What be the haps, my young fresh fellows? It’s your old buddy, Andy Larson back with another chapter in that never ending saga that is my comic book read pile!
As I mentioned last week, with seemingly the death-nail struck into our semi regular podcast “Versus” segment, I decided to mourn its loss by dedicating all of my read piles for the month of September to showcasing comics that contain their own versus segment. At first I thought this was a daunting task, but I soon realized there are an absolute crap ton of these kinds of books out there! I mean I could probably fill an entire years worth of read piles with just these kinds of books, and that was definitely surprising.
Regardless, on today’s edition, I’ll be discussing a fairly recent 4 part series from 2015 which might have gotten a lot of recent renewed interest since the release of the blockbuster MCU movie “Infinity War”. It’s called “Thanos vs. Hulk” written and illustrated by Thanos’ creator, the legendary Jim Starlin. And for those of you rookies out there, when I say Thanos creator, I mean, Jim not only created the character of Thanos, but you can pretty much thank him for everything else that went along with the Thanos and Infinity Gauntlet mythology.
I’ll even give him credit for Adam Warlock, as although he didn’t create Adam Warlock, in my opinion, he did “create” the Adam Warlock we know of today, taking the pretty obscure character that had been a throw away of both Lee/Kirby and Roy Thomas, and crafting him into the integral part of the cosmic pantheon we know in Marvel today.
And for the most part, I’ve liked Jim Starlin’s work. I mean, I won’t lie, there have been some books where I’ve liked his art more than his writing, and like everyone he has had his share of clunkers. But overall, from his work on Dreadstar, to aforementioned Adam Warlock run from the mid 70s, to again his most well known work on the Gauntlet, I’ve enjoyed this man’s work, and definitely will read a book simply because he’s attached to it.
The question is whether or not, this particular 4 part mini, is up to snuff when it comes to the types of books that Mr. Starlin has put out in the past. I mean, it’s title alone writes a pretty big check that this book demands be cashed, in that many a comic book geek as debated around the old long boxes until the wee hours whether or not The Hulk could beat Thanos in a fight and who exactly would beat who. Even now, since the release of the Infinity War movie, many fans have been debating the opening sequence of that movie where we see Thanos manhandle the Hulk. Some say that was only because Thanos had the Power gem from the Infinity Gauntlet to help him, and the Russo Brothers, who directed it, added fuel to that fire by saying that the Gem was not lighted up during the fight, so it was only Thanos’ brute strength that was responsible for that ass whoopin’.
But long story short, this is a fight that a lot of fans wanted to see and this comic seems to tout an answer to that long debated question. And if that’s what you wanted from this comic, if that’s what the purpose of this comic was, if all you wanted was a slug fest between these two titans to the death, then does this comic deliver on that?
The simple answer is: No. It fails miserably.
In reading this story, I almost felt that Jim Starlin was mirroring what our own podcaster, Chad Smith, does during our previous versus segments, which is to say “I think this is stupid and I refuse to participate”. It’s almost like this was editorially mandated and Starlin was like: “I’m f*ckin Jim Starlin. I created the Infinity Gauntlet. I’ll write about whatever I want to write about”, and then proceeded to do so.
Because for an entire series that is supposed to be about Hulk vs. Thanos, they fight for all of like 6 pages of this entire 4 issue mini. In fact, Thanos himself is little more than a guest star only really appearing in 2 out of the 4 issues, and even in those his role in the proceedings is almost guest star quality at best. He’s not even the main antagonist in the series. That honor actually falls on Annihilus, who hires Pip the Troll to help Blastaar kidnap the Hulk in order to extract some of his Hulk essence to basically “roid” up his own body to monster level proportions. Thanos’ role in all this is actually just one of a curious rival to Annihilus who is just keeping tabs on the situation in the same way a competing corporation would read a business report in order a assess the threat of their potential competition. And if that sounds rather dull and not very interesting, that’s because it is, and truthfully Thanos’ role in this book is as exciting as watching paint dry. It’s almost as if both Starlin and Thanos’ phoned in their participation in this fan debate, and if you had bought the book to get an answer to your question as to who would win this fight, I would demand my money back.
Now I won’t front that there are some good fight sequences in this series, but again they mainly deal with Hulk vs. Annihilus, who gets his jacked up bod in issue 3 of the series and basically it’s a slug fest between the two titans from there on in. And if you are a fan of Annihilus as being the main baddie from such classic Marvel space epics as Annihilation, then you will not be disappointed by this series in the least. It definitely depicts Annihilus as an incredibly strong, capable, and most of all deadly threat to the universe on the whole and as a worthy opponent for the Hulk to trade blows in for the purposes of a bloody brawl. Although I am a little bit pissed that their actually isn’t a definite winner to that fight either, as Pip the Troll whisks the Hulk back to Earth before either of these green muscle bound freaks finishes tearing the arms off the other. That’s some what of cop out as well in retrospect.
However, this series was not titled “Annihilus vs. Hulk”. Let’s make that perfectly clear. Regardless of any redeeming qualities the struggle between Hulk and Annihilus might bring to the table, at the end of the day, this book completely fails to deliver on the mission it’s title lays out. This was supposed to be a Thanos vs. Hulk book and that paints a very clear picture as to Thanos being one of two main combatants. And again, if you bought this book for that reason, and this was instead what you were given, I feel you would have every right to decry Marvel and Jim Starlin as a charlatans that took your money under false pretenses.
It’s like you paid for a tube of toothpaste and upon putting the toothbrush in your mouth, you realized it was actually a tube of Preparation H. Sure, both serve purposes, but you can imagine your horror and disgust upon your realization that what should have been a minty refreshing cleanser for your teeth was actually ass cream.
In closing, if you are someone that wanted to check out this book because Infinity War peaked your interest in the character of Thanos and wanted to see him throw down with the Jolly Green Giant for 4 issues, don’t waste your money. You’ll just end up throwing this book at the wall in disgust.
If you just like the Hulk, then there are much better Hulk stories out there, and I’d skip it too.
If however, you really love Annihilus and want to see him be all creepy and menacing for 4 issues, then you might like this. I feel like that’s a really small subsection of comic fans compared to the first two characters, but who knows? I mean I love me some Machine Man, maybe “The Living Death that walks” is someone’s jam.
Finally, if you like Jim Starlin, like I do, then I would probably read this just so one day you can go up to him at a Comic con and say:
“Hey Jim, I love your work. What the hell was Thanos vs. Hulk? It was like I brushed my teeth with ass cream!”.
And as security removes you from the hall, you can yell:
“That’s what the Ghosts of the Stratosphere said!!”
Andy’s Read Pile Grade: D