COMICS: John Reviews “Hulk: WWH – Damage Control” by Greg Pak, Dwayne McDuffie, Rafa Sandoval and Salva Espin

Here’s an important fact about me: I love twists on the usual superhero comic, especially those that put heroes in non-traditional roles.  The most successful of these (that I know of) has been Dwayne McDuffie’s Damage Control, a collection of Marvel miniseries that follow the trials and tribulations of a construction firm tasked with cleaning up after the mess left behind by superheroes’ epic battles.  I fully intend to pick up the as many of the original miniseries as I can find at NYCC this year, but for now I will have to be content with Damage Control‘s brief resurgence in the aftermath (cutely renamed “aftersmash”) of Marvel’s World War Hulk event in 2007, collected in the Hulk: WWH – Damage Control trade paperback.

In Hulk: WWH – Damage Control, (ugh, that title!) New York City lies in ruins after the Hulk returns from exile in space and throws a particularly nasty temper tantrum.  It’s up to the few superheroes who can still stand to assist Damage Control with the biggest post-battle cleanup in Marvel history, as Manhattan begins to literally come apart at the seams.

The first story in the collection is entitled World War Hulk: Aftersmash, and is written by WWH writer Greg Pak.  As an epilogue to WWH, it manages to do its job fairly well.  As an opening to a mini-series, it seems entirely out of place.  Aftersmash ties up several of the ends left loose at the end of WWH, specifically with the following groups: Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Incredible Hercules, Heroes for Hire, The Warbound, and (finally) Damage Control.  Even the problem of Manhattan splitting apart (the only real element that Damage Control is involved with) is treated as a B-story.  Don’t get me wrong, though: The issue has several great moments, including a scene where Hercules is holding the two halves of manhattan together with his bare hands, but ultimately it felt out of place in a book that is supposed to be about Damage Control.  The tone and humor of the issue is also drastically different from what follows, since it is written by a completely different writer.

Suffice it to say that the actual three-issue Damage Control mini-series is much more in line with what a Damage Control collection should be.  Dwayne McDuffie returns to the series that he created, and I honestly can’t imagine anyone who could write the book with more wit and craft.  In it, DC (ha!) head Ann-Marie Hoag convinces Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Tony “Iron Man” Stark to fund the $164 billion Manhattan reconstruction project (back when $164 billion in government spending was nearly unheard-of.)  McDuffie manages to make the world of government construction contracts as entertaining and humorous to read as superhero clashes, which is no mean feat.  The hard part is yet to come, however, as the DC team must face overzealous alien robots, government red tape, harassment by the Thunderbolts (ex- and current villains recruited to do the government’s enforcement work)  and a walking, talking Chrysler Building.  Yes, you read that correctly.

The highlight of a series is, without a doubt, the interactions between the Damage Control team and the newly-sentient (and quasi-anthropomorphic) Chrysler Building.  The character is brought to life in a way that is hysterically funny and logically sensible, which sounds even weirder to write than I thought it would.  Damage Control’s solution to the problem is sheer brilliance, and the final issue alone is worth the price of the book (though you could probably just pick up the single issue and still enjoy the story.)  I highly recommend it for people (like me) who enjoy seeing superheroes doing things other than fight villains, and for those who enjoy the kind of wacky humor that comics used to be known for.

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One Response

  1. […] I mentioned in my previous review, I relish stories of superheroes in supporting roles.  You might call them the “heroes […]

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