The first of ten one shot Generations titles hits stands this week, The Strongest by Greg Pak and Matteo Buffagni. Our all-new, all-different, totally awesome Hulk, aka Amadeus Cho, is mysteriously pulled into the middle of a desert standoff between the military arsenal of Thunderbolt Ross and the original Hulk, Dr. Bruce Banner. This could have been just about any Hulk comic from the 60’s through the 90’s, save for the porting in of a confused Amadeus. And to add to the confusion, this early incarnation of Banner/Hulk hadn’t even met Cho yet, and is distantly removed from the reality in which the young super-genius successfully removed the green monster from his original host, taking the Hulk persona upon himself.
On the surface, this could have been any annual, back-up feature, or goddam Contest of Champions issue featuring the two Hulks in their first full-rage team-up, bashing tanks and each other’s faces. Buffagni’s art is a treat, and you know he, like any other comic book artist growing up with superheroes and super-battles, relished the opportunity to illustrate this book in all its explosive Hulk Smash glory.
But this book is worth picking up for more than just the green guys trading blows. These Generations books take place in the Vanishing Point, that limbo zone from Secret Empire where the “real” Steve Rogers is seemingly in endless conflict with a not-dead Red Skull. In the book’s preface, this area is described as a place “where time has no meaning… but where true insight can be gained!” And for Amadeus Cho, a character created by Pak, and who has really developed into a fan favorite, that insight comes out of a conversation with the de-Hulked Banner. After one of the rare moments of dialogue in this book, Cho tries to come to terms with “the monster in the trunk,” and prepares to return to his reality with, perhaps, more questions than answers. That, of course, always makes for some good stories.
These Generations one-shots are meant to bridge the gap between the Secret Empire fallout and this fall’s Legacy initiative, and I’m very much onboard with the concept. Legacy aims to return major titles to their sequential numbering (the first Legacy issue of The Mighty Thor, for example, will be #700), offering a fresh jumping-on point for new readers while celebrating the great history and continuity of decades of Marvel stories and characters. It’s a testament to Marvel’s successful storytelling in recent years that a character like Amadeus Cho can become popular is his own right, as an “all-new” Hulk, or a Laura Linney as Wolverine, Jane Foster as Thor… etc. We don’t need Generations to remind us of the classic iterations of these characters, but there’s something special about seeing these new versions come face-to-face with their time-displaced predecessors.