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Mel’s Muses: The Incredible Hulk #5 and Conan The Barbarian #1

They are mean, they don’t wear a lot of clothes and one of them is green. It’s all about two of the biggest and brawliest guys in comics this week as I take a quick look at the latest Incredible Hulk and a new monthly Conan series.

The Incredible Hulk #5. You won’t see puny Bruce Banner transform into the Hulk in this ongoing series and that’s cos the two guys are now separate individuals or creatures or entities or whatever. The big mystery since the first issue was why and how did it all happen. It starts with the Hulk already big, green, bearded and pretty darn happy to not be changing back to Banner. But skinny Banner’s now Marvel’s newest resident evil mad scientist and running his own little Island of Dr. Moreau act, complete with Gamma-charged man-beasts.

Now finally in this latest issue, writer Jason Aaron (PunisherMAX, Wolverine & the X-Men) reveals all and what a freakin’ crazy and fun read this is. You can tell Aaron must be having a blast writing this cos there are so many over-the-top bits all over this series. From a squad of gun-trotting misshapen mad scientist-killers to radioactive monkey poop being thrown around to (spoiler alert!) Doctor Doom performing brain surgery on the Hulk with a giant Adamantium chainsaw, Aaron is killing it here.

It’s also a relief to see that Aaron has decided not to carry any of the Red Hulk, She-Hulks, Blue Hulk or Son Hulk baggage from last year’s storylines over to this new gig. I’m not a big fan of all the other Hulks that writer Jeph Loeb has introduced over the last couple years so I’m glad that Aaron has chosen to go with a more direct Hulk Smash kinda story here.

Banner, without his Hulk persona, is now an all-out evil scientist on an island with an army of green man-beasts. No prizes as to who is the only person who can stop him since said person was a part of Banner all these years. Like I said, it’s quite a straightforward story with lots of action, peppered with more than a handful of laugh-worthy instances.

One of my favorite pencillers Whilce Portacio (Wetworks, Uncanny X-Men) is handling the art chores here, taking over from Marc Silvestri since last issue. Unfortunately, the art here doesn’t look like one of his best. Some of the pages seemed rush and maybe because there were about half a dozen different inkers and colorists on the last two issues. Just not how I remembered Portacio’s art to be.

Should that stop you from picking it up? Nope, it’s a still a good enough series with an engaging storyline and I think the art ought to ‘stabilize’ by next issue … I hope.

Conan the Barbarian #1. I think Conan is to Dark Horse Comics what Batman is to DC or Wolverine is to Marvel. Cos it sure feels like there’s a new Conan title out every other week since 2003 when Dark Horse first got their hands on the Cimmerian. Anyway, here’s the newest addition to the stable with the not-so-new title of Conan The Barbarian.

Written by Brian Wood of Northlanders fame, this is an adaptation of Conan creator Robert E. Howard’s fan-favorite short story “Queen of the Black Coast,” where a young Conan takes to the high seas to become a pirate and hooks up with his first true love, the pirate queen Belit, thus setting the stage for an epic saga of “romance, terror and swashbuckling”.

The original story is about 40 plus pages only but I believe Wood mentioned in an interview that he’s going to stretch it to over 20 issues. He follows the opening scene from the original story (yes, I still have the Robert E. Howard novel!) and takes it from there rather smoothly, added his touch to it and fleshed out the cast quite nicely. We don’t really see Belit until the end of this issue but Wood and artist Becky Cloonan has done an amazing job building the myth of a larger-than-life demonic female pirate at large. Cloonan has created a very raw and sultry Belit, and oh yes, I can definitely go with over 20 issues of that.

As common in such cases, Wood will most likely come up with some of his own Conan <heart> Belit advantures and having read his Viking tales in Northlanders, I am so looking forward to them. Wood has shown that he has the chops to do a story or two about men carrying big swords and using them.

If you have never picked up any of the Conan titles before, Conan the Barbarian #1 is an excellent one to start. But even if you have picked up the previous titles, this is still one issue that’s just too good to pass.

Cavalock

Melvin Yong has worked way too long in the media and advertising industry. He now spends his time with his family, writing short horror stories and playing lots of board games.

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