In Review: Avengers #684

The Incredible Hulk is back and everyone better get out of his way!

The covers: Two extremely different covers to pick up for this installment, both featuring images of the Hulk. The Regular cover is once again by Mark Brooks who creates an absolutely stellar head shot of the Hulk. This is brutal, savage, and just flat out freakin’ awesome! I haven’t seen the Hulk look this insane in years! He’s yelling in rage at the reader, his eyes are a luminescent green, and the rain is falling on him. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I don’t know how Brooks can’t top this image for any other covers. That said, I know I’ll be impressed with whatever else he’s got in the pike. On the exact opposite of the spectrum is the Variant cover by Scottie Young. I’ve not been a fan of most of his covers, but this one was unexpected and made me laugh out loud. Using the Brooks’s cover as a background, that intense cover has shattered, leaving a space for a cartoony Hulk to peek out at the reader and wave. I love the look of this interpretation and the colors are so welcomingly bright. I really, really like this. Overall grades: Regular A+ and Variant A

The story: The first nine pages of this issue, written by Jim Zub, Mark Waid, & Al Ewing, contain flashbacks of Bruce Banner. He’s shown getting caught in the blast and considered dead. He wakes up screaming and is then shown in five different times dead or dying. These scenes are partnered with a green door that’s glowing green. He’s also shown given a specific arrow tip to Clint Barton so he can put him down if the need arises. This is used, but again, it doesn’t work. A supernatural character’s influence has Banner living again, only to picked up by a villain. The story is finally brought up to date when Banner exits through a door and is the Hulk, as shown in the last page of the previous issue. The focus then goes in several directions: the Challenger and the Grandmaster exchanging barbs, Voyager (who’s true origin and abilities are revealed), the Hulk’s journey to the Avengers Auxiliary Headquarters (encountering two villains in the process), and the green giant’s battle with the Avengers that are there. These are not the strongest heroes to battle this anti-hero and many go down hard. Pages 26 and 27 have something shocking occur, which is followed by a brutal dismal on 28 — does that hero ever do anything successful in this series? Not feeling much love for this character from the writers. The book ends with a spectacular surprise of a hero who’s gone in for an upgrade. Wow! Okay, I’ve got to know what happens next. A spectacular return to form for the Incredible Hulk! Overall grade: A

The art: There are four different artists on this issue: Paco Medina & Joe Bennett and inkers Juan Vlasco & Ruy Jose. I don’t know who’s responsible for what, because the editors didn’t state it in the credits (Shame, Marvel! Shame!), but the first ten pages do not look good. I know the visuals are attempting to resemble the look of the earlier exploits of the Hulk, but they do not come off well. The close-ups of Bruce on Page 3 illustrate this clearly. Better is Page 4, but the characters aren’t really seen clearly, especially the ones that are healthy. Bruce, again, does not look good on 5 and his hairline recedes further on 6. Page 8 has Bruce having a forehead wrinkle that looks more like the Frankenstein’s monster scar. At least when the Hulk appears on 10 he looks pretty good, though his brow is really projecting out. The visuals get much better on 11 and the rest of the issue. 12 has two panels of past Hulk exploits, showing what the previous 10 pages could have looked like. The return to Avengers Auxiliary Headquarters is fantastic: the setting is realistically detailed and the characters look terrific. I’m particularly impressed with Enigma. Her turn of the head at the bottom of page is really cool. When she goes into action she’s amazing looking. Also amazing is Voyager’s arrival and the emotions she displays. Now that she’s not hiding her intentions she emotes wonderfully. The Hulk in action is a stunner: he’s badass, but not insane. His actions are appropriate for his foes. I love that he’s in control of what he’s doing and not raging about in anger. This makes him much more frightening, such as at the bottom of 28. Whoever is responsible for drawing and inking the last two-thirds of the book needs to be doing comics monthly. Overall grade: B-

The colors: The first nine pages use very bright colors which was a surprise for a flashback sequence. Normally flashbacks are colored in browns and tans to age them. Instead Jesus Aburtov & Morry Hollowell use colors that give the story a very present, in the moment, feel. The reveal of the Hulk on Page 10 has some excellent emeralds that look terrific, even with it being a night scene. The Grandmaster’s Cosmic Game Room uses grays to create classical aged settings, but it also uses a lot of violets for the monitors that are hovering in the air. The interiors of the auxiliary headquarters create cool grays, unless someone uses their abilities such as Voyager. She brings some beautiful violets to the pages she appears on. The Hulk’s skin is strong in greens to match his strong personality. The final page has some strong reds and blues for a very surprising reveal. Overall grade: A

The letters: VC’s Cory Petit creates whispers, dialogue, screams, a unique creature’s speak, a hypnotic font for the Challenger, scene settings, a computer’s voice, and computer text. There’s a wide variety of texts in this issue which adds to the visual appeal of the book. I like the many whispers which come from distant speech or words said under a character’s breath. The Challenger has two instances when his dialogue is given a thicker font, appropriately done to show his influence over a certain individual. When the Hulk goes into action at the book’s close, the sounds are massive. The lettering on this issue is good. Overall grades: A

The final line: The Incredible Hulk is back and everyone better get out of his way! The opening ten pages create much sympathy for Banner, but the visuals are lackluster. Much better are the final two-thirds of the book where the Hulk is set on a task and the Avengers are in his way. The story is good and the art is excellent. A mixed bag, but one worth checking out. Overall grade: A-

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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