Review by Karl Verhoven
As Fall of the Hulks takes place, the Hulk is still Bruce Banner, or rather he isn’t, as after World War Hulk and subsequent events the trigger turning Banner into the Hulk has been nullified, and while Bruce Banner has a large part to play, it isn’t as the Hulk. Greg Pak is the primary writer and presents Banner as scientific genius supremely confident in his technological knowhow, and able to mix with superheroes and villains, well able to protect himself, for the most part behind a force field.
It’s certainly not “Hulk Smash!”, but one suspects it’s not deliberate that Banner comes across as smug and smarmy. He’s mostly seen in the company of his half-alien son Skaar, who’s vowed to kill his father, but sees his father as the Hulk, not Banner. As Banner has a fatalistic view that no matter what the current situation the Hulk will re-emerge at some stage, he’s training Skaar to be able to complete his task.
There are some other major players. The Leader has long targeted the Hulk, a match of genius against immense power, and he’s acquired allies, primarily the artificially generated intelligence M.O.D.O.K. To deal with him, Banner and Skaar have allied with the relatively recently appeared Red Hulk, placing a certain amount of trust in him despite not knowing who he actually is. The sample art from Carlos Rodriguez lays out the opposing forces.
It’s the four chapters by Rodriguez in conjunction with Jeff Parker that provide the most entertainment in this collection. The primary concern is dealing with those who might end up helping the Leader, and the solutions Parker works out to avoid that. He also deals with the Leader’s ultimate aim, which is planetary control, and an especially effective scene has the Red Hulk asking “what do you do with an enemy who won’t lie down, no matter what the cost?” Parker working out continuity implants revealing just how the Leader and his Intelligencia colleagues have interfered in the Marvel universe is the single best chapter, and also very readable is his chapter of projected futures.
Pak’s content is separately available in paperback as Son of Banner and Incredible Hulk: Fall of the Hulks. It’s content that starts weakly, but improves as it continues. Pak piles in the guest stars throughout, as if there’s not enough confidence in the appeal of a Hulk story without Banner being able to transform into the Hulk, and the constant intrusion of guest stars cements that. What happens eventually sparks World War Hulks, which follows this. Paul Pelletier’s artwork (sample right) is the best provided, giving power when needed, but also able to convey the emotional content.
Two chapters strikingly out of place both feature M.O.D.O.K. solo as a comedy turn, produced by Ryan Dunlavy, including, among other unfortunate incidents, M.O.D.O.K. attending his high school reunion. They’re as funny as intended, but their tone undermines the more serious content. At its best Fall of the Hulks is a gripping thriller that avoids prediction, but all too often it’s ordinary.