Comics I am Reading Now
Hulk and Thing: Hard Knocks along with Taskmaster
One of the great things about being a comic book fan is the immense back catalog of great and largely undiscovered comic books out there. As it is nearly impossible for an average person to keep up with all of the new comics being put out there by the major comic publishers, this invariably means that there is always going to be a lot of good comics out there waiting to be discovered.
Marvel Unlimited Recently Read Comics
I am a big Marvel fan, and one of the best ways to delve deep into the Marvel back-catalog is through Marvel Unlimited
, an online subscription service that allows access to literally tens of thousands of Marvel back issues reaching into history to the 1940s. Lately, I have been going through the Marvel Unlimited catalog and just clicking on interesting-looking titles.
Marvel Unlimited List
Now, I have regular series that I follow, such as the various X-Men titles, and the most recent She-Hulk series
(which is an excellent set of stories, by the way), but I also like to find undiscovered gems.
Two series I started recently fit this definition:
Hulk and Thing: Hard Knocks
, which is a four-issue series from 2004 featuring, you guessed it, the Hulk and the Thing (you know, of the Fantastic Four). These two bruisers have a great history together, and this Marvel Knights imprint has our two "monsters," meeting in a desert diner to verbally and physically hash out the details of their first battle, way back in Fantastic Four #12. This is a great interplay between the Thing and the Hulk, and the writer, Bruce Jones, has a great ear for how these two guys sound. This is a version of the Hulk that has more intelligence than most Hulk versions (as any true Hulk fan knows, the level of intelligence and self-awareness of the Hulk can vary significantly from the more familiar "Hulk Smash" mentality all the way up to computing physics problems in his head), and he is able to carry on a real conversation with multi-syllabic words. The Thing, for his part, usually plays the blue-collar bruiser persona when he is with other heroes, but he IS highly intelligent, and a college grad to boot, so here, with his fellow "monster," (that is a theme of this series by the way), he actually engages in a very intelligent conversation. This series is as much about their relationship and their conversation as it is about the fighting. The art by Jae Lee has a unique take to it in terms of how our two protagonists look, but as you read the story, and examine the art, it all fits well.
Hulk and Thing Hard Knocks #3
is the second series I want to mention here is from 2010, and features one of the more unique villains in the Marvel Universe. Taskmaster, for those of you unfamiliar with him, is the guy who trains most of the henchmen who form the bulk of villain organizations and teams. Think the average HYDRA or AIM goon, you know the guys who run around with the super tech guns and get beat up by the good guys. The cannon fodder if you will of the super-villain world. Well, someone has to train them up, and Taskmaster is that trainer. He has unique abilities of his own, of course. Taskmaster has the innate ability to mimic the fighting moves and style of anyone. He once impersonated Captain America, and was convincing in that role in part because he could accurately mimic Cap's movements and style.
Taskmaster #1 with Hydra Morris
This mini-series focuses on the backstory of this villain, and also shows his human side. The basic premise of this series is that someone has accused him of turning state's evidence as it were, and the supervillain community can't have that, as he knows too much. Thus, a billion-dollar bounty is put on his head, and every goon he ever trained is trying to collect. Along the way, he befriends a waitress named Mercedes, who happens to get caught in the crossfire.
Taskmaster #1 Pass/Fail
I find comics that center on the villain to be particularly interesting, because it is refreshing to see the human side of the bad guys, and to get a glimpse of why they are villains. And, as we see with how Taskmaster rescues the 'civilian' in this tale, even murderous supervillians have a soft side. At this point, I have only read the first of this series, but that first issue grabbed me by my comic nerd collar and shook me around. I suspect I will enjoy finishing this series via Marvel Unlimited.
By the way, this review sounds like an extended ad for Marvel Unlimited, but I am not receiving any compensation for mentioning this service. It is just a very handy way to catch up on a ton of comics at relatively little cost. Now, if only DC Comics would introduce a similar service...