At the end of Greg Pak’s Incredible Hulk run, it seemed as if nothing could stop the green goliath, at least in a storytelling sense. Enter Jason Aaron who, in a few short months, nearly obliterated Pak’s work with his infantile and poorly written stab at Hulk. Now, a new day dawns for the strongest there is, a day that includes writer Mark Waid. Coupling with artist Leinil Yu, Waid unleashes Indestructible Hulk #1 and leaves all of us hoping this will clean up Jason Aaron’s mess.
There are several differences in Hulk outside of being referred to as Indestructible instead of Incredible. First, Banner is a lot tougher and a lot more mercenary. This is a set up issue and Mark Waid treats it as one. Ninety percent of the book takes place in a diner in a small town. SHIELD director Maria Hill sits waiting for something. Out of nowhere, Banner shows up with a proposition. This Banner is different, for one, he’s accepted that he will always be the Hulk. Second, he wants to start balancing the scales between the damage Hulk has caused and the good he can do as a scientist. Banner’s proposition is simple, SHIELD hires him, gives him resources and he will invent things to revolutionize and help save the world. When Banner does hulk out, SHIELD can point him at an obstacle and, once he’s eliminated it, bring him home.
I like what Waid is doing here. I dig the idea of a cynical and pissed off Banner. Instead of whining about the Hulk, Banner is using his alter ego as leverage. The undercurrent of jealousy Banner has for Tony Stark and Reed Richards is a nice touch that helps to show just how off-balance Banner is. Waid’s subtlety with Banner is very effective. Banner isn’t altogether rational, hasn’t been since War Of The Hulks. His sudden acceptance of the Hulk, the desperate desire to be remembered as something besides the green goliath, the foul temper towards Stark and Richards, it’s all setting up that, as smart as he is, Banner is a ticking time bomb. The final clash in the book between Hulk and the Mad Thinker is more of an audition for the proposed job with SHIELD than anything else.
As well written and fun as Indestructible Hulk #1 is, I’m hesitant to jump for joy. Waid’s writing is often wonderful but also tends to screw the pooch as the arc goes on. For example, his work on the Daredevil reboot began with great triumph but has devolved into absolute garbage. Hulk needs a serious and lengthy home run to wash away the foul taste of Jason Aaron. If the series craps out by issue 13, it’ll be that much harder for the next creative team. The pieces are definitely in place for Indestructible Hulk to work, I’ve just been let down by Mark Waid before.
There’s also an art issue. Leinil Yu’s art has no energy to it. His thin line work is detailed and pretty to look at but has no movement to it. Each panel sits as a still life, a bad thing for comic books. I’m also unsure why Yu has decided Bruce Banner needs to look like Steve McQueen, but it looks off. When Banner hulks out, Yu attempts to make Hulk’s face look like a bigger and greener version of Banners’, which also doesn’t work. Yu’s style would be more fitting for X-Men or maybe Iron Man, it just isn’t visceral enough for Hulk.
Indestructible Hulk #1 is a solid effort but I remain very, very, cautious in my optimism.
(4.5 Story, 3 Art)