Pick of the Week
What did the
Art by Matteo Scalera
Cover by Paolo Rivera
Size: 0 pages
As the Marvel Universe barrels toward Infinity — a massive and heady space opera glancing the very framework of reality — an evening of old fashioned taxi surfing won out this week.
I’m admittedly a little green when it comes to the Hulk, so I’m unsure just how often the big guy’s rubbed elbows with the Man Without Fear. Whether it’s merely the latest outing in a celebrated tradition or a completely novel inclination, this team-up between Bruce Banner and Matt Murdock sees Waid at his swashbuckling best. That he’s taken two of Marvel’s most notorious loners, these typically troubled souls, and ushered them off on a raucous playdate in Hell’s Kitchen doesn’t just impress, it tickles. When Ruffalo’s Banner met Downey’s Stark on that glistening helicarrier last Spring, audiences swooned. Perfect percolating chemistry. The birth of a meme. Of course two world-class scientists would commiserate up there in the rarified air, but given the property damage he’s racked up over the years, it’s only natural that Bruce would need to get just as chummy with a lawyer. It’s a practical relationship, but it’s also genuinely touching. Matt’s knack for sussing heart rates and his natural predilection for championing the underdog makes him the ideal friend indeed. Turns out the devil and the dynamo make for a fascinating duo.
Not that Banner’s ever had much luck with friends and co-workers, his agreement with Maria Hill has turned out to be an especially raw deal. In return for financing his monster-makes-good laboratory, she takes no pain in hurling the scientist out open hatches and into the wild blue yonder without so much as a parachute. Even Gary Oldman got better in Air Force One! Hill knows the prank will rile up Banner more than it frightens him, so that by the time she hits the deck, it’s the Hulk who meets her there. S.H.I.E.L.D. views Banner as the well intentioned housing to a bucking WMD. Either persona have been remarkably amenable so far, but Hill’s pushing it.
To maintain his sanity, Banner has sought out Murdock as his constant. A time-tested listener, Matt knows how Bruce’s head is fastened, can power through and connect with the man even when the monster’s in the driver’s seat. Matt’s also seen plenty of folks chewed up by the powers-that-be, so he doesn’t take kindly to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s implementation of his friend as a weapon. Banner’s got a stiff upper lip though, and he’s willing to do the agency’s dirty work if it means he can cure the world’s ills and build a better humanitarian mouse trap on their dime. Matt’s just a phone call away when he needs to talk things out (venting is important when you’re this irradiated). Those calls are also a kind of insurance, installing a witness in case an op goes wrong and Hill’s people try to bury the Hulk, and the doctor along with him.
Always leave a note.
The pair meet up for a well-earned playdate amidst S.H.I.E.L.D.’s latest bust. The always delightful Agence Byzantine terror organization (love these guys) have commandeered a munitions shipment and they have to learn that’s not a great idea. Hill’s need to provide an intro to Daredevil for her people highlights just how unusual it is for a vigilante like Murdock to cooperate with Daisy Johnson’s best and brightest. This is about friendship though, not recruitment. Everyone understands that the man in the red union suit is just here for the ride-along. To bear witness at the church of SMASH. Here, Hulk comes perilously close to murder, though Daredevil is able to talk him down. Despite the Hulk’s interference, one of the baddies slips off with an ultrasonic superweapon, leading our heroes on a wild chase through Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a simple, street level caper, but that’s perfect for a character portrait, just the right size for an ill-tempered giant and his perceptive pal. As the ongoing writer for both characters’ solo series, Waid strikes just the right balance and keys into what feels like a long and storied kinship.
It all crescendos as the blind man steps confidently into a bar filled with gunmen (“the anti-Cheers”), knowing full well the big guy behind him will set all the knees to buckling. Raised weapons wilt and the balance of power shifts in an instant. It’s funny as hell and perfectly told.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Leinil Yu and Walt Simonson are hard acts to follow, but the new guy breezed on in and earned himself a mic drop. Former Secret Avengers artist and a veteran of our Weekly Sketchup and Best of the Week in Panels features, Matteo Scalera unleashed beast mode for this one. While so many artists focus on Hulk’s scale and sheer strength, Scalera contributes ferocious velocity. Hulk lumbers, but he also moves like a cannonball when something’s in his way. Scalera’s also well-suited to Daredevil’s urban playground, capturing the grunge and the mayhem of a Manhattan sprint. He’s a terrific storyteller and a new runaway favorite.
With both Daredevil and this title, Waid’s become adept at depicting complex adult friendships. We might take that skill for granted sometimes, but it makes the relationships in some other books look superficial. There’s a lot of heroes swinging through the skyline, and they often careen into each other. It’s refreshing to see them vault, parallel, into the danger that keeps them alive.
Would never toss you out of a thing without a chute.