Hulk vs. Thor: Banner of War Alpha Review: Loud, Shallow, Unapologetic Fun

The worlds of Donny Cates are colliding... again. The popular writer has been bringing many of his creator-owned works (along with several other big-ticket properties) together for an ongoing series at Image Comics called Crossover. Cates is now bringing that collision strategy over to Marvel, albeit with a much less meta concept. Writing the ongoing series for both Hulk and Thor, Cates has opted to pit the two powerful and legendary heroes on a collision course with one another, resulting in an all-out brawl. It's a fight bigger than any we've seen since, well, the last time Hulk and Thor decided to throw haymakers.

Hulk vs. Thor: Banner of War Alpha #1 is one of the clunkiest titles Marvel has rolled out in some time, but the book that follows that title is much more straightforward. This primer issue, which is illustrated by Martin Coccolo and colored by Matt Wilson, is the first of five parts to Cates' high-octane punch-em-up event. The other four parts will follow in the next two installments of both Thor and Hulk.

Having Thor and Hulk duke it out is nothing new for Marvel Comics. When you build up the strength and durability and legend of characters like these, it's inevitable that they're going to come to blows on multiple occasions. We've even had a taste of the action in live-action form, thanks to Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok. We've seen this all play out before. For better or for worse, however, Banner of War feels a little different.

This Alpha issue seems to come out of nowhere, especially when it comes to Thor's side of things. After burying Odin and struggling to adapt to his life as King of Asgard, a spat with Hulk feels like a strange detour for Thor right now. Yes, he's the protector of the Nine Realms and Hulk is posing a major threat, but there's just no set up to establish why Thor is willing to risk his life in this altercation. When there's no clear reason for the character to be invested, what is a reader supposed to care about?

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(Photo: Marvel)

The answer can be found in quite a lot of Cates' works, and it's a decent one: This stuff is just really cool. Much like the ongoing Hulk series—which revolves around Bruce Banner turning Hulk's body into a functioning starship—this Banner of War event just seems to be a reason to have two very cool characters do a lot of very gnarly stuff in a comic book. And there's nothing wrong with that, especially because that goal is largely achieved.

Gnarly is a great word to describe a lot of this first issue. Metal is another. It's like an energy drink at a renaissance fair, moving a mile a minute and forcing your attention in a new direction on every page. There are video game freeze frames. Hammers ripping holes through bodies. A world full of serial killers that look like old Disney cartoons. Did I mention Hulk is a STARSHIP?! 

This kind of full throttle absurdity is something of a trademark for Cates, but he's not the real star of this show. Coccolo and Wilson are an absolute wrecking ball of an illustrative team. What Hulk vs. Thor lacks in depth or stakes, it makes up for in eye-popping color and confident style. Every page is a joy to look at.

Hulk vs. Thor: Banner of War is just one big exercise in a creator asking themselves, "What's the biggest, loudest, most ridiculous thing I could do with two of the most powerful characters in comic history?" If you're hoping for something of real substance, this comic probably isn't for you. But if wild comic book action is what you crave, this is the place. Hulk vs. Thor has wild for days.

Published by Marvel Comics

On May 11, 2022

Written by Donny Cates

Art by Martin Coccolo

Colors by Matt Wilson

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Letters by Joe Sabino

Cover by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson