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Who's the Bad Guy Here?

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It’s all out war between the Hulk and the Illuminati, but recent changes to Marvel’s worldview make it hard to tell who to root for.

On the one hand, you have the Hulk. He took a mission for S.H.I.E.L.D. out of a sense of duty. It turns out that the mission was actually a trap. He soon finds himself rocketed to a new, strange world where he must battle for his life each and every day. To top it off, he finds out that he was betrayed by people who he thought were his friends.

Then, on the other hand, you have the Illuminati. You have figured out the future and the world, America in particular, will experience a great deal of turmoil. The Hulk has been a loose cannon in the past and while there has been a semblance of control now, there’s no guarantee that his savage side won’t show when hero fights hero. For the safety of the Earth—and for his own safety as well—you exile the Hulk to the stars, hoping that he will find peace wherever he lands.

Depending on how you look at it, either side in World War Hulk could be the bad guy. The Illuminati basically stabbed the Hulk—an ally, a friend and even, at times, a teammate—in the back and disposed of him where he could do the least harm. The Hulk is letting rage cloud his judgment and not putting the greater good above his own interest in revenge.

This is the change that the Civil War series has wrought. It seems like there are no "white hats" and "black hats" in the Marvel Universe anymore, only murky shades of grey.

Earth-616, as the earth the Marvel heroes live on is called, has now become a place where former heroes use Machiavellian, if not downright evil, tactics to get their way. Tony Stark and Reed Richards created a clone of one of their best friends, Thor, to use as a secret weapon in the Civil War. Stark authorized the Thunderbolts, a group of ruthless killers, to help bring in former ally Spider-man. And they also have constructed a prison in the Negative Zone where any superhero who is not willing to register with the government is sent when they are captured. There is no trial, no appeal, and no visits allowed from loved ones.

This shift was probably done by Marvel to reflect their view of the world today. Many world leaders have made many unpopular decisions in an effort to do what they thought was right. Marvel has always prided itself on being more of a representation of the real world than DC—that their characters were more flawed and human. So, this change could be viewed simply as them keeping up with the times.

However, comics are a form of entertainment. And people use entertainment as an escape from the world around them. Sure, a Tony Stark who was willing to use any means necessary to protect the Earth might be more realistic, but what if readers don’t want their favorite characters to be that real.

Tony Stark has become an antihero. This concept is not new to Marvel. The Punisher has enjoyed 30 years of success as one, and you may argue that the Hulk was one of the original antiheroes. But what makes these types of characters interesting is their contrast to the typical kind of hero. What good is an antihero when he is surrounded by antiheroes?

The rooting interested in the World War Hulk series for many fans will come down to a choice—which character’s "any means necessary" tactics can you most accept. To many, this is just how they like it. For others, it means a change for the worst. But, for the latter, having things change back might be a war they cannot win.

Also out this week:

• New Avengers #31

This is it. If you only read the last page of one book this week, make it the last page of this one. Because, if the Marvel hype machine is to be believed, it’s going to be a doozy.

I like what Brian Michael Bendis has done with the title post-Civil War. Not only has he taken a mish-mosh of characters that really shouldn’t work well together and made them into an interesting team, but also he has employed an inventive narrative which leapfrogs back and forth through time.

So what does the last page entail? Of course Marvel isn’t saying. So it could be anything from Captain America returning from the grave to the death of Doctor Strange. Whatever it is, I’m sure the blogosphere will be talking about it on Wednesday and beyond.

Brian Michael Bendis (W), Lenil Francis Yu (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

• Green Arrow #75

This issue could mark an end of an era. No, not because it is the last one of the current series and that we might never see the character again. Heck, that’s not it. Green Arrow will be back next month in Green Arrow: Year One. No, this momentous issue may mean the end of Ollie Queen’s days as a swinging bachelor.

The relationship between Green Arrow and Black Canary has been off and on for around three decades. You could almost hear Dr. Phil screaming "Marry her or break it off". Well, in this issue, Ollie finally pops the question to Dinah. Will she say yes? Will she say no? Find out in this extra-sized final issue.

Judd Winick (W), Scott McDaniel (A), DC Comics, $3.50. Last issue.

• Tales From the Crypt #1

Doctor Frederic Wertham must be spinning in his grave. One of the books that was the inspiration for his 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent, is back and aimed at an all-ages market. Tales From the Crypt returns as a new, bi-monthly series which is supposed to be appropriate for kids of all shapes and sizes.

The original Tales From the Crypt gained Wertham’s attention due to its graphic violence, excessive gore and mature themes. The doctor was concerned about the effect such content had on children in the fifties, thinking it might lead to juvenile delinquency. Of course, what was shocking in those days can be seen readily in video games, TV shows and in mainstream comics today. Will the new Tales be as graphic as old one? Or will the gore be toned down. I guess we’ll have to pick up an issue and find out.

Various (W/A), Papercutz, $3.95. Ongoing Series.

• Avengers Classic #1

One of my favorite titles of the late 80s-early 90s was Classic X-Men. Each issue featured two stories. The first story was a reprint of a classic tale of the new X-men. The back-up was an all-new tale done by Chris Claremont and John Bolton. The second story worked to flesh out the first, and took place in continuity around the same time. And you’d find all of this under a cover by Arthur Adams.

Now, my favorite book of all time, The Avengers, gets a similar treatment. This first issue reprints Avengers #1 in its entirety. As a special bonus, it features not one but two brand new stories, one written by Stan "The Man" Lee himself. Arthur Adams also provides the covers to this series too.

Stan Lee & Dwayne McDuffie (W), Jack Kirby, Mike Oeming & Kevin Maguire (A), Marvel, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

• Justice #12

This is it. The one we’ve all been waiting for. The plans of the world’s greatest supervillains lie in shambles. Now is the time for one last stand, one giant conflict as the the bad guys face off against their heroic enemies. The heroes have already suffer a number of losses. Are there more to come?

To be honest, I loved this series. Sure, I groaned a little bit when the heroes donned their fancy suits of armor. But, overall, I liked Alex Ross’ love letter to the favorite characters from his youth. He has created a world where elements of the "satellite era" of the JLA, meshed with a clasic Silver Age feel and a nod even to the Challenge of the Superfriends cartoon. I can’t wait to see what Ross does next.

Jim Krueger & Alex Ross (W), Doug Braithwaite & Ross (A), DC Comics, $3.99. Final Issue.

• Black Diamond #1

Fifty years in the future, we will not have flying cars. Unfortunately, that idea will still be left to the realm of science fiction. But we will have the next best thing. We will be driving on an elevated highway system called the Black Diamond. The Black Diamond was opened as replacement to air travel, which was grounded as a response to terrorism, and provides a way for people travel across country at high rates of speed.

The highway has gone somewhat to seed, and the government has installed a new set of rules to make it safe again. This is unfortunate for Dr. Don McLaughlin, because he’s going to have to break all of them to rescue his kidnapped wife, who is being held hostage on the Black Diamond.

Larry Young (W), Jon Proctor (A), Ait/PlanetLar, $2.95, Six-Issue Miniseries.

# # #

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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