Waid, Bagley, Hennessy, Keith
I will most certainly be SPOILING!
Let me just say, from about the second page on, this is not the kind of Hulk you would expect it to be. For one, the entire story of this issue is told from the point of view from any number of sources, but primarily a Dr. Aaron Carpenter. He is drafted by SHIELD to perform a surgery on a special person. You guessed it! Dr. Carpenter walks into an operating room to find Bruce Banner sedated in a chair, presumably with the back of his head open.
After making sure that the anesthesiologist understands how important her work is, Dr. Carpenter dives into the work, in this case, keeping the Hulk alive. While he works, Carpenter’s mind returns to his college days, where he shared a university with the infamously intelligent Bruce Banner.
Most important of these flashbacks may be Carpenter recalling the origin of the Hulk. I am not certain if this is a matter of misinformation in the Marvel universe, and SHIELD has hidden the origin, or if this series is changing the details, making Bruce Banner get caught in the range of his own Gamma Radiation Bomb to save a child.
While Carpenter is hard at work keeping his patient alive, the men who brought him in are introduced with the sniper that put two bullets into strategic places in the back of Banner’s head: into the only two places that would incapacitate him, not kill him, and prevent the emergence of his alter ego.
Back in the OR, Carpenter remembers learning about Hulk’s connection with Banner, as well as one of the moments where the Hulk protected others, disproving his mindless rampage reputation. It is here that Carpenter begins to question what the proper thing to do would be to uphold his Hippocratic Oath; save Banner, or kill the Hulk?
The “SHIELD” agents discard the badges, their ruse over, and they return to the OR to give Carpenter his final order as far as completing the surgery. The fake SHIELD agents tell him to place a signal transceiver into his mind, a transceiver that can trigger the Hulk transformation automatically. Once more, Carpenter is wondering if he should kill his patient, to prevent him from becoming a weapon of mass destruction.
Before he can make his decision, Banner awakens and stops the scalpel from reaching his grey matter. The anesthesiologist, as it turns out, is the girl from Carpenter’s earlier memory, the one Hulk saved, and now she is returning the favor. The pain of having his skull open causes the transformation immediately. This new bald Hulk is playing no games, and immediately attacks those he feels are responsible. His rage carries him through poison gas and Negative Zone glass. He breaks through a wall and escapes, simultaneously saving the innocents in the other room, before succumbing to his wounded mind.
The final pages of the issue show actual SHIELD agents, Hill and Coulson, coming to pick up Banner. The only problem is, banner has had massive trauma and brain damage. He is no longer the super genius we all know him to be.
I found two things very interesting about this new direction. First, it is rare to see the Hulk as vulnerable as Marvel Now has portrayed him. He both begins and ends as a prisoner of his head wounds and we have no idea how long it will last, or if it will ever end. Second, I wonder what level of intellect the Hulk will have. In his many iterations, Hulk has been anywhere from a Spartacus like leader in Planet Hulk, to the savage beast he started out as. In even this issue, Hulk seems to know to chase the people in charge instead of just blindingly attacking people, and even puts saving the civilians over chasing down his targets. At any rate, this new direction is incredibly provocative and seeing how this plays out will be a priority in months to come.
My rating 4.5 / 5
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