Monday, June 7, 2010

Hulk Gray

Hulk Gray - Comic of the DayBefore Jeph Loeb went all Rulk (red Hulk) on us he stuck to his guns and created Hulk Gray, a hardcover graphic novel about Bruce Banner remembering his early days as the Hulk...when he was still gray.

First I must address what I mean by sticking to his (Loeb's) "guns." Jeph Loeb has received his most acclaim when working with the amazing Tim Sale. Sale's stylized art can give great motion and action to a character while still capturing what makes each character unique and visually memorable: Betty's frail beauty to Hulks awkwardly-clunky power.

Tim Sale also does great work helping Loeb set the pace of his stories. A lot of criticism towards Loeb's recent work has involved the flow of his stories. The read: this happened, then this happened and then this happened. There hasn't been the feeling of transition which Sale brings to panels which are subtle, yet necessary. Tim Sale has helped bring success to the Loeb and Sale "color" books (Hulk Gray, Daredevil Yellow and Spider-Man Blue), but also to his Batman adventures such as Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory.

The other pistol in Loeb's holster that factored into all of those books, which many will unjustly overlook, is the work by letterer Richard Starkings. Is it totally random that two of the greatest Batman stories (Batman: The Killing Joke and Batman: The Long Halloween) are lettered by Starkings? Is it coincidence that Loeb's best work is with Starkings on letters? No and no. The now Elephantmen writer helped present the dialog and narration with perfect placement to also help the pacing of the comic's read. Starkings may not have the name recognition of a Tim Sale to casual comic book readers, but in the industry, he is well know for his story-telling ability.

I once asked Starkings which Loeb/Sale "color" book he enjoyed doing the most and he answered: Hulk Gray. The Daredevil and Spider-Man books explored issues we have seen many times before, but the Hulk book shows the similarities between General Ross and the Hulk. The question of who the real monster is, and is there a "gray" area between war and peace or monster and man, are presented in Hulk Gray. Visually I would have to go with Daredevil Yellow because the yellow suit is just badass, but content wise I would have to agree with Starkings.

Most of the Loeb, Sale and Starkings team ups are stories told with a narrative throughout the length of the tale. While Bruce narrates his sad complicated early years in Hulk Gray, readers are nothing but thankful to be let in on his memories. This is yet another Loeb and Sale comic of the day, and like before, it won't be their last.

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