Friday, June 10, 2016


Writer & Penciler: Alan Davis | Inker: Mark Farmer
colorist: Matt Hollingsworth | Letterer: VC's Clayton Cowles
Assistant Editor: Jon Moisan | Editors: Mark Paniccia with Wil Ross
Editor in Chief: Axel Alonso | Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine

(You know you're writing about a modern marvel comic when it takes ten minutes just to type out the stupid credits. Anywho...)

As far as I know, this 2014 story arc is, to date, Alan Davis's most recent work for Marvel in the writing capacity. And it's about what you'd expect of Davis the writer: some good old-fashioned classic Marvel action and adventure. Note that of the Davis works I covered over the past few weeks, FANTASTIC FOUR: THE END, while set in the future, presented the most iconic versions of the various Marvel heroes within its pages. THOR: TRUTH OF HISTORY was set in the distant past and featured the characters' original Jack Kirby looks. It's pretty evident that, given his choice, Davis will always go for the most classic visuals he can, and it's a shame that Marvel has drifted so, so very far from the best visual representations of their characters that in order for him to do so, he must set his stories in the past or in alternate worlds/timelines.

But! Much as I love to comment on the myriad failings of current Marvel comics, I'd rather spend the next few paragraphs singing the praises of Alan Davis. As noted above, this tale is set in the past; around this time, Marvel launched SAVAGE WOLVERINE and SAVAGE HULK, a pair of out-of-continuity series intended to chronicle untold adventures from their title characters' pasts, and each series received an opening arc by a well-known writer/artist (see my look at Frank Cho's opening SAVAGE WOLVERINE arc here).

So Davis sets his tale in the immediate aftermath of UNCANNY X-MEN #66, the series' final issue before it went into reprint limbo for a few years. In that issue, Professor X was at death's door and the X-Men realized the only way to save him was with a device created by Doctor Bruce Banner, the Hulk's alter ego. The X-Men traveled to Las Vegas and battled the Hulk, eventually procuring the device and saving Xavier's life.

Which brings us here, to Davis's premise: Xavier wants to repay Banner for his assistance by curing him of the curse of the Hulk, and he believes the same device which saved him can restore Banner to normal. Xavier and the X-Men travel back to Vegas in search of the Hulk, but first come up against the dastardly Abomination and the U.S. Army's elite Hulkbuster unit. The Hulkbusters capture the Abomination after the Hulk arrives and knocks him out, and the X-Men and Hulk escape to Banner's hidden lab in the Nevada desert. There, Professor X voyages into Banner's mind while, in the real world, the X-Men are captured by Hulk's arch-enemy, the Leader. Xavier returns to reality as well, and with the help of a telekinetic Hulk (his brain temporarily supercharged by the attempt to save him), the X-Men defeat the Leader and his robots. Banner's device is destroyed and the Hulk departs.

It's a fun story, though it suffers a bit from "kitchen sink" syndrome. The appearances by the Abomination and Hulkbusters do nothing other than give Davis a big fight to draw and extend the story arc for an issue, but -- much as it's nice to see Davis draw them (and to receive a quick appearance from Major Glenn Talbot) -- the entire bit is superfluous to what could've been a relatively simple two-act "X-Men vs. Hulk/X-Men & Hulk vs. Leader" story.

I also have to criticize the scripting a bit, in that Davis seems to assume readers know who all these characters are. Maybe it's just that I'm coming to this after reading so many John Byrne FANTASTIC FOURs, which are -- admittedly -- from a different era, but other than perhaps the Hulk/Bruce Banner and the X-Men in general, none of the individual X-Men are identified well. I'm not sure Angel is ever called by his real name, while I don't think Iceman is ever called by his codename. Havok and Cyclops both get name-checked in both their identities, and we even get a throwaway line about them being brothers, but I don't believe any of the characters outside of Banner have their last names revealed. Perhaps Davis expected all this info on a recap page, which in today's market is a perfectly viable way to do it -- but it ain't there either.

All that said, there's some great Hulk-scale action as the jade behemoth battles the Hulkbusters and the Abomination, the X-Men exhibit some terrific teamwork, and Davis even tosses in a bit of retroactive character development as Xavier -- who had been away from his students for some time at this point -- is astounded to see how much they've grown in his absence and is even countermanded by Cyclops once or twice in the field. (John Byrne played with this idea as well in X-MEN: THE HIDDEN YEARS, which was set in this same time frame.)

I'm not sure I'd call this essential reading for fans of the Hulk or the X-Men, but it's a nice slice of the past from one of the best artists in Marvel's long history, at the very least. And I should state right now for the record that I would totally read a Davis-produced WHAT IF... one-shot or mini-series about the Marvel Girl Hulk seen on the cover to issue 3, which appears for a few pages during a sequence between Banner and Professor X inside the Hulk's mind.

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