Before I get into the nitty gritty of this review, it’s true confessions time: despite being a lifelong Marvel nerd, I’ve never had that much use for The Incredible Hulk, at least as a solo character. There’s something about the classic Hulk paradigm–poor tortured Dr.Bruce Banner, running from the US armed forces, until he gets too angry and transforms into the green goliath–that usually just bores me to tears.
The only times I’ve really loved the Hulk comic is when they’ve deviated from the whole original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby formula, like writer Peter David’s classic run on the title when the Hulk was super smart. Or the time Hulk was gray, slightly less powerful, and a bouncer named “Joe Fixit.” Anything but “Leave Hulk alone!/Hulk throws tanks.”
Which is why Marvel’s new Totally Awesome Hulk, from creative team Greg Pak and Frank Cho, is such a breath of fresh air. Like a lot of Marvel heroes these days, like Thor and Captain America, the bearer of the mantle is an all-new hero, in this instance, Korean teenager Amadeus Cho. Cho is the self described “seventh smartest person on Earth.” (I’d like to know who makes these determinations by the way.) Cho has been around the Marvel Universe for a few years now, kind of a teenage sidekick to the likes of Hercules, Wolverine, and occasionally the original Hulk. But now Cho’s sidekick days are over.
The first issue opens with our new jolly green giant saving a beach from a giant fire breathing turtle, clearly a tribute to Japanese kaiju Gamera. From the get-go, we see that this Hulk is in control of his powers, at least to the extent that he keeps his intellect and doesn’t start speaking like an angry toddler. He can also get into big n’ green mode at will, something Banner could only occasionally do in his comics history. What this new Hulk does do though is flirt shamelessly with a young mother he rescued on the beach, so I guess this Hulk’s side effect is that he gets more horny than angry. That’s a side effect they could take a lot of hilarious places, although in an all-ages book, there’s only so much you can do with that.
As for how exactly Amadeus Cho becomes the Hulk, the details are only starting to emerge in this first issue. Like all the new Marvel books, they take place some eight months after the events of Secret Wars. There’s a flashback to four months prior, where OG Hulk Bruce Banner absorbs the lethal radiation from a nuclear meltdown disaster, and somehow, that event leads to the current situation with Cho getting Hulk-ified. There’s also a Pacific Rim type thing going on, with giant monsters appearing all over the world, and this new Hulk (and his partner, older sister Maddy Cho) have taken it upon themselves to kick the snot out of said monsters.
The best thing I can say about this comic is that it’s just plain fun, which is different than the majority of Hulk books from the last several decades. Writer Greg Pak actually created Amadeus Cho way back in the day, so if anyone knows how to write this guy and make him a likable and relatable protagonist, it’s his daddy. This is clearly a Hulk who loves being the Hulk, and if it’s similar in tone to any other Hulk book, it would be She-Hulk (who manages a guest appearance in this issue too, just for the heck of it).
The other important element in this comic is Frank Cho’s artwork. I’d say Cho is an artist who is best known for his detailed illustrations of scantily clad women, detailed facial expressions, and big giant battles. This comic gives him exactly all of those things. Many pages in this first issue are just our new Hulk beating up a giant monster, and where that kind of stuff can be tedious when the artwork is mediocre, when it’s done with the attention to detail that Frank Cho brings to it, you feel giddy just looking at it. Cho is a notoriously slow artist, so I’m hoping he’s had a lot of lead time when starting this title, because so much of this comic’s appeal is the amazing art.
So far, Marvel has been doing a bang-up job with their All-New Marvel relaunch. I’ve enjoyed Jane Foster as the new Thor and Sam Wilson as the new Captain America more than I have their original incarnations, and Totally Awesome Hulk is no exception. If anything, I’m just bummed because I know that eventually, the original versions of these characters will have to return to their namesakes. I hope Marvel can find a way to keep both versions around then, because Totally Awesome Hulk is another example of newer actually being better.
RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
IMAGES: Marvel Comics