Totally Underrated and Awesomely Overlooked
I have long been a fan of Totally Awesome Hulk and, even though it met with mixed reviews, have always (just about) enjoyed the book. While I admit that pre-TAH Amadeus Cho was not a favorite character of mine, I am going to go on record saying that out of all the All-New Legacy race/gender flip NOW! books we got recently, the TAH run may be the most fulfilling to this era of Marvel. While many are looking to Miles, Riri, Kamala or Moon Girl (ok, maybe just me with Moon Girl) to be the next MCU star, Cho may be the most likely candidate (or did he already appear under our noses?? Sneaky Marvel devils). All this will be explained if you stick with me for a few long-winded semi-organized paragraphs accompanied by some TAH fanboyism.
Let's start from Cho's first appearance, Amazing Fantasy #15. The title just rolls off the tongue … it has a certain legendary ring to it right? Yes, his first appearance was set in an iconic book title and iconic issue number – if that's not a reason to get interested I don't know what is. Originally dubbed the 7th smartest person in the world after the death of his parents Philip and Helen Cho, he meets up with the Hulk, they become friends and things continue like this for a while with Cho working both for and against SHIELD for years to come.
Totally Awesome Hulk. Fast forward to his run as the Hulk. The Hulk powers were transferred to him as a way to save Banner from a meltdown. As Tony Stark and the Black Panther (some of the smartest heroes in Marvel at the time) could not figure out how to stop the Hulk from becoming a nuke, Cho offered his genius. Together (mainly Cho figuring out how to absorb Banner's power with nanobots), they “cured” Banner; giving him what he always wanted, a normal life. So from here on, Cho takes on the role of Hulk but being a more relaxed and stress free person, his version of the Hulk was much more comical than monstrous.
So that's the back story to Amadeus Cho. Now let's get into why his 23 issue run tops the new hero charts. Here is a quick break down of what this run has done for this era of Marvel:
Issue #1 we get a new Hulk for a new generation, a Korean Hulk 1st appearance issue.
Also we get the first appearance of a new villainess: Lady Hellbender.
Issue #3 we get the 1st appearance of Kid Kaiju! And a cool Michael Cho variant cover.
Issue #4 the origin of Hulk and the curing (depowering) of Banner which ultimately leads to his death in Civil War II. (Plus a Where the Wild Things Are monster cameo – 1st appearance of a Wild Thing in a Marvel comic???? No idea.)
Issue #6 minor, but the creation and first appearance of Hulk's Axe made from the same materials as Thor's hammer and has the power of lightning (might be important one day).
*Editor note: Mjolnir is made of uru.
Issue #9 cameo of Black Panther's Hulkbuster armor. Let's just go with Black Hulkbuster for now.
Issue #10 1st full appearance of Black Hulkbuster and (new villain) the Austin monster cameo.
Issue #11 1st full Austin monster.
Issue #13 1st appearance of Jeremy Lin. While it is my least favorite arc as it's basically Space Jam with the Hulk and Jeremy Lin. It sounds cool on the surface but was not executed well. Anyway, a real-life sports star crossover with a Marvel hero is still a notable achievement.
Issue #15 is loaded with goodies. 1st appearance of new villain prince regent Phalkan. 1st appearance of a new alien race in Marvel. First assembly of the Protectors (unnamed). Also the first TAH cover by one of my favorite new artists, Stonehouse (regular cover, maybe his first Marvel or comic work ever, still digging for that info). Plus a cool variant.
Issue #16 the Protectors (named)
Issue #19 start of Weapons of Mutant Destruction (Weapon H) story arc.
Issue #22 1st appearance of Weapon H (final Stonehouse cover).
Issue #23 last issue of the run. Intro to Return to Planet Hulk story featuring the Protectors and Black Panther.
Not bad for a 23 issue run. In my opinion no other run for that specific 2 years of Marvel comics has more to offer in terms of potential spec. While I agree some are a bit weak (such as Jeremy Lin or the Austin monster), two characters from this run are leading their own solo titles: Kid Kaiju and Weapon H. That can not be said for any of the other Now series.
Ok, still around? Here is where I will express the importance of the Black Hulkbuster and why Cho may be overlooked as the next actual MCU candidate before Kamala, Riri or even Miles. This is going to be part fact with some speculation and opinion all mixed in so bear with me as I will try to keep it separate. Everyone loves facts so here goes.
The Hulk films were not well received. The second Hulk film is technically part of the MCU as we have had crossovers in the form of Stark and Thunderbolt Ross. There are no plans for a stand alone Hulk film at this point. Honestly I do not know for sure where the rights even are anymore, somewhere between Universal and Disney when I last checked. Now we know mention of Miles in deleted scenes or speculation of uncles has gotten everyone ready and stocked up on Ultimate Fallout #4. But what would you say if I told you Amadeus Cho already appeared in the MCU and his family already exists and knows Banner and Tony Stark?
Let's start with the Incredible Hulk film. A “genius” college student let's Banner into the lab in exchange for pizza. While not addressed in the film, the novel adaptation of the movie identifies the student as Amadeus Cho. Not much to go on and coupled with the fact he was played by an actor named Martin Starr (who is in no way Korean-American), I'm not sure that is the portrayal Marvel will ultimately go with. Also that same actor went on to play Peter's teacher Mr. Harrington in Spider-Man: Homecoming. But we know Marvel has a way of getting around things such as using the same actor twice (Black Mariah from Luke Cage was in Civil War confronting Tony about her dead son although I just act like she's the same character) or straight up replacing one (Rhody). So officially/unofficially Amadeus has made his MCU debut in a Hulk film nonetheless.
That's pretty weak you say? I agree, so here is another lead into Amadeus Cho's MCU inevitability. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony was aided by none other than a woman named Helen Cho. A genius in South Korea who happens to share the name of Amadeus' mother and also develops a healing nanite tech, which sounds familiar. Why? Because Amadeus used nanotech in the comic to gain Hulk's powers. Coincidence? I think not. For those who don't know, she has a significant role in the film, both helping Tony and creating Vision for Ultron along with Ultron's upgrades. She is eventually rescued and taken in by SHIELD. Also, we know fellow Protectors member and SHIELD agent Jimmy Woo has been confirmed for the next Ant-Man film. Those are the facts around Cho's MCU hopes. Now let me dive into some speculation and opinions.
The groundwork for Amadeus Cho has been set and with contracts ending and a Phase 3 (4?) on its way out, a CGI character seems like an easy transition more so than a character based on a recognizable actor (not to mention we are on our 3rd Banner/Hulk already). Introducing Amadeus as the new Hulk even briefly can be easy and fit in with the younger Peter Parker/comedic tone the MCU loves. With Black Panther rolling out, a well established Tony Stark, Helen Cho's nanite tech already appearing and Banner's reluctant hero status, all the pieces are in play to set up the origin of TAH in live action. Not to mention, the Black Hulkbuster story sends Black Panther after the new Hulk for a showdown and revolves heavily around Captain Marvel, who will be making her MCU debut soon (which is why that issue may be significant one day). If Marvel does gear up for a Civil War II, TAH, Hulk, Captain Marvel and Black Panther could all play a role. Also with no MCU Red Skull, Mandarin's fate hanging in the balance, and Baron Mordo not even mentioned for a Doctor Strange 2, what villain can threaten the MCU next? How about an already teased Hulk based Big Bad … The Leader, whose origin story is already in the MCU. Heck maybe even throw in a Red Hulk because we have Ross who will probably be pissed when Hulk returns to save the world from Thanos thus dissolving his Sokovia Accords…..but that part's just my opinion.
Anyway here's my summary: TAH is a good run full of great stuff, Stonehouse needs more work, Amadeus Cho might be coming to the MCU as himself or maybe Hulk sooner than we think.
I will leave you with the Stonehouse covers: