Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Skaar: Son of Hulk #2 Review

Writer: Greg Pak
Pencillers: Ron Garney/Butch Guice

This book has a cool cover. Lightning is cool. Dragons are very cool. The Hulk (or his son, who looks a lot like him) is extremely cool. The Hulk with a battle axe is especially cool. The Hulk with a battle axe attacking a dragon with lightning in the background? That may be the coolest thing since the invention of the double-bladed lightsaber. It is impossible to underestimate the coolness of this cover, which would have made me buy the book regardless of its contents.

Except I need to review the contents, too, don't I? Sigh. I have to say, I'm still not one hundred percent sold on this book. I think the main problem is that I'm not one hundred percent certain of the premise. What, exactly, is the point of this story? We've been introduced to a number of characters, but aside from the main character of Skaar, I'm not at all sure who will be the main characters or what this story will be about. We've had two big fight issues, including dragons, and... that's really it. There's some sort of power struggle going on between two of the pink people (as opposed to the grey people - one must keep such things straight), one of whom is a woman with no arms, so is that the point? I don't know. There's really nothing here to latch onto.

One serious problem with this story is Skaar himself. Skaar is incredibly boring. Basically, he's like the savage Hulk from the early Eighties, who just says "rawr" and smashes things. Skaar doesn't even say "Skaar smash!", which would at least be articulate. Instead, he says (and I quote), "Grrraaaaaa!", "Gggrnnn", "Rrrrrrrrrr...", "Grrraaaaaaa!", "Rrrraaaannnnrrrggg", and "Graaaaaaa!". Even Robinson's Superman has better dialogue. This is just Klingon baby talk. There's really nothing else to say about him, except that he seems like a tough fighter, and doesn't like to wear a loin cloth.

I'm going to give this book some time, since Pak's "Planet Hulk" story line was the best Hulk story I've ever read. Unless he's completely lost his mind, Pak is planning to go somewhere with this story, and I'm going to give it a chance. I'm happy to see that Sakarr wasn't completely destroyed at the end of Planet Hulk, and it's nice to see Pak return to a world for which he clearly has great fondness. A cast does seem to be developing and I do hope that Skaar is healed from his apparent lobotomy at some point in the near future, so that he can be a character rather than a plot device.

Pak also has a lot to say about violence, fear and retribution, and the Planet Hulk storyline really captured the way that anger and strength can sometimes be exactly the right approach to great evil. The Planet Hulk story line reminded me of the Rage of Achilles book of the Iliad. In that story, Achilles, following the death of Patroclus, cuts a swath of death through the Trojans, all of which is described in great detail, and ultimately ends up fighting the river itself, who is enraged by all the corpses piling up in its water. The Hulk has the same sort of virtues: he is strong, he is angry and he is right. In the face of a violent and barbarous world like Sakarr, he was exactly what they needed, and had the same sort of heroic virtues that the Greeks prized before they started founding cities and needed to get along with each other. Pak's work on the Incredible Hercules shows that he has a great fondness for Greek stories and myth, and they are clearly influencing his stories and themes.

The second story in this book gives some hints as to where Pak may be going with this story. As one grey man says to another, "When so much power lies in the hands of one man...people like you die by the millions". The cost of the kind of virtues that the Hulk possesses are destruction and death. When Achilles storms across the battle field he kills dozens; the sack of Troy kills thousands. When a world is founded on strength, the violence spills over, as it did when Miek destroyed the capital sity of Sakarr. If Pak doesn't give some language to Skarr, what we may find this book to be is the reactions to the Hulk's fruits on Sakarr. What is the cost of anger and strength, even righteous anger? Pak explored this in World War Hulk, and the second story is beginning to address them.

However, as it is, this book is only beginning to touch these themes. Right now, it is promise but no punch, and I can only hope it improves:


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