Generations: Banner Hulk & Totally Awesome Hulk #1
Written by Greg Pak
Art by Matteo Buffagni and Dono Sanchez-Almara
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10
Marvel’s Generations event kicks off with Generations: Banner Hulk & Totally Awesome Hulk #1, and unfortunately, two Hulks aren’t always better than one. While seminal Hulk writer Greg Pak has some poignant moments with unjolly green giant Bruce Banner and his precocious gamma-powered successor Amadeus Cho, this one-shot is undercut both by its art team and its larger lack of context.
For those of you who are anxious to dip your toes into the latest Marvel status quo, you may want to brace yourself, because Generations: Hulk starts off rough - rough enough that I had to put the book down and take a break before diving back in. This isn’t any fault of Pak’s, but the art team he’s partnered with doesn’t do him a ton of favors - Matteo Buffagni’s Hulks are blocky and angular, which could be fine on its own, but Dono Sanchez-Almara’s colors immediately take you out of the book with its garish glowing yellows. I don’t like picking on colorists, and to his credit, Sanchez-Almara does calm down with his palette later on in the book, but this issue is a reminder of how crucial a colorist’s contributions are - because the first few pages are almost impossible to make out, and that kneecaps the book’s momentum hard.
Yet once the readers are able to find their feet after the off-putting visual introduction, it’s unfortunate that this one-shot goes so far back to basics that it feels largely stale. Greg Pak is a writer who knows the Hulk better than anybody since Peter David, and perhaps it’s because of the restrictions of the one-shot format, but there’s not much story meat for readers to latch onto, since we’ve already seen Amadeus and Banner interact so many times before. There’s a slight bit of newness in the fact that both mentor and mentee are now gamma-irradiated titans, but the time travel aspect of this story that Pak alludes to means that the connection is barely there - Banner, a character with no small degree of tragedy, feels undefined and out of place, and because he doesn’t even know Amadeus, that human connection feels only at half-capacity.
But you have to give Pak credit for trying to fit in as many Hulk tropes as he can get in this script - we’ve got General “Thunderbolt” Ross siccing the Army on Banner and Amadeus, before having the two Hulks go mano-a-mano against one another, before having some actual conversation between the two, capping off with a battle against a giant monster. The final beat with the Hulks fighting the runaway monster feels the most truncated, in part because Buffagni and Sanchez-Almara’s visuals are so difficult to make out, robbing Pak’s script of most of its emotional punch. (In particular, the layouts for the final page are so scattered that I had to do a double-take to realize I had finished the book.) But Pak has the most sparks when showing what Amadeus represents to Banner - hope that his curse can one day be controlled - even as he takes a stab at tragedy when Amadeus himself begins to realize just how out of his depth he is as the Totally Awesome Hulk.
Ultimately, at the core of Generations: Hulk isn’t so much a storytelling problem as it is a production problem - there are certain pairings of writers and artists that work out great, and other pairings that just don’t play to each others’ strengths. This book is, unfortunately, one of the latter examples, which isn’t a great first impression for Marvel’s latest event. There’s something to be said for nostalgia, and giving readers a glimpse at beloved characters who might have been temporarily pushed off the stage, and to that end, Pak makes a solid attempt - but unless you’re a diehard Hulk fan, this one-shot will likely prove a disappointment.