Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 07.31.2013 – Indestructible Hulk #11

What did the
iFanboy
community think?

593
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.4
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 2.0%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
Story by Mark Waid
Art by Matteo Scalera
Colors by Val Staples
Cover by Mukesh Singh & Mike Del Mundo

Size: 22 pages
Price: 3.99

With tonight’s review, I’ll have written about three issues of Indestructible Hulk, each the first chapter in a new arc. Each time, I’ve come away with a greater appreciation for what remains a very simple character. But as it turns out, there are many, many shades of green, and Mark Waid and his artists are leaving no swatch unturned. With Yu, Simonson and now Scalera, Waid is continually spitballing Hulk concepts at the wall, not in an effort to see what sticks, but to see what smashes right on through to new realms of possibility. They must have those drywall guys on retainer, because each month I’m sputtering plaster.

Banner has often been cast as slave to the Hulk, but here the dynamic has shifted, though not in Banner’s favor. Now both labor at the mercy of S.H.I.E.L.D. with Hulk as a bargaining chip for Banner’s humanitarian efforts. It’s proved far more than a change of venue or even allegiance. Now Banner isn’t simply duking it out with his inner demons and the monster of the week, but with a seemingly virtuous government agency that could well disappear him should he go rogue. That he has to routinely place calls to Matt Murdock as a failsafe against potential treachery wrought by his own colleagues offers both political intrigue and a more complex playing field from issue to issue. The Hulk is newly vulnerable because Banner has leveraged both of them in a dangerous game.

The murkiness of the deal has only surged in recent issues, and Matteo Scalera renders the lower bowels of S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ with a splotchy, brackish finish. As Banner and Hill meet with the imprisoned Zarrko the “Tomorrow Man”, the artist trades his omnipresent speed lines for scattered stippling, a spotty filter to mirror the characters’ unease and faltering memories. The creepiness of this encounter with the corpulent temporal terrorist isn’t entirely offset by his surreal POV, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents flickering in and out of period costume. Seeing Maria Hill decked out in geisha garb or pantaloons is amusing, but the concept that these people are losing grip on their memories of lovers and allies, then stoically denying their forgetfulness, succeeded in truly unnerving me. If it doesn’t clench into your own deep-seated fears of marble loss, it should at least proffer some weight to this particular time travel story, hopefully setting it apart from the many that have come before.

There’s no escaping it, the heroes of the Marvel Universe tamper with the past like it’s going out of style. We’re looking at three eras of mutants converging at one point. Ultron’s dead but the Galactus is missing, and there’s a McFarlane action figure flying around space. Everything’s all wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey. Nice going, guys.

This chapter, with its fading memories and disappearing White Houses, feels like a bit of meta-commentary on how fleeting superhero continuity can be, without dropping anchor on the story.

In the final pages of this issue, the doctor agrees to upload a copy of his consciousness to a R.O.B. unit in order to accompany the Hulk on an expedition into the time stream, promising a unique Hulk/Banner team-up adventure. The cliffhanger pits the two against a rampaging dinosaur in the old west. I’m thrilled for the opportunity to write a paragraph like that. Excited for the next issue? I’m ready to commit some of my own trespasses against the laws of physics.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Waid about an upcoming arc in the series, an Inhumanity tie-in drawn by former Supergirl artist Mahmud Asrar. Asked to identify the constants and variables each new artist brought to the book, the writer said weight and potential energy have always been pivotal in the depiction of the Hulk. “He should always look like a force of nature ready to explode.” As for Scalera, Waid praised his ability to lend the Hulk an incredible sense of forward motion. Over the past three issues, you’ll be hard pressed to find images of the character at rest, unless the moment explicitly demands such repose. The Hulk is a dynamo. Though he does cold-cock a plane, Hulk takes a back seat to Banner in this issue. Still, whenever he does appear, the Hulk always arrives with intense velocity, lips pulled back in the rictus grin of a roller coaster snapshot. This knack for conveying motion and force also makes the artist a perfect fit for this arc, an exploration of the temporal distortions brought about by all this meddling. Scalera finds thoughtful ways of visualizing all this, whether through atmospheric touches like those splotches or through actual distortion of forms. Tasked with drawing one poor field agent horribly disfigured by, let’s call it chronocontamination, Scalera goes on to illustrate one of the unseen victims of the transporter accident from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. “Enterprise, What we got back didn’t live long. Fortunately.”

I’m also struck by Waid’s knack for adhering to the current status quo of the larger Marvel Universe with its predominant themes and toolkit, but also his willingness to even do so. So often, we cite the self-contained outliers as the strongest narratives during line-wide events. With this story — and the Inhumanity story line to come — Waid eagerly nudges Banner onto the carousel, inevitably nabbing the brass ring — the most compelling element of the overall communal story — for his continuing saga. Age of Ultron might not have done it for me, but Waid uses it as a springboard here for a truly promising Hulk romp, a time travel story with discernible gravity. It works perfectly fine on its own, divorced of the Ultron story and the All New X-Men concept, but it also feels like coolly cognizant for readers who are immersing themselves in the Marvel NOW!. It’s one of those rare instances when shared continuity actually does augment the overall experience. Because it’s lucid. Because it’s insightful.

Many Hulk stories purport to offer an equal focus on Banner as well as the big guy. This series truly delivers on that, with smarts and smashing in equal measure. Waid and company found the balance, loading up on brain food to earn the just desserts. That’s all derived from a concentration on character so singular and focused that it amounts to limitless potential.

Paul Montgomery
Likes the idea of watches, but has never committed to one for longer than its first battery.
paul@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. This was so close, so close, to be my POTW. But THE WAKE kinda screwed all that up by being awesome yet again.

    But I loved this issue and it had wonderful ideas by Waid and Scalera. It’s a nice, new take on time travel and I loved how the setting changed in each panel once we’re introduced to Zarrako. The art by Scalera though was just impressive from start to finish. Loved the sequence of Hulk on top of the plane fighting the Serpents and also the opening with the time portal. Ever since Scalera came onto this book it has gotten the kick in the ass it needed.

  2. That last page I think is the most accurate image of a T-Rex I’ve ever seen in a comic book. Which makes both excited and sad because fluffy dinosaurs suck

  3. “constants and variables”

    I see what you did there.

  4. This book continues to be everything i want it to be

    Also T.I.M.E. is a great great name for a division of S.H.I.E.L.D.

  5. This series sounds great but the hardcover collections are prohibitively expensive. They’re collected in groups of five issues and they have a retail price of $25. Now, I know that I can get a bit of a discount from many retailers, but even then, it’s too much for five issues. I’m going to wait for the paperback of these and you’re making it super hard to do that, Paul!

    • I’m right there with ya, man. I was trading waiting this based solely on the good reviews it’s gotten from iFanboy, but I had no idea it was so expensive! I too will be waiting on the paperbacks.

    • @Jeff Reid – Unfortunately, it’s becoming extremely difficult to be a new or casual reader of comics due to the price structures. Entry for new readers demands a financial commitment that many or unable or refuse to make (more so with the direct market, less so with digital comic sites like Thrillbent and MonkeyBrain).

      I did a price search for INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK, Vol. 1 HC and the cheapest I could find it for was $13.74 (instead of $3.99 per issue, that price averages to $2.75).

      And yes, Paul/iFanboy’s continued praise of this series makes it difficult to be a thrifty comic reader!

  6. On first glance, I thought the text under the logo said “AGENT OF T.M.N.T.” and my mind was blown.

  7. I haven’t been liking this book as much as Paul. Issues 4-8 didn’t do much for me.
    I was starting to consider a drop because 3.99. Daredevil arc was an improvement but wasn’t sure on the 3.99 still.
    However this is the best issue of it yet, at least for me it was. Scalera is turning this around for me.

  8. Animal man annual would have been my pick of the week. I loved how buddy got to connect with a “villain” and in the end still needed her. It was also a great way to keep on theme that buddy although a celeberty and a superhero he is still a flawed and very normal guy.

    The wake was awesome as well, just too short.

  9. Wake has been great. Lazarus is awesome thru two issues.

  10. Uh, Batman Inc., anyone? New issue of Daredevil? The Wake? All were better than this, and it’s not close – and I like this series – it’s the first Hulk series I’ve read in ages.