Thaddeus Ross has been up to his ears in cosmic threats and technological creeps, but with that all behind him for now, the former Air Force general is getting back in the military game – whether his handlers like it or not. In Red Hulk #42, Jeff Parker's Hulk of Arabia arc kicks off with another fight between Ross and his own Thunderbolt-style nemesis General Fortean, who is determined to make sure the Red Hulk dies. But when Fortean breaks off in the middle of a fight, Ross's instincts kick in, and he knows something up.
Turns out there's some really fishy uber-weapons being distributed among shady groups in Qatar, and some of those weapons got an ex-colleague of Ross's killed – one former colonel Will Krugauer, who hit the ceiling in his military career and went pro – meaning mercenary for an outfit called Skytower – which just ain't a good thing. But military loyalty dies hard, especially for a guy like Thunderbolt Ross, so this part-time Avenger immediately Hulk-tails it to the Middle East to do some personal avenging… and Steve Rogers isn't having that, so he sends in the Secret Avengers to put the kibosh on such unauthorized avenging.
There's something viscerally pleasing about seeing superheroes intervening in these ugly real-life conflagrations we've been enduring for a decade now. It was moving when Superman stood with the Iranian protestors against Ahmadinejad, and it gives us a charge to see this behemoth show up to strike back against some guerilla warfare killers and bark "I bet you tin soldiers didn't expect some big red freak to show up and crush you." That wish-fulfillment notion of superhumans intervening in human messes to clean them up is a strong one, and you can see exactly why a lifelong military man like Ross would see fit to use his newfound power to change the game.
Of course, it should be fairly obvious that the 'good man' Ross is trying to avenge is going to turn out to be not so good once he entered the private contracting world – and possibly not even really dead. However, Parker's not really one for taking the obvious route, as evidenced by the recent arc of Zero/One and suddenly sending the Thunderbolts back in time to team up with the Invaders. There's so much story meat to work with in this setting, and I for one certainly trust Parker to serve up something very interesting here.
It's also great to welcome Patrick Zircher's work back, as his work is sharper and more defined than Gabriel Hardman's previous sketchier stuff, but it still feels like a seamless transition between the two artists. Zircher's Red Hulk is just a lot more forceful a presence, and he also manages to really drive home just how powerful these new weapons from the mysterious supplier really are.
Hulk of Arabia. It's a great start, and we hope it only gets greater.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 8.5/10