By: Mark Waid (Writer), Leinil Francis Yu (Artist), Gerry Alanguilan (Inker), Sunny Gho (Colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer)
The Review: At one point in this issue Bruce Banner wryly remarks that “You wouldn’t like me when I’m happy.” Ah Brucey, nothing could be further from the truth – you seemed pretty content in #1 and I haven’t enjoyed a Hulk comic that much in years. Still, maybe he has a point, as Banner later goes on to show that even when he’s happy there’s a still a few scores that he feels can only be settled with his fists. To recap, happy or angry, the end result is still lots and lots of smashing. It’s the one inescapable element of the character that even the mighty Mark Waid seems unable to reconcile within Indestructible Hulk’s new direction; the beast has to come out, even if it makes zero sense to the story he’s trying to tell.
This issue revolves around the first post-Marvel NOW meeting between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner at Maria Hill’s makeshift S.H.I.E.L.D. laboratory in Montana. After having dealt with so many instances of Hulk-orientated destruction over the years you can see why Iron Man would want to make sure that Banner working with S.H.I.E.L.D. is legit, and that he’d want to do so sooner rather than later. Of course, he wasn’t expecting to find the Gamma Scientist so relaxed as to be laughing: “Okay, my Banner’s emotions run exactly this gamut: Hangdog to suicidal! Make him humourless again, this minute!”
Oh yeah, you can be sure that there’s some great banter between these two mega-nerds as they bond over a mutual love of world-bettering science and equation-based puns. Waid did a great job last month of writing Banner with all the smarts that the character’s IQ deserves and he lavishes the same care and attention over “Tony Snark”. There’s a frisson of volatile chemistry between them that shows Waid’s keen understanding and respect for their shared history as well as providing new grounds for conflict.
And, in a twist about half way through the issue, we find that it’s conflict that Banner has really been after all along. *Spoiler Alert!* He lulls Tony into a false sense of security, luring him out to the Himalayas to help test his new Gamma-Fracker machine. But once there he reveals that it’s been his intention all along to Hulk out and basically pound some peer recognition out of the Avenger’s smartest man: “You refuse to treat me like an equal, and I’ve been mad about it for years! And while old Banner would have kept packing that anger down – the new Banner figures it’s better to let off steam.” Fisticuffs ensue.
Uh, whut? This development made little sense in my mind. We’ve only just been introduced to Bruce’s new role as a genius who’s out to help the world with righteous tech and limit his Hulkage to S.H.I.E.L.D. seek-and-destroy missions. Yet the first time he’s ‘off the leash’ he decides to get his rage on and throw down with Iron Man? Isn’t he supposed to be hoping to get the respect of Stark, Pym, Richards etc. by showing that he can create rather than destroy? And at the end of the fight, Stark just forgives and forgets and leaves Banner to his work, despite the fact that his outburst proved the doubts and preconceptions he had right at the start of the issue. Despite being well scripted, plotwise this feels completely out of joint with last month’s series opener, seemingly reinstating Old Banner directly over New Banner in such a short space of time as to be more than a little jarring. As classily produced as it is, it’s definitely not the second issue I was expecting.
The art certainly meets with its lofty expectations though. I think this is the first time that Yu has drawn the new Iron Man suit and a grand job he does of it too. He also unveils the first interior appearance of Hulk’s new armoured look during his fight with Tony in the Himalayas which, it must be said, is delightfully rendered; each combatant gets to land some wicked-heavy licks amidst a mountainous backdrop littered with stunning avalanches and explosions. Gerry Alanguilan on inks and Sunny Gho on colours continue to give Yu’s pencils added clarity and depth, and really round out the book as a visual knock-out.
But overall, this feels like a fumble, and after being so impressed with the first issue I’m a little shocked. It was important to show Banner interacting with other Avengers as soon as possible I suppose, but during the early days of this particular relaunch I would have thought it made more sense for Hulk and Iron Man to have teamed-up rather than been at each other’s throats.
But, as always, I’ve gotta trust in Waid, right? The guy knows what he’s doing. The end of this issue suggests that next month’s instalment will see Hulk’s new status quo further established which will surely result in this issue falling behind in the rear view mirror, a fun but otherwise incongruous diversion. I like Hulk when he’s happy, but he still needs to learn to play nicely with others.
Filed under: Marvel Comics, Reviews Tagged: | Bruce Banner, Chris Eliopoulos, Gerry Alanguilan, Hulk, Iron Man, Leinil Francis Yu, Maria Hill, Mark Waid, Marvel, Marvel Comics, Marvel NOW, Marvel Reviews, SHIELD, Sunny Gho, Tony Stark