Dammit, Gillen, you did it again.
At the risk of turning this site into a place that does little other than eulogise about comics created by the Phonogram team (and there were some other pretty ace books out this week, as it happens, which I’ll hopefully get to covering shortly), I can’t help but want to draw attention yet again to another excellent bit of work from Mr Gillen, K. When I first heard about this project, it hardly sounded like the most appealing or worthwhile use of his talents – Hulk stories aren’t generally my cup of tea at the best of times, and I’d hardly class “the best of times” as being a crossover, as part of the current Jeph Loeb run on the Hulk books, in which various heroes become “hulked-out” versions of themselves. So while I’ll always pay attention to anything Gillen puts out at the moment, this didn’t look as if it was going to be that good.
It is, though. In fact, it’s kind of great. The same lightness of touch that Gillen has expertly brought to his Marvel work so far – most notably on S.W.O.R.D., and any Thor scenes involving Volstagg – makes him perfectly suited to exploring what would happen if Peter Parker turned into the Hulk. The surprising answer is: instead of going and smashing things, he’d go and try to read about dinosaurs in the natural history museum. I mean, obviously. Oh, and he’d still crack jokes – just, not particularly subtle or witty ones (“Thor is the bluest one there is”). Meanwhile, ThorHulk – being far more of a proponent of the “smashy smashy” approach – doesn’t particularly want to waste time trying to pronounce “TEE-RANN-O-SAAAAURUS”, and wastes no time in making his feelings clear to Spider-Hulk. You can probably imagine what ensues.
But what really makes this work is that instead of simply presenting us with this diametric conflict, Gillen shows us why these characters behave like this when reduced to extremely simplified brain functions. Charming flashback scenes (very nicely rendered by Jorge Molina, who also does a great job in the “present” by having a mass of hulking muscle in a Spider-Man costume still somehow inherently feel like the real Spider-Man) show just why Peter has such a connection to the museum – and, perhaps more impressively (since the nerd is always the easy one for us comics readers to identify with), give a compelling reason for why the idea of stopping and reading, instead of fighting the imminent threat, irks Thor so much (you probably don’t need telling that it has something to do with Loki).
In other words, you tell Gillen to do a story where Thor and Spider-Man both turn into the Hulk and pound the stuffing out of one-another… and he gives you a mildly thought-provoking, and often very funny, character piece. I can only wonder what he would have done if asked to turn in a mildly thought-provoking and often very funny character piece, but in the meantime, it’s yet further evidence of just how on form he is with this stuff at the moment. Cracking.