WORLD WAR HULK #2: It was interesting to see, over at Tom Brevoort's blog, how involved what has become World War Hulk was in the initial proposal for Civil War, essentially being the final act. What's most interesting, perhaps, is the way in which World War Hulk seems to do right what Civil War did wrong - The core series works as a story in and of itself, with action scenes that deliver and characterization that fits with the way that these characters have been portrayed for years (I particularly enjoyed Sue Storm sticking with Reed Richards even as she lets him know that she's pissed at him, and the Thing doing the cliched "Clobbering Time" line. What can I say? I'm a sap) - and to such an extent that I can't really imagine Mark Millar doing anything close to the job that Greg Pak does here.
(That said, would I have liked Civil War any better if it had finished with a big issues-long fight against a big monster? It would've been a more dramatic, and more sensible, finish, I guess...)
It helps that John Romita, Jr. and Klaus Janson do a really rather good job on the art, offering a less santized and sterile world than Steve McNiven's overly rendered War; the more evocative and, well, kind of messier art fits the angrier and more gloriously dumb story, and Christina Strain's colors work to keep things crisp and clear. While it may be the long-planned endgame that brings all of Marvel's heroes back together in time to fight some shape-changin' aliens, it still offers pretty much all you could want in a summer blockbuster: Emotion! Explosions! And monsters from outer space! Good, then.
On the other hand, WORLD WAR HULK: FRONTLINE #2 was Awful. Paul Jenkins' three stories all fail in different ways - "Embedded" is horribly over-written ("Suddenly there was another blinding light in the sky. But this light was warm, soothing... Golden. A flood of energy filled the air... to be replaced by the crunch of metal... A rending sound... A deafening crackle of static... A hero's cry... And all that remained was the sound of our own pounding hearts against the silence." Oh, Paul...), "Costume Division" just kind of undercuts that whole "aliens coming to kill everyone" idea that the whole crossover is built on ("I'm going to kill you, but first I'm going to team up with this human cop to fight crime. It's the ultimate mismatched buddy cop movie!") and the two page comedy strip at the end is just horrifically unfunny - but they're all bound together by the fact that they all suck. Which has to mean something, right? I mean, everyone like consistency in quality, except for when it comes to spin-off books and their parent titles...