Saturday, August 30, 2008

Skaar: Son of Hulk #3 Review

Writer: Greg Pak
Pencillers: Ron Garney, Butch Guice (backup)

I've been doing my best to give Skaar: Son of Hulk the benefit of the doubt. I really have. Pak's run on the Hulk was my favourite run ever, and I especially loved his world of Sakaar, where Son of Hulk takes place. However, Pak is missing one of the most important rules of writing a new story: you need to tell your readers what it is about. With an established name like Captain America, you can start a story with intrigue so as to confuse the reader. With Skaar: Son of Hulk, you need a hook and a premise, and you need to establish it fast. After three issues of Skaar: Son of Hulk, I still have no idea what this story will about, or even who its main characters will be. This is the same mistake that Joss Whedon's show Firefly made, taking so long to reveal its central premise that the show was cancelled before it could be revealed.

Make no mistake: I believe that Pak will eventually create a good story here, but he needs to get on with it. There is promise that this will happen next issue, when they reach Prophet Rock and find out who Skaar "really is", whatever that might mean. However, because Pak is writing half of his issues as back story, his main story is only half an issue long each month, and this week, we basically have a fight with Princess Omaka, the woman with no arms from last issue. In it, she tries to kill Skaar, who tears off one of her artificial "arms" (she's replaced them with swords). She plans to kill him, so history doesn't repeat itself and this version of the Hulk doesn't do any more damage to the world. However, they are attacked by Wildebots, and Skaar kills most of them single-handedly. Impressed, she heads off to Prophet Rock with him.

Despite being just as confused as to what is going on this issue as I was in the first issue, there are some very nice elements to Pak's story. I'm reminded that Incredible Hercules is currently also being written by Pak. In both of these books, he is able to write according to a different kind of logic: in Incredible Hercules, it is the logic of mythology, and in Son of Hulk, it is the logic of barbarism. The characters in this book all think very differently than how we normally think, but their logic makes sense given the violent world in which they live. The secondary story about Axeman Bone includes three seperate attempts to assassinate him, which he simply repels with violence. In the world in which he lives, cruelty is utterly ubiquitous, and he considers himself virtuous largely because he has been successful. It is the morality of Agamemnon, and Pak again shows his interest in classical civilization here. Omaka has something of an opposite reaction. She wants to kill Skaar because she wants to stop the endless cycle of bloodshed that destroyed Sakaar City. However, she is also a product of it, and when Skaar destroys the Wildebots, she cannot help but think that his strength might be a sign that he actually is some sort of promised saviour. This logic of barbarism, in which strength and virtue are synonymous, permeates the whole story, and Pak is extremely good at creating stories with their own sense of logic.

I realise there has been a lot of criticism of the art in Son of Hulk, largely due to the lack of an inker. I believe, however, that it really fits the story that Pak is trying to tell. The backgrounds and characters look like they are out of an old adventure storybook, like one of those nineteenth-century novels for boys, with a pencilled drawing above each chapter. Although this may be just my own sense of nostalgia, the sketched out images carry with them a real sense of adventure and tension, like the artist is drawing the image, but leaving the reader to fill in the details. Given how horrible the inking was on Mighty Avengers #17 this week, I have to say that I don't really miss it.

This is the least successful issue of Skaar so far, largely because Pak really needs to get on with his story. However, Pak continutes to do what he do best, which is lay out a world with its own barbaric logic, one in which a character like the Hulk could not help but play a pivotal role.


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