Sean Maher's Quality Control

Monday, October 31, 2005

Steve Niles: Don't call it a comeback?

I've spoken disparagingly of Steve Niles in the past, based entirely on my disappointment in his Dark Horse series Freaks of the Heartland, which I thought was meandering and dull despite the fantastic artwork of Greg Ruth.

Nonetheless, I picked up Marvel Comics' Monsters on the Prowl #1 last week, mostly on the strength of Sean Phillips' having admonished me on Millarworld that Duncan Fegredo is a genius and to skip a chance to see his work would be a mistake.

So I picked up the issue, and while it's no great surprise that Mr. Fegredo turned in some spectacular artwork (see below), I have to admit surprise at how much I enjoyed the writing.

There's been a discussion somewhere on the aforementioned Millarworld in recent months circulating around the question: How should The Hulk be written? He seems to be a problematic character, with writers not sure just how seriously to take him. Bruce Jones' long run was intriguing at first but quickly descended into a horrible, horrible mess that had nothing to do with green jeans whatsoever. Peter David's much-anticipated return to the character (having written pretty much the definitive run of the series throughout much of the 80's) kinda fizzled this year.

So, then: Is the Hulk a Jekyll/Hyde-style psychological pastiche, with pieces of the Phantom of the Opera in there? Is he a poor wayfaring stranger, wondering this world in search of peace? Is he strongest one there is, and the madder he gets the stronger he gets?

Personally, I think all three are workable, but lately the damn book just hasn't been any fucking fun.

Enter Steve Niles, who remembers how good all those Hulk/Thing team-ups were. In particular, this one reminds me of Jim Starlin's classic The Big Change one-shot with Berni Wrightson. This is all about The Thing and The Hulk hooking up to fight some big goddamn monsters and eat some sandwiches. Ben Grimm's personality is a great foil for the jolly green giant, complaining, "Quit callin' me Rock Man!"

So, this is "Hulk Smash!" Hulk, and if it was this entertaining every time, I swear it right now, I'd buy an ongoing series run by Niles. You gotta read this contextually, but lines like "Hulk have good idea. Good monster smash bad monster," just crack me up all to shit. This is writing from somebody who remembers why The Hulk is entertaining.

So, I'm pretty damn pleased with this. I laughed out loud, I loved watching the monster fights (including Giant Man having a great time with no degredation or "he's secretly not such a great guy at all" subtext, thank the fuck Christ), and I've got more to look forward to - Giant Monster #1 (with art by Nat Jones, published by BOOM! Studios) was a lot of fun, too, and I'll look at that tomorrow.


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