“Totally Awesome” may be overselling Marvel’s new Hulk series starring Amadeus Cho, but it is genuinely somewhat awesome. Even in my limited exposure to the character, I’ve definitely come across more awesome versions of the Hulk. Mark Ruffalo’s cinematic Hulk springs immediately to mind, uttering his unforgettable “puny god.” Better yet was Mark Waid’s Indestructible Hulk, a cannon to be aimed by S.H.I.E.L.D. and fired at whatever needed smashing. Best of all was Mark Millar’s Ultimate Hulk, a super-steroid junky with all the worst side-effects of juicing cranked up several orders of magnitude; Ultimate Hulk was not a personification of anger so much as hormone-fueled hyper-masculinity.
The Totally Awesome Hulk runs with the notion of a testosterone addled Hulk, divorcing it from the associations with ‘roid rage and re-contextualizing it in the whole emotional maelstrom which is pubescence. Cho, as both a nineteen-year-old and even more so as the Hulk, is brimming with the self-confidence and assuredness of youth, as well as the constant prurient desires typical of any teenage guy. If Spider-Man was a parable for the shame experienced by some for their adolescent metamorphosis, the new Hulk is an examination of the excitement such a time represents for others.
After all, what nineteen-year-old hasn’t felt like they really could go mano a mano with a flame-spewing two-headed turtle the size of a behemoth? And if they ever did land a knockout punch on such a killer kaiju, of course the first thing they’d do is hit on the most beauteous bikini-clad beach babe to have witnessed the feat. Unlike the self-sacrificing Superman or the brooding Batman, Cho as Hulk is relatable in that he acts exactly as the reader would given the same powers and circumstances.
In addition to the all-new Hulk himself, another factor contributing to the book being fairly awesome is the promised plethora of monstrosities for Hulk to smash per the series’ premise. Being the strongest man on the planet and the eighth smartest, Cho had his choice of any career he wanted, so of course he picked Kaiju-hunter (writer Greg Pak truly understands the male psyche).
Such monsters, including the aforementioned two-headed tortoise, a fully feathered raptor, and of course Hulk himself, are all illustrated skillfully by artist Frank Cho. Drawing inhuman characters based on a variety of animals, beasts, and creatures was the most important skill called upon by Pak’s script, and it’s far from universal even among comic artists, but Cho delivers in spades.
One particular panel I did find a bit unusual featured a fully buff Hulk, his member censored by an editorial box reading “Censored so the editorial staff can keep their jobs.” I’m in no way calling for more graphic depictions of male genitalia in comic; just recently I was commenting to a friend that Tokyo Ghost is my favorite series of the year, it’s singular flaw being an overabundance of phalluses. But I thought the industry put away such puritanical prudery thirty years ago when Dr. Manhattan’s mazarine manhood hung uninhibited. The rest of the issue reads as juvenile in that it possesses the fiery temper of youth; this reads as juvenile only in the sense of childish and immature, with editorial infantilizing the readership.
Aside from such truly minor complaints, The Totally Awesome Hulk is indeed pretty awesome. Unlike some of the other mantels to have been passed on at Marvel recently, the transition from Bannar to Cho as Hulk seems perfectly organic to the essence of the character. That alone makes Pak and Cho’s Hulk one of the more promising titles to come out of the All-New Marvel Now initiative.