Amazing Spider-Man Annual #38: The premise of this cross-over event -- that Deadpool, the Hulk, and Spidey have been sent into an alternate universe where everything is significant better in their lives -- is pretty cool. Layman does a great job explaining why the trio all just happened to be assembled in the same place for the "electrostatic-accelerated, quantum-powered, pan-dimensional translocator" to whisk them into said universe. He also presents interesting "through a mirror, darkly" versions of characters like Peter Parker and Uncle Ben. When I first read that Gwen Stacy and Uncle Ben were alive, I rolled my eyes, figuring we were getting yet another wish-fulfillment story that we see every time Spidey finds himself in an alternate universe (paging "House of M"). But, Layman lands an unexpected blow by giving us a sinister Uncle Ben, and I applaud him for taking that risk and putting a unique spin on a tired trope. The problem though, is that I was distracted from enjoying these moments more fully because I'm not entirely sure I understood the Amazing Spider's actions, at least as Layman presents them. First, we're originally told that the Amazing Spider was weakened from a similar fight to the one that brought the trio to this universe in the first place. But, in the big reveal scene, we're told that Spidey was brought to this universe by the Spider on purpose. If the Spider was using his own equipment to bring Spidey to this universe, why was it necessary to engage in the fight? Couldn't he just have been looking for alternative Spideys who found themselves near translocators? Did he have to repeat this fight every time he brought the many alternative Spideys we see in the Web to this universe? (Moreover, does he really just dump their bodies into a pit? Really? Wouldn't that...smell eventually?) This question weighed down the story for me, because I kept trying to reconcile what seemed to be two different explanations, accident v. plan. (Also, why did the Spider wait until Uncle Ben knocked out Spidey to make his move? Was it meant to be a sign of his reluctance to steal the lifeforce?). I'm still interested in seeing how it play across the next two annuals, but I wish Layman would've focused a little more on the plot dynamics in this establishing issue, because I know I'm going to be distracted by looking for answers in the next two.
Deadpool Annual #1: As usual, it's pretty much impossible to recap a "Deadpool" comic. This issue is fun, though most of its plot-related reveals depend on interesting differences between our universe and this universe (like Wade Wilson being Doctor Doom, and Wilson Fisk being a simple flunky). As usual, it doesn't really advance the plot, so I'm going to skip to the next issue.
Incredible Hulks Annual #1: Layman does a better job here of telling a complicated story than he does in "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #38. Despite the intricacies, it was pretty easy to follow the plot, with our Bruce Banner having to accept back the Hulk so that the other Bruce Banner could summon (and destroy) his version. The story treads on pretty familiar ground, with Bruce contemplating the nature of having to play host to the Hulk. But, it's effective, and it's a good way to wrap up the event. Unfortunately, I can't say it was as strong as the "Escape from the Negative Zone" event earlier this year. Other than making Uncle Ben a bad guy, Layman doesn't really give us any sort of interesting portrayal of the main characters that goes beyond standard characterizations, and I'm still confused about whether the trio was brought to this universe on purpose or accident. But, it was still pretty fun for an annual cross-over event. (But, Marvel shouldn't kid itself that I'm going to add "Deadpool" or "Incredible Hulks" to my pull list...)