I have been pleasantly surprised by the Secret Wars tie-in issues up until this point. Normally, I find big event tie-in issues to be largely a waste of time and nothing more than cheap cash grabs by publishers. That has not been the case with the Secret Wars tie-in issues. Marvel has rolled out some rather enjoyable Secret Wars related mini-series up to this point. Will Secret Wars Planet Hulk #2 keep that trend going? Let’s find out!
Words: Sam Humphries
Art: Marc Laming
Colors: Jordan Boyd
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Steve Rogers sleeping next to Devil Dinosaur. (Aww. How cute. It is like how my pit bull curls up next to me and sleeps on my bed.) Steve starts having a bad dream about Bucky. Steve wakes up and sees a Hulk named Doc Green sitting there. Steve is surprised that Doc Green did not kill him. Doc Green says that he can tell that Steve is “a Steve Rogers” by looking into Steve’s eyes. Doc Green says that he knew a Captain America with a robotic arm, a Captain America with the mutant gene and a Captain America with wings. Doc Green says that he is to guide Steve to the Mud Kingdom and the Red King. We learn that the Red King is holding Bucky captive.
Steve asks since Doc Green is a doctor if he can heal the grub (some creature) that is injured and at Doc Green’s feet. Doc Green says “No.” Steve realizes that Doc Green has been torturing the injured grub while Steve was sleeping. Steve kills the grub with one blow of his battle-axe. Steve says that even monsters deserve mercy and for Doc Green to not make Steve forget that fact. Doc Green picks Steve up by his neck and says that he could kill Steve and that Steve will not survive the trail to the Mud Kingdom without Doc Green’s help.
Devil Dinosaur gets ready to attack Doc Green. Doc Green says that Steve may not like him but Steve needs him in order for him to find the Mud Kingdom and Bucky. Doc Green tells Steve to call off Devil Dinosaur.
We flashback to “years ago” in a “forgotten kingdom.” We see Bucky and Steve racing through the rubble in the streets of a war-torn city. A missile blows up the ground in front of Bucky. Steve digs Bucky out of the rubble. Steve picks up Bucky and starts to carry him to safety. Bucky says that they need to get underground. Bucky then suggests that he and Steve enlist to fight. Steve comments that they are both beanpoles and have no business fighting. Bucky points to a picture of The Falcon as Captain America in a propaganda poster for the Super Soldier program. Steve says it is nothing but a pipe dream.
We cut back to Steve riding Devil Dinosaur and Doc Green walking next to them on their way to the Mud Kingdom. Doc Green is happy he has a traveling companion after all these years in the Greenland with nothing but Hulks to talk to. Doc Green says that he and Steve are much more alike each other than Steve realizes. Doc Green says that once Steve kills the Red King then Doom’s mission will be done and Steve will rescue Bucky and then Steve will have his freedom. Doc Green asks Steve what he will do after that happens. Steve replies that he will fight for what justice he can. That he will fight Doom. Doc Green laughs at Steve. Devil Dinosaur growls at Doc Green.
Suddenly, a Hulk-Eater plant attacks them. Doc Green takes the plant out. Then two massive Bull Hulks attack our heroes. Devil Dinosaur kicks ass on one of the Bull Hulks. The second Bull Hulk chases Steve and Doc Green. They run and jump into a nearby river to escape the second Bull Hulk. They then get caught up in the rapid current of the river. Steve calls out for Devil Dinosaur. Steve and Doc Green then get caught up in a massive waterfall and they both go over the edge of the waterfall.
Steve and Doc swim out from under the waterfall. Steve calls out for Devil Dinosaur again using his special “Devil call.” Suddenly, a massive water creature grabs Steve’s leg with one of its tendrils and pulls him under the water. The water creature then faces Doc Green and roars. Doc Green says “There you are. Come out and play.” End of issue.
The Good: Secret Wars Planet Hulk #2 was a fun read. The strength of this issue is all of the action. Humphries serves up plenty of action in this issue. And it is some of my favorite type of action, too. Giant monster action! Hard not to love fight scenes involving Devil Dinosaur and giant Hulk eating plants and giant monsters with horns!
Of course, just because we have giant monsters and fighting does not mean that Secret Wars Planet Hulk #2 was a brainless issue. Far from it. Humphries also pulls off some great character work with Steve Rogers and Doc Green. I love this barbarian version of Steve Rogers. He is like a cross between a grown up Kamandi and Thundarr the Barbarian all wrapped up in the spirit of Captain America. Plus, how do you not love a massive battle-axe wielding version of Captain America? It definitely gives Steve a badass edge to his character and makes him fun to watch in fight scenes.
Humphries does a nice job giving the reader a bit of insight into Steve’s character. The flashback scene with Steve and Bucky was some much-needed back story on how this version of Steve Rogers became Captain America. What I really enjoyed was how Humphries makes Steve a true warrior who has no qualms at all about killing. However, Humphries never loses sight of the core morals and character ingredients that make Captain America who he is. Steve still has compassion and the unyielding desire to fight for what is right no matter how insurmountable the odds.
I love that Steve bluntly tells Doc Green that once he has gained his freedom that he is going to continue to dedicate his life to fighting. To fighting all that is evil and oppressive. This shows the true spirit of Captain America and that there is no rest for Steve. That even on a planet full of battling where justice seems an impossibility, Steve is still going to fight on and either succeed or die trying.
Doc Green is an equally fascinating character. He is such a creepy character. The reader is both intrigued by him and repulsed by him. What I like is that Humphries avoids making Doc Green a one-dimensional sociopath. Instead, Doc Green truly believes that he and Steve have much in common. Doc Green is not a character who views himself as a villain. Instead, Doc Green revels more in being an amoral creature. He simply does what he thinks is in his best interests. The creepy and quiet calm of Doc Green’s demeanor, even when being attacked by Steve, is offsetting and helps him make an impact on the reader. I could imagine James Spader narrating the voice of Doc Green.
Humphries whips up some solid dialogue in Secret Wars Planet Hulk #2. Steve and Doc Green have well-developed external voices. The quality dialogue and character work on this duo help Humphries to generate some excellent chemistry between Steve and Doc Green. The tension between the two characters is palpable. The reader can feel Steve’s distrust and contempt for Doc Green in every single panel.
And, of course, Devil Dinosaur is awesome. I cannot get enough of this character. Humphries deserves credit with taking a character in Devil Dinosaur who cannot talk and manages to give him a real personality. That is not easy to do with a giant dinosaur. I like that Humphries took the opportunity to show how a big scary monster like Devil Dinosaur also has a sweet side as Devil snuggled next to Steve while the two slept. That’s a good dino. Humphries also created some nice chemistry between Devil Dinosaur and Steve. It is clear to the reader that these two characters share a strong bond and that it is one of respect as equals rather than that of an owner and a pet.
Marc Laming serves up some great artwork. Laming’s style of art is the perfect match for this title. You need some badass looking giant monsters? Laming has you covered. There is no doubt that Laming can draw the hell out of fantastic looking monsters. And fight scenes? Laming has that covered, too.
I also appreciated that Laming is equally at home drawing the dialogue heavy scenes. Laming is able to inject plenty of emotion into the character’s facial expressions. I enjoyed Laming’s eye for detail. Each panel was properly laid out and detailed which made Secret Wars Planet Hulk #2 an attractive issue to read. Leming also delivered some impressive splash shots that helped to present this story as an epic adventure with a large scale.
The Bad: There is much to enjoy with Secret Wars Planet Hulk #2. However, the pacing and plotting problems hamper this issue and prevent it from being as good as it could have been. Humphries moves this story along at a snail’s pace. Nothing much happens at all. Steve wakes up. Steve and Doc Green are introduced. Those two things take up five pages. We then get a flashback scene really just for the purpose of telling us that Steve and Bucky were too weak to join up and fight and, instead, Bucky suggests going to route of the Super Soldier Program. Humphries took four pages to do that. Then we get our heroes tramping through the jungle and being attacked by creatures. That took 11 pages. And then the issue was done. The nine pages spent introducing Doc Green and Steve and then giving the flashback could have been pulled off in half the number of pages. That would have made this issue feel like a tighter read and would have allowed for a bit more plot progression.
In terms of plot progression, the only thing that happened between the start and the finish of this issue is that Doc Green has appeared to help Steve get to the Mud Kingdom. That’s it. That is a pathetic lack of plot progression. Secret Wars Planet Hulk #2 is a another example of rampant decompression that is found in many comics currently on the market. I love action as much as anyone, but I have to feel like the story is moving with a point and purpose rather than stalling for time.
Overall: Secret Wars Planet Hulk #2 was a solid read. It would have been nicer if Humphries had delivered a more compressed read. But, this issue was still entertaining and worth the price of admission. This Secret Wars tie-in title does make me realize one thing. That Marvel needs to publish an ongoing title chronicling the adventures of Battleworld Captain America and Devil Dinosaur once Secret Wars has concluded!