For decades, being pissed off was the Hulk’s thing. The living embodiment of Bruce Banner’s rage smacked down all comers, using a near-bottomless pit of anger as fuel for his strength. There’s a new Hulk now, though, and he doesn’t seem quite as cranky as the last one.
There’ve been lots of versions of Marvel Comics’ strongest superhero over the years. Most of them have been centered on scientist Bruce Banner, whose exposure to gamma ray radiation unleashed the green-skinned monster inside of him. Banner’s other half morphed as the decades went on, going from angry toddler-speak to old-school mob chatter to genius-level diction along the way. Protecting the Earth and various loved ones was something those Hulks often did out of a sense of guilt, duty or responsibility; none of the permutations were ever happy for very long. This new Hulk is the exact opposite. He’s actually having fun.
Amadeus Cho isn’t rocking ripped purple pants in this week’s Totally Awesome Hulk #1, by writer Greg Pak and artists Frank Cho, Sonia Oback, and Cory Petit. The 17-year-old genius who’s wielding the power of the Hulk wears board shorts when battling a giant, fire-breathing two-headed tortoise. Introduced years ago in the Amazing Fantasy anthology series, Cho was a supporting character during several Bruce Banner story arcs, serving as intellect and conscience for the behemoth. Like the other relaunched Marvel series of the last few weeks, Totally Awesome Hulk takes place after an eight-month gap after the end of the publisher’s still-in-progress Secret Wars event. It’s Amadeus’ show but Banner does get shown in a flashback that shows his Hulk making a heroic sacrifice that threatens to make the monster even stronger. Banner’s current status is a mystery and character dialogue says that Amadeus chose to take on the gamma energy of the Hulk to go on a quest to smash and apprehend a crop of unexplained monsters threatening the Earth.
Amadeus’ partner on his mission is his younger sister Maddy, who pulls an overbearing mother/commanding officer shtick from a base of operations that doubles as a Korean BBQ truck. Their bickering dynamic is a change from the previous Hulk/companion relationships, which were often undercut with a hint of fear. Maddy isn’t scared of Amadeus; she’s scared for him. Instead of the rage that threatened to overwhelm Banner at any moment, Amadeus seems like he’s going to have a different emotional challenge to deal with. He comes close to being lethally distracted a few times this issue, too busy being buzzed off the power of his new form. It’s an appropriate thematic switch for a teenage character, since adolescence is a time when folks think they can handle more than they’re capable of.
This is a Hulk who flirts and chows down on burgers. While there’s a threat of emotional dysfunction teased in this debut, it’s not the main throughline of this version of the green giant. Amadeus is ok with himself in both personas. More than the shift in identity and ethnicity, having an angst-free Hulk is the biggest change that the character’s seen in ages. ‘Hulk is the chillest one there is.’ Has a nice ring to it.