Plus: Grades for the compilation ''24Seven Vol. 2'' and the ''X-Men''-esque ''Elephantmen''
WORLD WAR HULK
Greg Pak and John Romita Jr.
The vert brute is back — from outer space! That’s where a secret braintrust (including Iron Man and Dr. Strange) exiled him for losing his cool one too many times. And to what do they owe the pleasure of his return? Unbeknownst to this cabal, one of their rockets exploded on the planet Sakaar, annihilating the nice little existence Hulk had eked out for himself, and killing — oops! — his wife and unborn child. Yup, it’s payback time, as Earth’s ”puny” (super)humans scramble to devise methods to temper the incredibly indestructible Hulk. FOR FANS OF… The flagrant razing of cities, with an eye to minimize civilian casualties. Also, the oeuvre of director Michael Bay. DOES IT DELIVER? Romita Jr.’s vibrant art is suitably thunderous. Less resonant: the one-note plot and dearth of punchy dialogue. On the plus side, HULK SMASH! B- —Nisha Gopalan
MADMAN ATOMIC COMICS
Allred, comics’ snappiest pop-art stylist, revives his signature creation, Madman, a union-suited adventurer given to witty, existential trains of thought. (Sample dialogue: ”I think. I think I am. And so, therefore I am. I think.”) No wonder the guy’s got big questions about life: He’s actually a dead man reanimated from a murky demise by a pair of mad scientists who dub him Frank Einstein (after Sinatra and, well, you know) and encourage him to play superhero. FOR FANS OF… Descartes, Sartre, and the B-52’s. DOES IT DELIVER? Some fans of past Madman series apparently thought not after the first issue, which Allred caps off by suggesting that existence is an illusion that Frank has simply dreamed up. (The horror! The trashed continuity! The worthless back issues!) But it’s all part of a dastardly plot resolved in issue 3’s ”Swiped From Dimension X!” There, Frank makes a surreal trek back to the here and now — via a succession of panels obsessive-compulsively drawn by Allred in the styles of 300-odd different artists, from Jack Kirby to Dr. Seuss. With his customary retro visuals and his subtly matured voice, Allred reaffirms himself throughout as a master of kitsch, always snickering with his genre, not at it. A —Tom Russo
24SEVEN VOL. 2
Edited by Ivan Brandon, written/illustrated by various artists
The latest volume of the robot-centric sci-fi series compiles three dozen vignettes chronicling the all-too-human lives of sentient machines. Think a cautionary Iraq parable (Seth M. Peck and Rafael Albuquerque’s ”Oil for Blood”), a cartoonish tale of working-class blues (Josh Wagner and Robbi Rodriguez’s ”’So This ROBOT Walks into a Bar…”’), or ”Andy,” Macon Blair and Francesco Francavilla’s decidedly non-PETA-approved look at the trials of an angry lab gorilla. FOR FANS OF… Brandon and Miles Gunter’s NYC Mech series; C3P0 and R2D2. DOES IT DELIVER? Turns out robots are people, too. Though the collection shifts from deep space to gang violence to a robot bug family’s sudden tragedy (Paul Mayberry’s endearing ”Give Me Some Color”), the stories all share a knack for humanistic storytelling. Aside from a few flubs like the obnoxious orange and green pages of Mark Ricketts and Andy Kuhn’s ”Bugged,” the top-shelf art doesn’t waver much either, thanks to stellar work from creators such as Francavilla and Niko Henrichon. While occasionally idiosyncratic, 24Seven is built to last. B+ —David Greenwald
ELEPHANTMEN: WOUNDED ANIMALS, VOL. 1
Richard Starkings and Moritat
Genetic experiments turned weapons of war, the Elephantmen are Homo sapiens-animal crossbreeds with enough coordination to use a urinal. Released into a general population put off by the beasts’ spicy body odor, funky reputation, and menacing tusks, the Elephantmen wage a new war for social acceptance à la the X-Men, while battling their own impulses to live by the age-old ”survival of the fittest” imperative. FOR FANS OF… The Jungle Book; sheep cloning; Darwinian theory. DOES IT DELIVER? The heavy-handed biblical allusions are a yawn, but Moritat’s art can even make scales look sexy. B- —Fred McKindra