In the coming months, the Avenger books will shrink considerably. First, a crossover between Mark Waid’s Avengers and Champions is rumored to see the two books recombine into one by the end. On top of that, another rumor is Uncanny Avengers and US Avengers will be cancelled and lead to the central Avengers title becoming a weekly release with the creative teams joining Mark Waid. With this condensing of Avenger titles, perhaps we could see a new team fill the void? Perhaps a group of Asian-Americans superheroes, written by an Korean-American, who go by the name of the Protectors?
Totally Awesome Hulk 23: Protectors Prep for Planet Hulk
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Ibraim Roberson
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: Cory Petit
Editors: Mark Paniccia & Chris Robinson
Editor-In-Chief: Axel Alonso
Dude… Indoor Voice: After discovering the Hulk is raging within himself and fighting to gain control (see Generations: Hulk) Amadeus Cho decides to reassemble the Protectors to deal with it. He invites Ms. Marvel, Silk, and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jake Oh to aid him, alongside new comers Black Panther and Madeline Cho who replace Jimmy Woo and Shang-Chi on the team. After a meal together, Amadeus and his sister explain the plan to the other heroes. Cho plans to travel to the moon and drop a nuclear missile on himself, to trigger a full Hulk transformation. While the Hulk rages, Cho and the other heroes will enter his mind in an attempt to calm him. Cho learns that the Hulk is actually himself (rather than a third entity or a remnant of Bruce Banner) and the plan to cage him back up goes poorly. Fortunately Cho planned for this with T’Challa and T’Challa launches the Hulk into space on a familiar trajectory: Planet Hulk.
Seems Like Every Time I See That Kid We End Up Fighting: Words cannot express how grateful I am to Greg Pak for keeping Cindy Moon around. Ideally, after the final arc of her solo series, the best place for Cindy is as part of a S.H.I.E.L.D. team (perhaps alongside Barbara Morse and Nadia Van Dyne) but Greg Pak does a great job with the character. Like last time, Cindy is the most emotionally immature member of the Protectors but this leads to a lot of memorable moments. Cindy is also the most enthusiastic of the group, which leads to a pretty funny exchange with T’Challa. One of the best things about Pak’s writing on this series is how he can blend character moments and interaction, like the dinner scene, with action and plot progression, like the Hulk melt down that leads to Cho being shipped off to Planet Hulk. Brian Michael Bendis had a multi-year Avengers run that employed this style of storytelling but Pak is clearly better at it; the story of this single issue would have taken Bendis four issues to write. Despite only being a team for five issues, and having a rooster upheaval already with the omission of Shang-Chi and Jimmy Woo, the Protectors feel like a well-fleshed out team with a strong dynamic. In fact, continuity is really strong in this series. This issue builds off Pak’s prior Incredible Hulk run (Planet Hulk), Generations: Hulks, the Protectors Arc (TAH 15-18), the Weapon X crossover (TAH 19-22) , and Champions. The only things missing from this issue are Jeremy Lin and Lady Hellbender, for it to be reflexive of the entire Totally Awesome Hulk run.
For the first Protectors team up we had Mahmud Asrar, Nolan Woodard, and Cory Petit as the artistic team. While Petit and Woodard remain for this issue, Asrar’s pencils are replaced by Ibraim Roberson’s. Thankfully their styles compliment each other fairly well. Roberson plays to his strengths in this issue which seems to be wardrobe design and character compression. Asrar struggled with facial expressions but by avoiding extreme close ups of the heroes that Asrar liked to employ, Roberson avoids this problem. The facial features and figures of our heroes are very simplistically done, but it conveys the necessary emotion. Where Roberson pours a ton of detail in is in their wardrobes. Characters dress and undress, uniforms are ripped apart, and the clothing responds naturally by wrinkling and shifting around our heroes’ bodies. Despite being seated for a dinner Roberson still manages to put motion on the page by having characters physically respond to dialogue, like when Cindy emphatically pumps her fist in the air as they recount the good deeds they have done together as a team.
Woodard and Petit compliment Roberson’s pencils well. Last time around, I listed Woodard as the creative team MVP and while I do not feel quite as strongly this time, he nails it. The color palette he uses for the three distinct locations gives each area its atmosphere. The colors at Amadeus Cho’s place are warm and create a quaint homey feel to the dinner scene. The colors he uses to color the moon are cold and thick, erasing any distinct features in the background to create a sense of isolation. Finally, the colors in Cho’s brain (which looks a lot like the desert where both Cho and Banner were turned into the Hulk) feel fire hot with a heat haze filter over the art. The opening scenes also use steam and shadow for an interesting effect and there are plenty of physical reflections and tricks of the light to make the mundane moments of this comic stand out. Petit’s letters are nothing incredible this issue, but he does give character to his captions and allows for distinctions between how the younger and older generations speak.
Verdict: As Marvel preps Amadeus Cho for his first Legacy arc, Greg Pak allows his newly formed superhero team a chance to steal the spotlight once more. The omissions of Shang-Chi makes especially grateful that Cindy continues to have a presence in Totally Awesome Hulk and I would not be surprised if we saw the Protectors deal with the fallout of the Return to Planet Hulk story line. Be sure to give this comic a try, because while it is not the strongest there is, it is a really solid comic.
- Continuity driven
- Roberson plays to his artistic strengths
- A couple of story hiccups