It’s no secret that Marvel Comics has an affinity for relaunching major series with new “#1” issues. This may seem like a money grab to stimulate the speculator marketplace to comic book fans who are more skeptical. However, the generous readers might see it as an opportunity to create more accessible stories for their readers. The phenomenal success of The Immortal Hulk, it’s safe to assume Donny Cates and Ryan Ottley’s HulkThe latter category includes falls. Is it really a good jumping point for new readers or not? Despite a challenging and potentially overly-convoluted premise, the answer is yes — Hulk: Smashtronaut!This book features enough Hulk chaos and jaw-dropping splash pages that it will draw any new reader in.
I fell off the The Immortal Helk train relatively early in Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s legendary run, so I’m coming into HulkI’m a brand new reader. Luckily for me, Cates and Ottley’s new series doesn’t seem to pick up where ImmortalBruce Banner is not where he was, but instead begins a new storyline that feels like a fresh start. Even so, Hulk isn’t exactly the easiest series to jump into and actually requires an expository introduction blurb to establish the context of the forthcoming issues.
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Basically, Bruce Banner has managed to separate the Hulk into three psyches and entities modeled after a spacefaring ship — an engine room, a bridge, and a hull. Bruce Banner, the bridge psyche’s controller, is able to communicate with external parties and interact with the green gamma-monster. This external Hulk is the spaceship’s hull. This ship is powered by what? The engine room mentality, where Bruce Banner pits endless opponents against the Hulk to keep it angry enough to withstand enormous stress.
If you’re a little lost, take it from me— it’s as confusing as it is unique.
There’s no denying that this new status quo for the Hulk immediately sets Cates and Ottley’s run apart from anything that came before it. The Hulk has long been regarded as Marvel’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde character, but this take on the character completely uproots that notion and instead presents a monster that is the best of both. This takes the series away from the horror tropes that have pervaded. ImmortalHowever, he transforms the title into an epic sci-fi action story that features bombastic action sequences.
Despite how refreshing this approach feels, it is not easy to get used to the complex nature of it all. Readers who were expecting an in-depth explanation of Bruce’s transformation of the Hulk to a fully piloted vehicle of carnage will find this change frustrating. Though I was absolutely digging the uninhibited destruction that simultaneously plagued the real world and the new engine room, I couldn’t help but get a little hung up on just how the hell this was all happening.
Cates doesn’t waste time explaining how the Hulk ship works. Cates instead provides a basic framework of how the new Hulk works and the story is much better for it. There’s very little explanation to interrupt the action and Ottley’s incredible artwork really takes center stage. The lack of explanation can sometimes leave readers feeling confused or even baffled.
After you’ve gotten over the absurdity of it all, Hulk‘s premise, you’re in for an explosive Hulk story that essentially launches substance into the sun in favor of endless destructive style. I’ve long thought Ryan Ottley was one of the unsung superstars of the industry, but the work showcased in Hulk‘s first six issues shows he was born to draw the Hulk. On the detailed, but chaotic, carnage he showed in InvincibleOttley is a bombastic, grotesquely bloody and bombastic artist. HulkThis makes it possible for the reader to feel every punch, slam and smash.
Thanks to the narrative context, Ottley is able to stretch his muscles. Many action scenes seamlessly switch between real-world battles featuring Hulk ships and endless waves within the engine rooms psyche. The sight of the Hulk ship fighting an alternate universe, gamma-radiated Peter Parker, while the engine room Hulk battles hordes upon hordes Marvel zombies, assorted gods and the greatest hits to villains is something that will make comic fans giddy with childlike excitement. These scenes are absurdly violent, almost hilariously ridiculous — and they’re absolutely awesome.
While HulkAlthough it exudes style, it lacks substance. It’s an extremely breezy story with little emotional depth or character development. Though there are attempts to inject some genuine emotion and heavier themes into the story — like a manifestation of Betty Ross likening Bruce’s treatment of the Hulk to that of children undergoing forced trauma — these moments fall flat or just plain feel forced. The intriguing side plot about the mysterious entity that sent Bruce/Hulk into a deadly rage in El Paso just before the Hulk Ship days is over is interesting, but it is now lost in favor the insane action sequences.
Hulk by Donny Cates Vol. 1: Smashtronaut! doesn’t reach the immediate narrative heights of its predecessor, and it’s nearly bogged down by its own elaborate narrative context. This book is amazing, and it doesn’t matter what else. Cates and Ottley let the Hulk do his best job: destroy everything. Hulk smashing everything around him has never been so beautiful, and that alone is why it’s such a great story. Smashtronaut!This is a solid start to the new era of Hulk.
Is ‘Hulk: Smashtronaut!’ a good jumping-on point for new readers? Yes. Mostly. Alright, it’s complicated
Hulk by Donny Cates Vol. 1: Smashtronaut!
Hulk: Smashtronaut! The premise is so heavy that it nearly causes a collapse, but Ryan Ottley’s stunning renderings of massive set pieces make up for any narrative lapses.
Ryan Ottley’s style perfectly suits the enormous, destructive nature that is the Hulk.
This arc’s main focus is on the large action set pieces. The pace of the story is fast and Ottley’s art shines.
This is a great starting point for new and lapsed Hulk readers.
This is a unique take on the Hulk.
Although it is unique, the overall premise of this new Hulk era requires a lot mental gymnastics. This might frustrate some readers.
Although there are some attempts to increase emotional depth and develop, they don’t have the same impact as real life and can feel forced.
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