While the big slugfest between the intergalactic genocide machine called Omegex, the ethereal undead murderer Black Fog, the disgraced former United States Air Force general Thunderbolt Ross turned Red Hulk and the graced current United States Air Force General Reginald Fortean's forces would normally be the big compelling reason to check out Hulk #40, the real fascination with this issue comes from Jeff Parker's new creation known as Zero/One. A new digital-human hybrid created by accident, she was once dedicated to destroying the Red Hulk, but Parker refuses to have her follow the standard supervillain path, and it's fun to read this book and not have any idea where exactly he's going to go with her. Plus, she implies constant nudity without actually being naked. That's a good hook.
Zero/One was traumatically created by Red Hulk abruptly severing her cerebral connection to a technomorphic alloy that she was trying to control, and although her new merged form granted her immortality, vast powers and a new emotionally distant state of mind dedicated to technological progress, she was still determined to destroy the Red Hulk. It took M.O.D.O.K. to point out the dissonance in her actions back in #38, and instead of rationalizing away logic in order to continue harboring her enmity, she has instead moved beyond it, and is now seemingly befriending Ross, completely putting aside that old mission as an obsolete holdover from her human form. Now, though, she has plucked Ross from his fight with Omegex, with the fate of the world potentially at stake, just to interrogate him about why he values his human side so much even though his Hulk form is more powerful.
Sure, it could all still end badly and, on one hand, it's your fairly typical 'artificial intelligence quest to understand humanity' motivation, but it's got a different spin here – a couple of them, actually, as we're becoming more and more aware that Annie, the Life Model Decoy android that's been Ross's only friend for far too long, has a much bigger role to play than just reminding us how pathetic Ross's life has become. Uravo the Watcher views her as a developed sentience and gives her all the exposition needed to understand what's at stake (and why our normal Watcher Uatu is being a bit of a dick about the Red Hulk being able to deck him back in the bad old days), and being an A.I., chances are she'll have a significant impact on the course of Zero/One's final decision regarding the value of her own humanity.
There's also a crapload of fighting going on here, too, so if you like your Hulk smashy, there's plenty of that, and while artist Gabriel Hardman's style would likely fit a bit better in one of those moodier Marvel Knights kinds of books, he still brings some good and interesting choices to the mix.
A lot has been made about the New 52 and how they'll be focusing on creating new villains and newness and all-new and new new new, but Parker is having a brand new character festival in the pages of Hulk, and even his main character, who has been around since the very beginning of The Incredible Hulk, feels brand new because he's never had this much focus on him. The fact that Thunderbolt Ross has his very own Thunderbolt Ross in Fortean is something that never ceases to delight – and the fact that Fortean has seemingly out-Rossed Ross is fantastic. Then there's the Black Fog, a nightmare serial killer restored and amped up by Zero/One in her quest to kill Ross. If his boss starts to feel mitigatory about the Red Hulk, will Black Fog obey her or his murderous desires?
We don't know. But Zero/One is a fascinating creation, and Parker can be trusted to keep her fascinating and off the beaten supervillain path.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 8.4/10