Since the very beginning of the series, writer Donny Cates and Marvel Comics have teased the idea of a bigger, bad-er Hulk locked away inside. While far from an original concept, it has shown certain promise, considering the direction the new Hulk series has taken. The much-touted "Knull of Hulks" finally appears, and it is a brutal affair, just as expected. Written by Donny Cates and Ryan Ottley, with artwork from Cliff Rathburn and Frank Martin and lettering by VC's Cory Petit, Hulk #6 is a fast-paced story with a couple of small, insightful moments in the otherwise run-away train of a story that is the current Hulk series.
Hulk #6 picks up immediately where the previous issue left off. Bruce Banner and his "Starship Hulk" persona have been pushed to the absolute limit facing gamma-powered monsters in an alternate dimension. With his back firmly against a wall and taunted by an evil presence that's taken the form of his ex-wife, Betty Ross, the Hulk finds himself overwhelmed. His predicament means that it is time to release the Titan and watch the carnage unfold as this terrifying new form of the Hulk is finally let off its chains.
Donny Cates' writing style has always been subject to divisive opinions, particularly on his radical reworks of pre-established characters. His work on the Hulk is no different and takes a seemingly significant departure from the story beats set up in the awe-inspiring work of Al Ewing in Immortal Hulk. Hulk #6 is a culmination of Cates' world-building for the conclusion of his first arc, which while moving at a break-neck speed, does leave more questions than answers for the moment. Whether readers get those questions answered soon is up for debate since the conclusion to Hulk #6 ties directly into his upcoming Banner of War event. The theory posited by Betty about the Hulk's power ties back ever so slightly to Ewing's work but falls short of giving readers the satisfaction they have been looking for.
What comes without debate, however, is the sheer scale of awesomeness that is Ryan Ottley's art and Cliff Rathburn's inks. Action is their watchword, and this issue delivers that in bloody spades, with some of the best work of their careers. Titan, in particular, is shown as the imposing beast that he is, with his blazing colors and rage emanating from every mangled pore of his body. This only further extends to the scenes of carnage that follow, as both Hulk and Titan engage in their respective battles throughout the issue, with Ottley's work making for a mesmerizing scene of absolute violence. Artist Frank Martin's colors are simply the icing on the cake for this art extravaganza. His vivid colors showcase the transformation of Hulk into his Titan form from one shade to the next as the energy of this new world-ending beast is unleashed.
Hulk #6 concludes Cates' first arc and sets up things to come both for Hulk and the world at large, serving as a prelude to Banner of War. With the character's 60th anniversary on the way, there is more to expect and dread in the coming story arcs, for sure. While off to a rocky start with this first arc, there is potential to go beyond with Titan now finally in the mix and Bruce battling his feelings for the Hulk. One can't help but feel that all this has been done before, and Cates has yet to offer something truly big during his time with the Hulk mythos rather than recycled ideas. That being said, Hulk #6 ends with promises of big things on the horizon, so the best thing to do is wait and see how things progress.