Indestructible Hulk #1
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Leinil Francis Yu
Color by Sunny Gho
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
$3.99 / 32 pages / Color
Published by Marvel Comics
In the Hulk game, there are few acts harder to follow than the combined might of Mark Ruffalo, Joss Whedon and the folks at Industrial Light and Magic. You could argue that there are better interpretations of the character outside of Marvel’s The Avengers film. You could. You could argue until you’re green in the face. But no PowerPoint presentation is likely to convince me. In the wake of Ruffalo’s forest green “That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always angry,” all else is an anemic hue of mint, celery or sage.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. That doesn’t mean we can’t come close to those super-saturated tones with the proper motivation.
It’s difficult to evaluate Indestructible Hulk #1 without recalling the cinematic revelation that’s so fresh in our memory, but that makes it all the more engrossing a character study.
Bruce Banner is auditioning. A beleaguered Maria Hill agrees to meet with the reclusive genius in a small town diner fraught with clumsy bus boys and unnerving ruckus. Unlike Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, Hill isn’t eager to coax the not-so-jolly green giant from his slumber for scientific observation. That’s not the only reason the scene is so tense, but that’s all part of Banner’s plan for this job interview. See, Banner is done trying to stamp down the Hulk. He’s come to the realization that that’s not only folly, but a waste of his extremely valuable time. Bruce isn’t dying, but he’s suffering from a much more human foible. He’s jealous. Deeply jealous. The Starks and Richards of the world are enacting breakthroughs every day while he squanders his time and effort trying to keep calm and carry on. He needs resources though. So it’s time to come in from the cold. But even Banner knows that not even the most righteous organization is willing to furnish him with the materials he needs to achieve true redemption through innovation without something in return. Not without a lot of green.
If Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu don’t capture the emboldened Banner of the recent film’s raucous final act, they tap into the insights and nuance that made the troubled scientist so fascinating in the earlier sections of the script. This is the Banner that put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger, only for the Other Guy to spit the bullet out. This is that reserved, charismatic figure whose confidence could only have developed after years of anything but. His insides are tightly coiled springs, and his precision exists only through a potential for boundless chaos. Poised as he might be, we’ll always be aware of the turmoil simmering just beneath his resolve. I’m tempted to compare it to a very public bout with constipation. But let’s leave that conclusion to Tony.
Anyway, this is another world full of its own wonders. By the nature of the beast (comics not the Other Guy), Banner’s filmic catharsis, to an extent, will always be a contentment deferred. Then again, look what Waid’s done with Matt Murdock. Actually, yes, look at Daredevil. Happiness is refreshing, but its fleeting. It’s an illusion for haunted characters like this. Waid’s struck at a winning formula, treating these tragic malcontents with Dolcalax, all the while sustaining their diet of bran and, I dunno, chewing gum. He’s an irritator of bowels.
Waid’s Banner might have made some kind of peace with the Hulk’s existence, and that’s great. But more importantly, Banner hasn’t made peace with himself. Especially with his place in the hierarchy of Marvel masterminds. That’s the ongoing conflict. Call it hubris. Call it arrogance. It’s the far more dangerous giant lurking under his skin, the greater of the green-eyed monsters within.
As for Leinil Yu, he’s in top form. He capably upscales to Hulk-level intensity when needed, and the whole book has something of a manga sensibility. Perhaps that’s the Maria Hill character design and giant robot enemies talking, but it’s in the environments too. It’s a populated world and a book brimming with an atmosphere so rare in American comics. That said, it never felt over-crowded. Except when it was. But that bit was on purpose. He also did something especially interesting with Hill. She looks tired. Worn down to a nub, in fact. Emotionally too. We’ve seen her battered and broken before, but such is Yu’s control of expression, it’s not just Yosemite Sam after a bundle of TNT explodes in his grasp. She’s got the weight of the world on her. As for the Hulk, he’s downright ferocious. He’s the embodiment of Banner’s id. Or maybe the Super Ego. This isn’t the cleanest-cut Jekyl and Hyde scenario, which is tremendous.
No, Yu’s Bruce Banner doesn’t much resemble Mark Ruffalo. In fact, he looks a bit like Phil Coulson. Part of that, I think, is necessitated by the choice to give Hulk a buzz cut. But that’s for the best. This Bruce Banner can’t be that guy. He’s got too much soul-searching to do before he can smile like that, share in the shawarma. He’s a crucial two or three steps removed from that kind of understanding. That’s maybe the way it ought to be in ongoing comics. This is one of the most tragic figures in the superhero realm. Movie’s, focused and finite, demand a horizon line. In comics, these heroes are Moses, doomed to wander the confines of the desert, only peeking at the solace beyond.
And there you are. Moses and poop. All the bases.
Story: 4.5 / Art: 5 / Overall: 5
(Out of 5 Stars)