Although we’ve had both an adjectiveless and “Incredible” attribute applied to the Hulk before (not to mention “Rampaging” for you long-time readers), this is the first time we’ve truly had the chance to apply “Indestructible” to the green behemoth. Sure, many have said when fighting him that he’s gotta be indestructible, but now it’s been confirmed in the title. And I love how Mark Waid made it happen.
Past writers have had the Hulk and Bruce Banner being treated as separate entities. We’ve had various shades of Hulk (for the love of Pete, please no one write a parody book surrounding that phrase…), and various personas emerge. We’ve had the traditional Hulk we all know and fear – “HULK SMASH!!!” – and then the grey-Mr.-Fixit Hulk who is just cunning enough to be dangerous. We’ve seen future Hulk in the Maestro, and we’ve seen merged Hulk in the Dale Keown era for artwork, and then with Marvel’s ill-conceived Heroes Reborn arc we saw non-Bannered-Hulk. Waid has done something that very few other writers could attempt to do – create a Banner and a Hulk who appear to have come to terms with one another and are working together.
First things first. As has happened for some time, Banner and Hulk have always been hunted – by the military, the Avengers, or someone. Now, it’s S.H.I.E.L.D. They were on the trail of the Hulk when he vanished and they couldn’t find him. Maria Hill was on the trail, talking to Phil Coulson (yes, THAT Phil Coulson – see the BattleScars miniseries for Agent Coulson’s introduction to the Marvel Universe) when the Hulk vanishes from their radar. So you can imagine her surprise when, in a little diner in Alabama, Bruce Banner takes a seat next to her with an amazing proposition.
Banner decides to accept his fate: he is the Hulk. There is no point in trying to cure him of the condition, as medical science at this time is incapable of doing so. (He compares his condition to maladies such as diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis, where today’s medical conditions have no cure. This is the first hint to me that Waid is taking the characters into new ground.) Banner is also sick of playing second fiddle to Tony Stark in terms of the scientist and genius category – he is a contender in the Marvel U for being a main player there. Instead, he comes up with a proposal for Ms. Hill: Make Banner and Hulk both agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
As a trial run, they pit the Hulk up against the Mad Thinker, who is up to no good (is he ever?). The Thinker is a master manipulator of intelligence, stacking the deck in his favor. He looks at all possible outcomes and conceives of ways to master them all so he comes out on top. It’s only with a random factor in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s attack, such as the inclusion of the Hulk, that the Thinker changes tactics. But when someone who is dubbed a “mastermind” and can see all of the outcomes comes to play, and comes into contact with something that shocks even him (“No, no, no… This can’t be… Your strength… It’s… It’s incalculable…”)… Well, that pretty much tells you that this Indestructible Hulk can stand up to anything.
I’ve already mentioned how Waid’s writing has changed the dynamic of the character. The Hulk as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.? How many of us saw that coming? But a story is also only as strong as its visuals, and I must say that Leinil Yu is at the peak of his game. The detail he gives the characters, and just the right amount of depth and scale… We see the Hulk bashing through the wall to attack the Thinker and the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in the background – and we can tell they are in the background. It’s not an afterthought, but you can tell the scale and dimension of the characters. I have seen Yu’s work elsewhere, but I think this is the best I have seen.
All in all, I am surprised. I was not expecting to like this book and I loved it. Marvel NOW! has had some great surprises so far (check out Thor #1 for another surprise title) but a few which have fallen a tad flat so far (such as the flagship NOW! title Uncanny Avengers). If you’ve ever liked the Hulk, this is a book to pick up and give it a chance. If you only liked the movie Hulk from The Avengers, you will like this book too. If you know nothing about the Hulk, this is a great starting point. Basically, this is a surprise find from the Marvel NOW! range and I am very glad I took the chance and picked this title up!