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March 27, 2016

Marvel Reviews: Totally Awesome Hulk #1-4

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STK698688Totally Awesome Hulk 1-4
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Frank Cho
Colorist: Sonia Oback
Cover: Frank Cho & David Curiel

Bruce Banner has long been the green giant of the Marvel Universe, being both one of its strongest heroes and its most feared destructive force.  The lifelong ambition of Bruce Banner has been to rid himself of the Hulk for good and finally his wish has come true…or has it?

Long time supporting character Amadeus Cho, created by writer Greg Pak back in 2006, finally gets to put his best GREEN foot forward as the Totally Awesome Hulk.  With the support of his younger sister, and voice of reason, Madame Curie “Maddy” Cho he throws himself headlong into fights against giant monsters in a dual effort to be a hero and, most importantly to him, to be the best Hulk ever.  While Cho seems to genuinely enjoy being the Hulk, and the added benefit of being able to eat everything in sight to maintain himself, the other heroes are not so sure of his ability.  She-Hulk, cousin to the “Old Hulk” Bruce Banner, in particular seems none too impressed with Cho stepping in as the new Hulk and isn’t afraid to say so.

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Pak starts the story of the new Hulk with Amadeus flexing his muscles tackling monster eruptions occurring around the world, a task that he feels suits his new abilities and intellectual prowess perfectly.  Pak has given him a strong platform to build his own identity as the new Hulk. While there have been times where Banner has been in control of the Hulk intellectually seeing Cho deal with the monster within is interesting.  It doesn’t seem as if there’s a struggle for control so much as a mutual understanding between Cho and the big green monster.  I really liked the idea of the two of them riding in an old car with the monster allowing Cho to be in the driver’s seat and just enjoying the ride as if he was on a long needed vacation trip.  While there were a few times throughout this first arc where Cho seemed to “lose control,” it never felt like the monster ever actually did more than sort of backseat drive for a while.  Aside from that, the book takes a really lighthearted tone with much of the humor coming from him simply being a teenage boy.  Where the gamma radiation in Bruce made his Hulk incredibly aggressive, Cho’s Hulk is still working out the hormonal changes of growing from boy to man.  While big and green he constantly ignores his sister’s voice of reason, Cho is a complete girl hound and tends to seem aloof when fighting.  All of these things drive his sister crazy and kept me laughing and grinning the whole time.

Frank Cho has done an amazing job with these books.  As a person who is guilty of giving up on books because I didn’t like the art, I was completely enamored with his artwork here.  Cho depicts muscle and bone structure in a way that you know he has spent lots of time actually studying the human form. The opening pages were gorgeous but it was that first splash page that completely sold me on this book.  The Hulk leaps into action against a giant two-headed snapping turtle, who’s about to roast this gorgeously drawn beachgoer and the child she’s babysitting and he does it with a smile!  The battle is easy to follow panel to panel and every hit comes across with a powerhouse slam.  In combination with Sonia Obacks’ coloring, the characters and scenes come across in an incredibly vibrant way.  The lighting and coloring become even more dynamic when there are fire or electric effects being added to the action.  There are a lot of close ups as Cho’s Hulk runs the gamut of expression from enjoying the fight, to struggling, to being frustrated with his sister and She Hulk criticizing his actions.  Whenever the beast decides that he’s got some back seat driving to do, Frank Cho makes sure you can see it on Amadeus’ face and the supporting characters damn sure see it too. However, the close ups do cover up the fact that there isn’t very much in the way of atmosphere here.  The backgrounds are very bland or non-existent.  While I appreciate the intense attention to detail that Cho pays to body language, muscle tone and expression, I hope that as Totally Awesome Hulk moves forward, Frank Cho will be able to render some sprawling landscapes for the Hulk to explore, battle in and destroy.  Not every event will take place on the beach.

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All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this first arc with Amadeus as Hulk.  Pak has given us readers a lot to work out with this character and I’m extremely curious about the tone of this book moving forward.  I’m curious to see how Amadeus Cho copes with the burden of being the new Hulk.  After decades with Bruce Banner as the Hulk battling for control how long can Cho and the beast in the backseat maintain their internal balance?  Will She-Hulk and the other heroes come to accept Cho as the new Hulk and trust in his ability or fear that he will lost control and one day become a destroyer.

Eric Snell
esnell@comicattack.net

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