ESSENTIAL RULK : Review of HULK Issue # 41
HULK Issue 41 "Omegex 3: Finality" marks the last issue of artist Gabriel Hardman's run as the penciler on this series. While he’s incredibly gifted with a classic pulpy style, my relationship with Hardman’s work has been strained at best, specifically when it comes to his incarnation of the Red Hulk. Drawing him with a stocky, swollen looking frame with a face often greatly lacking in detail, Hardman's Rulk often looked like one of those giant helium balloons you'd find in a Thanksgiving Day Parade down the streets of New York versus the powerful visual feast past artists have accustomed (maybe even spoiled) fans to.
But as the Red Hulk is about to meet his demise at the hands of the cosmic Omegex, this issue reveals it has really nothing to do with the Red Giant and everything to do with the man… Thaddeus E. "Thunderbolt" Ross. So it's fitting that Hardman's swan song is an issue that allows him to draw what he draws best: Humans. Unequivocally, Gabriel Hardman draws a wonderful General Ross. It's a fantastic artistic rendition, drawn full of heart.
And Ross is the heart of this issue, the centerpiece of a superbly crafted story written by Jeff Parker that explores the emotional underpinnings of the man within the beast. As Essential Rulk Issue #23 "Who is the Red Hulk?" masterfully chronicled the life changing events that drove a man down the road to become a monster, this gem of an issue works as a companion piece that explores how the boy became this man. The results are sad, even poetically tragic, that will spur sympathy towards the long misunderstood hard ass General.
This is a tale that is most difficult to relive by Ross himself, who can no longer hide within his forever cold and hardened shell. Buried memories so easily exposed by the advanced being Zero-One haunts Thaddeus, yet he proceeds because he realizes all of humanity.. not just his repressed emotional safety.. may be on the line. So he tries to win Zero-One over for us, knowing he won't win against the Omegex just like any other challenge he's faced. As Zero-One puts it to the Red Hulk... "This is all cyclical. cyclical loss. You lose to the hulk. You lose your daughter to him. Year after year, you lose." But thanks to Parker, issue after issue, the readers win. This one's essential. Pick it up.