Red Hulk #52: Legion of Monsters

Marvel, please let Jeff Parker write Incredible Hulk. As illustrated here, he actually understands the characters.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Red Hulk #52

We're not even sure if Jeff Parker even wants to write Incredible Hulk, but given his successes with the big Fall of the Hulks event in general and Red Hulk #52 in particular (and given the absolute mess that is Jason Aaron's Incredible Hulk relaunch), a campaign should be started to see if Parker can handle a third book on top of this and his Thunderbolts work. Parker actually understands the Hulk-iverse and actually uses the characters well instead of forcing his perspective onto them whether it makes any sense or not.

Case in point, after providing a great jumping-on point with history explained with Red Hulk #50, Parker gives us an issue that calls back to a classic Hulk character from beyond the grave, does very unexpected things with him, and then actually backs up what he does with an explanation that makes sense. As a bonus, he brings us an appearance by the Legion of Monsters, who are unassailably cool. They have a guy named Manphibian, for pete's sake.

The Red Hulk, aka Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, is reluctantly on a mystical quest to rid himself of a mysterious spirit that's been following him around. He managed to clean out the chattering voices in his head last issue, but the spectre remains, and he's got to go underground to the Monster Metropolis to put a stop to it. Dr. Strange is guiding him right into the mouth of the guardian sea-beast, so their working relationship isn't the best, and the old warhorse Ross needs to be reminded a few times how telepathy works. Despite his years chasing the Hulk around, Ross is still pretty new to the super-powered game. He's not new to fighting monsters, though, and there's a lot of that going on here.

Once things finally shake out, we learn that the ghost haunting Ross is none other than Leonard Samson, longtime ally and psychotherapist to Bruce Banner, who went psycho for a while at the hands of the Intelligentsia. However, when last we saw him temporarily revived in the midst of the Chaos War, he made a point of saying that he was on the side of the angels, and that the Big Sleep is a good sleep when you die well, things like that. So why is his ghost an angry spirit trying to claw its way back to life out of spite? Strange gives the crucial explanation that "most ghosts are shades. Echoes burnt into the psychic landscape of our world by strong wills and emotions." So even though the evil version of Samson was overcome at the end of his life, the shadow of that anger remains. And even though they manage to purge it from its attachment to Ross, it's still a chapter that isn't completely closed yet. Eventually, someone's going to want the therapist-to-the-superheroes back in action again, you just wait.

The art from Carlo Pagulayan is really great monster stuff, and he should always be drawing Hulks, and he shines when he's allowed to go all out making up weird creatures. Parker lets him do that, and also uses the established characters in the Hulk pantheon to serve his stories, rather than forcing massive, inorganic character shifts to fit some ill-fitting theme. Red Hulk #52 is pretty neat. Let's let Parker go after the big green guy and save him from the current train wreck.