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Indestructible Hulk #4 – Review

INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #4

By: Mark Waid (Writer), Leinil Francis Yu (Artist), Gerry Alanguilan (Inker), Sunny Gho (Colorist), Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer)

The Review: The Indestructible Hulk #4 has to contain easily my favourite beginning to any comic book released this week. After waking up and completing his ablutions, Banner takes a walk through the neighbourhood on his way to work. He says “Hi” to the Postman, pets a wee dog and manages to avoid a busy morning commute on his way to the office. Of course, all of this takes on a slightly sinister air when the camera pulls back to show that Earth’s Angriest Scientist has been housed in the middle of a mannequin-filled prop town built as an atomic testing ground. “Bannerville,” reads the town’s defaced welcome sign; “Population: 1”.

Mark Waid has peppered similar moments of Genius throughout his short time on Indestructible… , a title whose base concept is itself a breeding ground for great ideas. In case you’ve missed out, Waid elaborates with a perfectly succinct bit of exposition: “[S.H.I.E.L.D.] fund my lab work, they get to use the Hulk as a weapon rather than just throw me into the Sun and dust their hands. Win/win.” It’s an expansive stage upon which any number of adventures can play out, and so far it’s been keeping par with its potential. This month’s issue sees the series take its first slightly faltering steps, as even amidst the usual glut of great ideas a few bits of bad execution let the whole enterprise down.

As mentioned, things start off well and continue that way as Banner’s first task when clocking in at the Lab is to greet his new support staff. He begins with a little gallows humour to test his crew’s reaction to a violent outburst (“What do you mean there’s no internet connection? DAMN IT!” –we’ve all been there ^_^) and then goes on to propose the team’s first project: research into Uru Metal from Thor’s Hammer, Mjolnir, and what practical applications may be generated from it. It’s about to get interesting when Banner takes a call from Maria Hill, and it’s at this point that things start to get rocky.

The ‘action’ element of this issue revolves around the Atlantean villain Attuma who’s waging war across the Pacfic. In a joint operation with Chinese armed forces, S.H.I.E.L.D. are looking to despatch the Hulk into the underwater war ground to help turn the tide of battle (pardon the pun). There’s some great stuff here – the Dreadnought (or ‘aquatic Helicarrier’) design, Banner’s banter with his “monitor-bot”, the Hulk-Torpedo manoeuvre – but there’s also some bad. The first is story related. The book is so promising when Banner’s in control, creating plots based on scientific research which have the potential to generate plot-driven Hulk outbursts; in contrast there’s a pattern forming of Maria Hill interrupting these segments and simply opting to fire the Hulk (literally in this case) at whatever problem presents itself with seemingly no real thought process behind the action. There’s a good amount of smarts behind this book, but they relinquish control to scenes of mindless destruction a little too much at the moment.

And if that action isn’t depicted clearly enough then you’ve got a problem on your hands. Alas, that’s what I found here. To be fair, I still think the book looks great overall. That opening scene in Nuketown is beautifully rendered by Yu, Alanguilan and Gho and there’s an assuredly brooding, inky quality to the whole issue which serves its slightly macabre tone well. But the underwater battle scenes are a little cluttered and confusing and their impact suffers as a result.

The conclusion to the fight at least presents an interesting threat to the otherwise indomitable Hulk – how does his colossal strength bear up against the depths and mounting pressures of the Marianas Trench? Ultimate Hulk was put to a similar test in Warren Ellis and Cary Nord’s middling Ultimate Human mini-series but I’m not sure the question’s been asked in the 616. I’ll be back to find the answer next month to be sure, but truth be told I’m way more interested in the Uru Metal proposition that’ll follow (Marvel solicitations promise fights against Frost Giants in Jotunheim!). Still, who really knows what surprises Waid and co have in store?

There’s still much to love and admire in Waid’s Indestructible Hulk and the few fissures present in the fourth issue’s execution still can’t hope to diminish the title’s overwhelmingly positive potential. All in all the kinks are still being worked out, and seeing as this series represents one of the greatest shake-ups to the ongoing saga of the Hulk in recent memory I’m more than happy to give Waid and co the benefit of the doubt. After all, Bannerville wasn’t built in a day.   

Grade: B

- Matt Sargeson

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