By Marc Strom
For more than a year now, fans have asked the question "Who is the Red Hulk
?" Now, with INCREDIBLE HULK #600, writer Jeph Loeb and artist Ed McGuinness bring you one step closer to solving the mystery when the issue hits stands on July 15.
Looking back at his Hulk run so far, Loeb reveals that, if readers pay close attention, they'll realize they've already received more than a few clues as to the Red Hulk's true identity.
"It was all figured out from the start," Loeb promises. "What we're hoping to do when it's over—and trust us, even after issue #600, it's far from over—we'll do a piece where we show you all the clues along the way. We've said from HULK #1 that if you look carefully, you can figure it out. But be warned, if all you look for is 'Who is the Red Hulk?' you'll miss the bigger picture. It's like trying to figure out Watergate and not realizing it goes all the way to...well, you'll see."
While the Hulk's gamma-infused anniversary issue won't put to rest all the questions surrounding the Red Hulk, it will push the story forward as one of the Marvel Universe's most intrepid reporters takes an interest in the case.
"You'll get a lot of the pieces," Loeb teases. "When you have Ben Urich on the trail—the man who uncovered Daredevil's identity—you know there's going to be a lot of secrets revealed."
Marvel's Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man will also crash the Hulk's celebration, however unintentionally.
"It's Peter Parker [who] actually [runs into the Red Hulk]," Loeb relates. "On the job. But as we know, when Peter's involved, can Spidey be far from it?"
Besides the Webhead, the Red Hulk will also encounter a number of other characters from the larger Marvel U in the coming months, as Loeb teases "the battle you've been waiting for—Wolverine vs Red Hulk. In fact, it's Red Hulk vs all of X-Force with Deadpool,
Punisher and Elektra thrown in there for good measure. With art by Ian Churchill!"
And as Loeb points out, beginning in August, the Green Goliath
will split his time between two ongoing titles, giving fans a double dose of smashtastic action every month:
"How about another
Hulk book, written by the guy we love, Greg Pak with awesome artwork by Ariel Olivetti? That's right—INCREDIBLE HULK picks up right after the staggering events of HULK #600 into INCREDIBLE HULK #601 with a brand new storyline that will blow your minds!"
Now, before the mystery deepens with INCREDIBLE HULK #600, Marvel.com and Loeb run down all the possible—and not-so-possible—suspects in the Red Hulk saga.
While Loeb is quick to dismiss one of Bruce Banner's greatest enemies, noting that "he's been seen with Red Hulk at the same time," we say the crimson menace could be a manifestation of Ross' deep-seeded anger towards the original Hulk. After all, crazier things have happened.
The green haired psychiatrist to the super heroes could very well be manifesting some of his own repressed rage, but what reason would he have to hate Dr. Banner as much as the Red Hulk?
"My, hasn't he been acting strange," remarks Loeb. "And what's with the hair?"
Banner's ex-wife, who appeared to die as the result of gamma poisoning years ago, could have made her return when no one was looking. Maybe the Red Hulk is a bit more in touch with his feminine side than anyone suspected…
"She's dead, right?" questions Loeb. "I mean, I think she's dead. Isn't she?"
Once General Ross' right-hand man in hunting the Hulk down, Talbot perished fighting the Hulk in Japan years ago. As with Betty, though, he could have returned from the dead and waited for the perfect moment to strike—and he would have more than enough hatred of the Hulk to fuel his own rampages.
"Now he is
dead," Loeb declares. "And as we all know, dead is dead in comics. Hang on, I've got Bucky Barnes on line two..."
Sure, Iron Man's currently fleeing for his life from Norman Osborn, but nobody can multitask like Tony Stark. Could Iron Man be sneaking off to terrorize the world as the Red Hulk?
"Tony Stark...isn't he getting like brain damage? Or is that me?" quips Loeb.
The original Hulk's alter ego may have inadvertently unleashed the even more monstrous Red Hulk on the world. After all, as Loeb indicates, this wouldn't be the first time something like this happened.
"Bruce Banner, stricken by Gamma Rays, turns into…the Red Hulk?" Loeb wonders. "They've been separated before..."
Who has more pent-up rage than the Hulk himself? Could he have finally found an outlet for all that anger in the form of his red-toned counterpart?
"There's Smart Hulk, Me-am-Hulk, Gray Hulk, Joe Fixit Hulk, and maybe he's the Hulk's Hulk?" posits Loeb.
The Hulk's Russian counterpart also seemingly died at the Red Hulk's hands in one of his first appearances, but could he have faked his own death to throw everyone off his trail? Loeb seems to think it's a possibility.
"The Abomination fakes his own death and then becomes... wait a minute... I'm giving
too much here!"
Rick Jones was there when the Gamma Bomb first transformed Bruce Banner into the Hulk, leaving one to wonder if those same rays had a delayed effect on Jones himself.
"Is A-Bomb the only form he can take?" ponders Loeb.
Just because the Hulk has an alter ego, don't assume that Red Hulk has to have one as well.
"Maybe there is no Banner for this Hulk," suggests Loeb. "We haven't seen him change...yet."
Though hasn't made his official first appearance in the Marvel Universe proper, could the seemingly friendly blue behemoth have a deep, dark secret?
"You haven't been reading the Mini Hulk stories in the back of every issue?!! Written by the best Loeb writer—my daughter Audrey Loeb!"
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