Written by : Jeph Loeb
Art by: Ed McGuinness
Published by: Marvel Comics

“IncREDible Anger”

Coming off of the World War Hulk comic event, the Hulk is popular enough for Marvel to attempt to have him sustain a couple titles, not including She-Hulk and other “Hulk Family” books. Say what you will about World War Hulk, it gave fans what they wanted, plenty of “Hulk Smash!” action (with enough semblance of a plot to string together issue after issue of said mindless smashing). Jeph Loeb (Supergirl) and Ed McGuinness bring us the Hulk, or more specifically, begin the mystery of who is the red Hulk?

The Hulk persona has undergone many transformations over the years, especially during Peter David’s epic run. It was like a split personality, originally appearing as gray during the first issues of the original title’s run (a personality revisited often by Peter David) and with varying degrees of intelligence. The promotional ads of a red Hulk has fans busy trying to figure out what the latest implication means. And this issue is more set up of the story than any sort of explanation.

We have Doc Samson (the Hulk’s gamma-powered, one time psychiatrist), She-Hulk, and General Ross investigating the latest outburst of violence, presumably from the Hulk, like some sort of gamma-specialized C.S.I. team. All evidence of the rampage points to the Hulk, with the disturbing revelations that 1) the Hulk is red and 2) it’s not Bruce Banner.

The Hulk persona is no more than a “rage-aholic,” someone addicted to anger and rage. Be it some biochemical switch or the inner undisciplined tantrum-ing two year old of frustrated want, he simply wishes to rage. A lot. Everyone gets angry, many of us even let anger often get the better of us and do things we later regret. What separates us is how we choose to deal with those impulses of unchecked aggression. Some of us struggle with rage, either bottling it up, acting it out, or repressing it. That unpredictable behavior, that inability to express ourselves short of “Me Smash!”, be it verbally or physically, shatters relationships like so many buildings on a Hulk rampage.

We continue to burn with hatred and murder in our hearts and suddenly a just and wrathful God who would smite loathsome man with pain, suffering, humiliation and eventually death and eternal punishment makes sense to us. As if that was the end of the story.

Like an addiction, we must find a way to contain our inner Hulk, as it were. Wrestle with the underlying demons that undergird it, find appropriate ways to express that anger, or abstain from angry behavioral outbursts. Ultimately, we need to put aside our rage and hatred, to lose that trust in ourselves and our way and find somewhere else to place it.

We must continue to examine ourselves, acknowledge our mistakes and sins and hopefully realize that we don’t want to be that raging monster, hurting those in our path. Maybe realize that the path we are on wreaks destruction wherever we go. Maybe realize that we’re not smart enough, courageous enough, self sufficient enough or good enough to make up the rules as we go along. And as the journey of Bruce Banner/the Hulk demonstrates, this is easier said than done.

The issue looks great, something you’d expect from Ed McGuinness. There’s the obligatory gratuitous battle with the Russian version of the Avengers, the Winter Guard where he gets to shine. Loeb does his job by leaving all sorts of questions dangling without answers: is this Rick Jones? What happened between World War Hulk and now? However, this is by-the-numbers story-telling. We’ve seen this story done a bunch of times and just because the Hulk is red doesn’t mean much besides having a new action figure to market. Hopefully Loeb is setting us up for a major payoff, if not, well … meh.