this issue reveals a new Gamma mutate with an old neighborly twist. And frankly, the execution came across quite silly. Now, I love the connection and mini backstory we get from the Earth 122 Banner. However, it was not only predictable as soon as the story unfolded, but overly cringy simply to once again establish shock and awe. Instead of quickly showing fans these reveals for an impact factor, tell us more about what it’s like to be the character and describe more of the background and feeling. Realistically, this is why I loved the beginning of HULK #4.
Cates painted the picture of this world and gave us insight into what’s going on and why. He provided the questions we already wanted with his answers. Yet as the story unravels, Cates reverts back to show and not tell cluttered with smashing and no in-depth feeling. Readers, where’s the underlying theme? I’m sorry but HULK #4 is just extremely surface level, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing here and there. Nevertheless, we can’t have it for every issue which is how this series is felt to date.
Cates certainly knows how to pick his creative team. Ottley was once again on fire. From MARVEL ZOMBIES to new gargantuan Gamma mutates, readers get an eclectic look at Earth 122 and the mind of our Banner. As usual, Ottley provides thorough, graphic renderings that bombard each page with action. HULK is dangerous yet President Ross has some incredibly wicked tech right back with some rather intense lasers to boot that were so bright and vibrant readers will feel like their skin will sizzle along with HULKS.
Additionally, Cates and Ottley work so well together drawing our Earth’s Bruce Banner and his emotional state. One minute our Banner is screaming and enraged with the next a look of somber calmness. It amplifies the multiple personality disorder well and lets the readers physically see that Bruce isn’t alright. Furthermore, I’m a sucker for illustrations that break through the panels making the characters appear as though they are literally leaping off the page. Towards the end of HULK #4, there is this almost throwaway panel where President Ross appears as though he’s going to shoot his gun almost at the reader through the panel of the issue. It’s those subtle effects that lock me into a comic more than anything else.
HULK #4 mostly hangs out on the surface while providing a background hint of what’s transpired on Earth 122. However, we get no further development from our HULK, our Banner, or what happened between IMMORTAL HULK, and now that’s causing this Smashtronaut in the first place. Sure, Earth 122 provides a clever and quite unique twist to get readers’ minds away from IMMORTAL HULK while giving us the distance we need to move on from that version of the character. However, Cates needs to fill in the gaps, add depth, and stay away from what feels like bad clichés.
Anyone who’s followed Cates’ work knows that he has some insanely creative stories. The man is brilliant. However, sometimes taking that potential and putting the story to paper can be much harder than I think the average comic fan realizes. Again, Cates always manages to help himself out by finding some of the best and brightest artists the industry has to compliment his work. And that truly helps. But he needs to add more emotional points and themes while saturating the reader in proper narrative beats that flow and make sense. Readers, let’s be real. The concept of a spaceship HULK is (to quote Ted Lasso) “more mysterious than David Blaine reading a Sue Grafton novel at Area 51.” But what are we going to do with that? It’s been four issues of HULK and what do we get? Let me know what you think, have a great week, and God Bless!