by Jason Aaron (writer), Marc Silvestri, Whilce Portacio, & Billy Tan (pencils), Michael Broussard & Eric Basaldua (pencil assists), Scott Hanna (finishes), Joe Weems, Rick Basaldua, Jay Leisten, Don Ho, & Crimelab Studios (inks), Sunny Gho (colors), and Ed Dukeshire (letters)
The Story: Hulk meets the MAD Squad and man, oh man, I think Bruce is two fries short of a Happy Meal.
1. The artwork is a messy mixed bag.
A lot has been made online of the fact that this book features a whopping six artists and five inkers. Frankly, there’s no way that’s going to end well. Furthermore, because this likely occurred due to Silvestri’s recent health issues, there’s no doubt that there were deadline concerns. As a result, no one does their best work here. If you enjoyed the hyper detail of last month’s issue, prepare to be disappointed. This really does look like a rush job. Also, as you might expect, the transitions between Silvestri, Portacio, and Tan is jarring and also pretty random.
2. Bruce Banner the mad scientist.
While the art is a bit of a hot mess, Jason Aaron’s work on Banner is amazing. This truly is a Banner unlike you’ve ever seen him. Yes, he’s pretty much crazy, but it’s not at all over the top. Instead, what we have is a Banner gripped and defined by obsession. This is also a Banner that is utterly pathetic and broken. With that said, there’s a constant sense of inner violence to the character; he’s at once seething with rage and obsession while wallowing in his worthlessness and failure. It’s a compelling portrait and it makes for a character that leaps off of the page. The sheer pathos Aaron loads into the character is so much fun to read and left me wanting more. Interestingly, Bruce is also the one area that the art team does well with: in every panel, there’s always just that hint of madness in Bruce’s eye.
3. Marital strife sure is fun to watch.
Building on that, I thought that opening extended dialogue scene was very well done. Not only does it highlight Banner’s current state, but man, oh man, does Betty get off a few zingers. There are two to three lines where I literally went “ooooh” out loud. Betty pulls absolutely no punches, throws a couple of low blows, and her evaluations of Bruce are brutally cutting.
4. The MAD Squad
So we learn the nature of this super secret government unit: it’s a squad tailor-made to kill mad scientists. That right there is an idea of pure pulpy goodness. And wait till you see the roster: repurposed killer robots, a giant brain, and a former Igor-like henchman turned secret agent. It’s the sort of delightfully insane, “pure fun” idea that comics excel at.
5. The Hulk is… kinda boring.
Especially in comparison to the MAD Squad and this crazed Bruce Banner, I couldn’t help but find Hulk to be a little bland. He’s an apathetic, gruff, badass loner. Whoopity-do. That isn’t much at all to grab onto and Aaron isn’t giving us anything at all to latch onto. Other than the fact that he’s the Hulk, there’s not really much of a reason to be emotionally invested in the big green guy right now.
6. Forced Action
There’s an action sequence in here involving a shark attack that felt as though it were placed in here solely out of obligation, as though Aaron realized that he’d spent all issue with dialogue and felt that he just had to have an action scene. The result is a scene that comes completely out of nowhere and feels utterly random, and then ends almost as abruptly. It was a really strange, off-putting scene, even if seeing Hulk punch sharks IS rather cool.
Conclusion: Some really good ideas and character-work mixed with a messy potpourri of art and some slightly undercooked elements.