In HULK Issue #39 "The Stand-In", General Thaddeus Ross revisits his past... and shows a side of humanity rarely seen by the man as rigid as the military code of conduct he has so long lived by.
It's all spurred on by the need of finding a new safe base camp, one that his growing arsenal of enemies (M.O.D.O.K., General Fortean, Zero-One, Black Fog) are completely unaware of. The Red Hulk's answer to that need is finding refuge in his childhood home, a now rundown and abandoned farm. As one would expect, upon his arrival, old memories flood the General's thoughts. He feels compelled to share, something Annie (his only friend) is more than willing to embrace. Ross' tender reminiscing ends abruptly though when the all-powerful cosmic Omegex finally catches up with the Red Hulk and attempts to annihilate the crimson giant once and for all.
Writer Jeff Parker delightfully pens a story full of charm as Ross strolls down memory lane. It's touching to see the L.M.D. Annie so eager to listen to the tales of a man she is essentially programmed to accompany. They are clearly fond of each other... Annie so pleased to watch Ross finally enjoying himself... and Ross so apologetic for going on so much about his deceased wife... something one would typically do in concern of offending a new girlfriend. Is their bond only friendship? Or is their budding relationship developing into something more? It's all a joy to watch unfold.
There are some quibbles one could make regarding the logic of the story. Why would Ross, being so concerned with hiding his identity in an effort to keep his great military record untarnished, select the family Ross home as a hideout? Isn’t that a place that can easily expose his identity if discovered hiding there? And the Omegex (who surprisingly doesn't seem that far removed from a common enemy or deserving of the "walking apocalypse" readers were excitingly teased with) why would the cosmic killer be wasting valuable time hiding is his barn waiting to sneak attack? Would such a destructive beast concern itself with the element of surprise and wait in the shadows (a tactic more suitable for the likes of Black Fog) after blatantly looking for the Rulk out in the open months before? Wouldn't such a creation lock in on his target and drive menacingly forward until grasped?
Those problematic details aside, Jeff Parker still more than delivers a great issue as well does artist Gabriel Hardman. While I'm not a fan of his Red Hulk interpretation, everything else (especially the environment) is drawn extremely well. Hardman’s art always has a classic style that fits very well in an issue filled with flashbacks of our favorite General.
4 out of 5 Stars
A general falls. A red monster rises. Stay tuned.
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