Written by: Donny Cates
Art by: Martin Coccolo
Colors by: Matt Wilson
Letters by: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover art by: Gary Frank, Brad Anderson
Cover price: $4.99
Release date: May 11, 2022
Hulk vs. Thor: Banner of War #1 begins the second arc in Donny Cates’s run with an all-out battle between the unstoppable force (Hulk) and the immovable object (Thor wielding Mjolnir). With the Watcher attending the epic battle, will an ultimate victor ever be truly decided?
Was It Good?
Hulk vs. Thor: Banner of War #1 is okay. We’re kicking off the next arc in the Cates era by pitting the Hulk against Thor in a battle to decide once and for all who’s the strongest. That’s it. There’s no deep pathos or greater threat to bring the two titans together. Thor needed to hit something, and the Hulk presented the opportunity.
Now, if all you want is superstrong characters smashing each other with unbelievable feats of strength, you’re going to get exactly what you paid for. Coccolo’s art looks great and may be a better fit for the story (if this qualifies as a story) than Ottley’s contribution in the prior arc. Big hits are the order of the day.
However, if you’re looking for an actual story, you’re going to be left wanting. Thor receives word of Hulk’s location and decides to engage him to blow off some steam (that’s the explanation). However, Thor justifies the fight by referring to the seventeen lives lost in the oft-referenced but never seen incident in El Paso. And, here we see again the biggest flaw of the series – the El Paso incident.
Hulk’s motivation for leaving our dimension is based on an incident in El Paso where a robbery-gone-wrong leads to several deaths for which the Hulk is blamed. This isn’t the first time Hulk’s rampages have either hurt or killed people, so why is El Paso different? Cates drops hints that Hulk is blamed but not fully responsible. Why play coy when it does nothing to serve the conflict over the last 6 issues? The Watcher is present for the fight, but he states even he doesn’t know what happened in El Paso. If El Paso is such a pivotal moment in Hulk’s life, why doesn’t the Watcher know about it? The El Paso incident is a contrivance well past its “Use By” day that’s just sitting there, weighing down the story like a dried-up dinosaur turd left sitting in the sun too long.
At some point, Cates needs to air out the El Paso incident and be done with it. The “mystery” isn’t intriguing. If anything, it only serves to act as an increasingly annoying point of frustration.
That said, there’s a clever twist at the end where Mjolnir, inhabited by the soul of Odin, takes an unprecedented step to resolve the battle. On that point, Cates delivered a novel point of curiosity for what comes of it.
Bits and Pieces
Hulk vs. Thor: Banner of War #1 kicks off the next arc in Cates’s run with stronger art but not much story. If all you want is an excuse to see Hulk and Thor duke it out, you get plenty of that here. If you want to know why the El Paso incident is such a big deal and why it’s motivated everything since issue #1, you can probably skip this issue and not miss a thing.