Did you hear? There’s a new comic book movie coming out this week – The Incredible Hulk. Since the movie is PG-13, I won’t be taking my three-year-old to see it.
The Incredible Hulk might not be for kids, but Marvel certainly has an interest in introducing kids to the Hulk himself. In Entertainment Weekly Marvel's president of production Kevin Feige pointed out, next to Spider-Man, the Hulk is probably Marvel’s most universally known character. "It's Spidey and Hulk standing atop Mount Marvel." Younger kids can get their Hulk fix with toys (like the Hulk Hands modeled here by Jack) or by reading the Marvel Age Hulk comics. Are these comics a good introduction to the big green guy?
Jack and I read Marvel Age Hulk #1: Cowboys and Robots, by Mike Raicht and Patrick Scherberger. The story begins with Bruce Banner wandering through the Southwest, trying to escape his own inner Hulky demons, as he has done so many times before. He runs into an old high-school classmate and her son, whose car has broken down. The kid thinks that he and his mom are looking for his father, who ran out on them, but we quickly learn that actually, the mom is running away from him. It turns out that he has been involved in some kind of experiment that has bonded him to a killer robot, and the guy is intent on continuing his experiment on his family – including his little boy. Naturally, the killer robot dad and his killer robot buddies track them down, Banner Hulks out, and after the fight is over, the killer robot dad sees the error of his ways and begins to reunite with his family.
How on earth is this story appropriate for kids? I will grant that my son is younger than what the target demographic might be. However, a story in which a kid is hunted by his psychotic father who intends to conduct dangerous experiments on him is the stuff nightmares are made of. If you are writing a book that is intended to be for all ages, I think it’s a reasonable expectation that the story be free of murderous parents.
If you read the story as an adult, with no need to shield an impressionable young mind, it is no better. Raicht relies too heavily on coincidence – Banner just happens to run into someone he knows. The kid conveniently falls asleep – in the middle of the day – to allow his mom to explain the situation to Banner. And of course, the father is able to find them in the first place. The resolution is unrealistic; that mother is awfully forgiving considering the danger he was willing to put her child in.
The weak story was not even improved by a good old fashioned bout of HULK SMASH action. It was unclear what was happening in the fight scenes, and the match between the killer robot guys and the Hulk was uneven from the beginning. I reviewed another Marvel all-ages book with art by Scherberger here and found he did a much better job with the action scenes. The fact that things are so muddy in this book makes me wonder if he had poorer script direction.
If Marvel Age Hulk #1 represents Marvel’s best attempt to turn young kids into Hulk fans, then Abomination is the least of Hulk’s troubles. This book rates an F: Freakin’ Crap in a Hat.