Cross-over tie-ins have one ultimate purpose: to boost sales. Marvel creates universe event after universe event in an effort to encourage readers to buy comic titles that they wouldn't usually purchase, in order to grasp the entire, often cataclysmic unfolding story. With any luck, a new reader will find the added title so interesting that they will continue to pick up the book, long after the cross-over event has ended. You'll be hard pressed to find a comic more blatantly obvious in serving this purpose than HULK Issue #37 "Planet of Fear Part One".
Thinly disguised as a new story, the recap of the entire recent history of the Red Hulk is mostly told through the words of the villainous M.O.D.O.K., who comes to the obvious (and conveniently timed) conclusion that knowing your enemy is the key to defeating your enemy. So what do we learn in this book? General Ross was so obsessed with destroying the Hulk he conspired with M.O.D.O.K. to become one? Check. Banner ultimately stopped the Rulk and now he works with the Avengers towards redemption? Check. Ross feels isolated? He cares deeply for the female LMD Annie? He's worried if he continues to absorb the power of his enemies, he'll never be able to return to his human form? Check. Check. Check. Writer Jeff Parker covers every aspect of the Rulk's past so well that new readers will feel "up to speed" and in great shape to stick with the HULK comic long after the conclusion of "Fear Itself". With the great lack of new material, the already loyal Red Hulk fans are the only ones who will feel slighted here.
When it comes to the actual "Fear Itself" storyline, it's practically non-existent. Except for some meaningless filler where Hawkeye and Mockingbird spectate the ensuing attack of Sin and the Worthy Thing, there's really nothing of substance here that wasn't told substantially more in AVENGERS Issue # 14.
Fill-in artist Elena Casagrande does a solid job with this book. While there's nothing terribly inspiring about her work, there's nothing terrible either and she's certainly at her best when drawing the sinister M.O.D.O.K.. Carlo Pagulayan does a nice job with the cover, which makes me miss his work after the spectacular two issue run the artist served HULK several months back. But none of this takes away from the "been there, done that" retread feel of this issue.
After "Fear Itself" and assumingly "Planet Red Hulk", we've been hitting many corporate mandated speed bumps as of late, breaking up the flow of Parker's well crafted story. Let's hope we've seen the last of them for a while.
2.5 out of 5 Stars
A general falls. A red monster rises. Stay tuned.
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