The Stack: July 3rd, 2019 – Immortal Hulk, Justice League, Lois Lane & More!

by Sage Ashford

After being swamped in gaming coverage for the past month, The Stack is finally able to make a comeback.

Immortal Hulk #20
“Metatron”
Writer: Al Ewing
Penciler: Joe Bennett
Inkers: Ruy Jose, Belardino Brabo, & Marc Deering
Colorist: Paul Mounts

Immortal Hulk has chugged along month after month as such a quality comic that it’s Top 5 every month without me being a fan of horror or the Hulk. A large part of that comes down to never forgetting the man in this monster.  (Yes, that line technically belongs to a totally different dude, it’s still accurate.) The weird and scary parts to the Hulk always have a purpose.  So much in horror involves being cruel for the sake of, often making what’s happening hard to take seriously, or even downright humorous.  Here, the trials of the Hulk and the people around him affected by the gamma is always heartbreaking, and you always understand why everything is happening the way it is.

Last issue gave us a look at Betty Ross in her harpy form, newly revived after being killed for getting close to Bruce Banner again.  It featured some of the most powerful moments in the book yet, as she described how damaging her relationship with Bruce had been to her both physically and emotionally, and culminated with her literally ripping out Hulk’s heart and eating it.  I’m usually not a fan of making the subtext into text, but sometimes in comics you’ve gotta take a sledgehammer to subtlety and make the symbolism as obvious as possible to get your point across amidst all the bright costumes and mass destruction.

This week’s issue sees Hulk return to life after being destroyed by the Abomination’s acid, and have him team up with Betty to free Rick Jones from the horrible fate he’d been forced to suffer at the hands of Shadow Base.  Even Shadow Base’s growing levels of cruelty makes sense; when presented with a monster like Hulk that leaves untold destruction everywhere he goes and has proven impossible to stop or control, what else is there to do but try and put him down for good?  While not quite having the same emotional punch as last issue, this one does more from a plot perspective: firmly establishing everyone affected by gamma is immortal, potentially bringing back Rick Jones, and introducing Bruce to potentially the One Below All’s opposite.  We also get to see Hulk and Betty discuss their relationship, giving us the rare sight of this Hulk admitting his faults for once.

Speaking of, “Devil Hulk” seems to be the one, proper adult roaming about in Banner’s head, doing his best to protect both Bruce and Savage Hulk from harm while also fighting against an organization which exists exclusively to destroy them all.   Speaking of “them all”, this seems to open the door for a return of every major Hulk character, if Ewing wills it.  This story is currently a tragic horror, but Ewing could easily bring this to a happy end before he wrapped his run up.  Whether he deems that a worthwhile exercise to cap things off?  That’s a different story.  For now, I’m just happy following his tales of things that go “SMASH” in the night.

Justice League #27
“Apex Predator Part 2”
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artists: Javier Fernandez and Bruno Redondo
Colors: HI-FI

I still can’t shake the feeling that Snyder and Tynion are selling us a serious version of the Super Friends, but the execution of the story is so slick they’ve made me fall in love with it anyway.  They’ve managed to push the team’s backs against the wall with the sheer scale of this threat–they’re literally facing the creator of the multiverse, a being that’s super-charged their most dangerous enemies and allowed them to Rank Up.  It makes it believable that they would need to turn to otherworldly, absolute beings like the World Forger and the Monitor, even the Anti-Monitor, just to have a chance at surviving erasure of their entire existence.

They’ve also successfully managed to fix the biggest problem I’ve had since the book began. With these last two story arcs, it finally feels like they’re allowing each story moments to breathe.  It’s felt like they’ve thrown multiple new ideas and concepts at us every issue for the first year of this book, from the Totality to the hidden seven forces to the secret history of the DC multiverse and the omniverse and the graveyard of the gods and on and on.  It was impossible to get bored, but at the same time it also felt like you’d started the series in the middle even in the first arc. But beginning with the Sixth Dimension, it finally feels like both Snyder and Tynion have gotten their footing.   Granted, I say that in the middle of an arc that has three different plot threads going–one with the Justice League proper visiting the House of Heroes and traveling the multiverse to gather the sons of Perpetua, one with Starman and Hawkgirl and J’onn’s son from an imaginary universe, and one featuring Hawkgirl and Martian Manhunter themselves tracking down a souped-up Lex Luthor.  That seems like a lot, but they’re all storylines we’ve become comfortable with, so even though so much is happening at once it doesn’t feel overwhelming.

We’re a few issues away from the Justice/Doom War, and I haven’t been this excited for DC event storylines since before the New 52.

Lois Lane #1
“Enemy of the People Part 1”
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist & Cover: Mike Perkins
Colors: Paul Mounts

In a world of men and women wearing capes and tights, standing up for injustice and being essentially incorruptible by greed or power, somehow this book feels the most like a fantasy.  Not in a bad way, it’s just frankly baffling to have a reporter stand up to the most corrupt form of American government since Nixon. Lois is straight up bullying this Sean Spicer Sarah Huckabee Sanders Stephanie Grisham stand-in, and it feels satisfying in the same way that a villain who’s been getting away with figurative (and literal) murder an entire movie finally gets taken down by a protagonist.

I’m not sure this is a book that could keep running indefinitely, so I’m glad Greg Rucka has been brought on to tell a specific set of stories before the book is brought to an end. People claim that mini-series don’t encourage people that a book cares, but honestly we should care because it’s a good character paired with a good creative team.  Better this than a comic being greenlit as an ongoing and being canceled in six issues flat.  I look forward to having Lois peek into the seedy underbelly of DCU Earth, and given all the crap happening in the news lately, there’s no way Rucka will run dry of inspiration.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #95
“City At War Part 3”
Story: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, & Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Art: Dave Wachter
Colors: Ronda Pattison

I’m not sure if it was sexism, or a reticence to change or TMNT: The Next Mutation being absolutely awful that caused fans to reject Venus de Milo so harshly back in the late 90’s. Knowing geek fandom, it was probably a mix of all three.  That said, it looks like we’re finally bringing back the concept of a female Ninja Turtle.  This time around it’s Jennika, one of the key members of Hamato Yoshi’s version of the Foot Clan. She’s been in this book for some time now, so unlike Venus she at least has the development and a bit of support around her.   Plus it feels like most of this book has been building towards a moment exactly like this, because mutated animals and humans have been present in the comic pretty much since the very first issue.  I’m not sure this is the best method to introduce a fifth Turtle, but I trust the IDW book enough to want to see them follow the idea through.  Ultimately I’ll probably be fine with it all, so long as I get a rematch between Jennika (who hopefully does not get a new name) and Karai for causing all this drama in the first place.

The Green Lantern #9
“The Day the Stars Fell Down!”
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff

I still don’t know what to make of this book.  Some months I’m in love with it, like the issue where Hal infiltrates the Darkstars.  Others I’m confused and disappointed by, like the mirror Green Arrow/Green Lantern one-shot.   Fortunately this issue takes us right back to Morrison’s wheelhouse, taking Hal through a pulp space adventure in the middle of his sector, before introducing a massive threat that requires the Green Lanterns of the Multiverse to assemble.  As Morrison winds down his interest in superhero comics, I’m glad he’s mapping out as much of the multiverse he’s restored and developed as possible.  My only complaint is that if this run is going to feature so many weird one-shots, it should really be much longer than just 24 issues.

The Wild Storm #24
Creators: Warren Ellis, Jon Davis-Hunt, Steve Buccellato

Well, we’ve finally come to the end of Wild Storm, Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt’s reboot of the WildStorm universe and I’ll be honest: I need to read this entire thing over again because I’m not sure what the fuck happened. It was never a bad comic, but I guess I kept wondering how many references I wasn’t getting because I was never a WildStorm guy back in the late 90’s and early to mid 2000’s.  I gave this book a chance because I think Warren Ellis is a talented creator when he’s motivated, and his best work on superhero stuff has always been with superhero-adjacent properties like Planetary.  And to his credit, this is a good book–I’ve liked this version of the Authority more than the ones I’ve seen appearing in books elsewhere by far. But it also felt less like a reboot of one of the most successful non-Big 2 shared universes ever and more like just another comic hitting the stands every issue.  You can tell there’s so much more to this world everyone’s unaware of, but Ellis kept so much of it under wraps.  The Wildcats appear for a couple issues before being phased out and they make small references to Gen 13, but ultimately this is like the prologue to an Authority comic…which makes it all the more baffling that the book ends by telling us to look out for the WildC.A.T.s next month.   Seriously…what?

Again, I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy this comic. It was good and I want to re-read it to establish more facts and cement how I feel about it. But without some serious creative investment in the near future on the part of DC, this isn’t the grand reimagining this universe deserves.

Transformers #8
“The Cracks Beneath Your Feet Part 2”
Written by: Brian Ruckley
Art by: Anna Malkova, Angel Hernandez, Beth McGuire-Smith
Colors by: Joana Lafuente & Josh Burcham

We probably should’ve gotten to this two or three issues ago. While I understand Ruckley’s desire to offer additional focus to a new character so we could feel sympathy when he was inevitably killed, it really only slowed down the pacing of a story that already needed to be a slow burn.  The moment Rubble was killed this comic instantly became properly compelling, and this issue ratchets up the tension.  Last issue saw Cyclonus (a Cybertronian hermit in this timeline) wind up in battle with some unknown Transformers before escaping into the city, while Megatron sees the true leader of the Ascenticon movement Termagax…to make sure she’ll remain out of the way of his scheming.  That’s the kind of action I came here to see.  We got so used to Megatron being a revolutionary who lost control of his own revolution, it’s good to see him seemingly return to being a bit slimy and underhanded in pursuit of achieving his goals.

We’re a long ways away from any major cities falling–even the word Decepticon doesn’t exist yet here–but for now, it’s nice that this story finally feels like it’s going places.   But since they’re taking their time to build things up and allowing them to unfold with the hundreds of Transformer characters, hopefully they’ll start to include pages in the front to let readers know who’s on what side.  They have that here, but it’s more of showing the cast of a given book.  However as of now, there’s no less than three existing factions, and that’s not counting all the people who remain unaffiliated until a person (or event) makes them pick a side.  If this book is to remain friendly to newer readers, it wouldn’t be bad to put that in alongside a tiny recap.

That wraps this week’s edition of The Stack up.  What series did you enjoy the most for the week?

Sage Ashford

A writer with way too many hobbies, Sage can often be found catching up on the latest anime, or reading a stack of comics between Wednesdays and Thursdays.

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