Monday, 22 September 2014

Marvel Knights: Hulk - Transformé Review (Joe Keatinge, Piotr Kowalski)


Bruce Banner wakes up at night floating in the middle of the Seine River, Paris - except he doesn’t know he’s Bruce Banner, and he doesn’t know about the Hulk either because he’s got amnesia. But he knows one thing: a rogue faction of AIM led by a woman with the Abomination serum, and SHIELD, are both after him. And he’s gotta RUN! 

After the terrible Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, I went into Marvel Knights: Hulk with very low expectations, which is maybe why I liked it so much. Joe Keatinge and Piotr Kowalski created a very cinematic, fast-moving story in this four-issue mini-series and it’s a very enjoyable Hulk book - a rarity! 

To be honest, I never really got what was happening with AIM, but it basically comes down to Hulk smashing bad guys, and that’s basically all you really need to know! The story was about a woman called Nikoleta Miru who breaks free of AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics) and decides to get her own back on Doctor Doom/MODOK/Midas (for some reason) by capturing, and weaponizing, the Hulk against them. Surprisingly, she’s successful for a time and tons of mass destruction follows - if you’ve ever wanted to see Paris levelled by Hulk, this is the book for you! 

But it’s worth reading Keatinge’s afterword and the reprint of Stan Lee/Jack Kirby’s Hulk #1 from 1962 both of which follow the main story, as it helps you understand the book. Keatinge talks about wanting to dissect Hulk’s first appearance and there are very obvious echoes from Lee/Kirby’s comic in Keatinge/Kowalski’s. Keatinge copies Lee’s words for some of the flashback scenes, while Kowalski draws some of Kirby’s panels in his own style. Also, Keatinge’s story of someone wanting to control Hulk for their own purposes echoes Lee’s story of the Russian Gargoyle wanting to control Hulk for the glory of communism! In a way, you could say this mini-series was a modern retelling of Hulk #1.

Keatinge also mentions how he wanted to explore why Hulk means so much to him, and to many other people. First and foremost: Hulk SMASH! and you get a hefty dose of that in this book! But there’s also a very obvious effort to work in the idea that a world without Bruce Banner or the Hulk, and how, as dangerous as they can be, the world would be worse off without them. The book is as much a love letter to the big green giant as it is a look into why he’s such a fascinating and enduring creation. 

Piotr Kowalski is drawing in full-on Marvel Cinematic Universe mode, with BIG panels for EVEN BIGGER action set pieces, and it works well. The scale and force of the devastation is really felt, though he can also draw very quiet, beautiful Parisian street scenes. 

Colourist Nick Filardi’s work steals the show for me. From that first double-splash page of the seine, when the whole scene was bathed in the classic Hulk green, I was totally awestruck - that choice is absolutely perfect, not just because it’s eye-catching, but because you’re instantly transported into a real world that’s not real either. Kowalski’s art is really good but Filardi’s colours completely elevated it onto a new level. 

Marvel Knights: Hulk - Transformé is the best Hulk book I’ve read in a long while. It’s got really great writing and art, but most importantly has an exciting, gripping story at its core. The reprint of Hulk #1 was an added bonus and is actually a pretty decent comic - corny but interesting. If Marvel Studios are wondering what Hulk story they should adapt next into a movie, I’d say this one’s a definite frontrunner!

Marvel Knights: Hulk - Transformé

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