by Mike Costa (Writer), Jacob Wyatt (Artist), Jordie Bellaire (Colorist)
The Story: Bruce Banner arrives on the scene to help solve the mystery around this seemingly time-travelling Doctor Octopus. Science and smashing ensues.
The Review: Some writers understand the very basic, yet fun approach that can work wonderfully with certain characters. Each specific title, along with their protagonist, have a certain strength that needs to be put front thanks to the flaws and unique angle that its cast possess. Mark Waid understand how Daredevil’s dashing attitude may lead itself to problem, as Matt Fraction can see the quirks of being one of the non-powered Avengers and how it might affect your perception of daily life in Hawkeye. Those may not be the most ambitious or the subtlest concepts for ongoing titles, yet both works thanks to the creative team sticking with this very vision of their heroes as well as the world that spin around them.
This is the kind of approach that Mike Costa seems to have in mind with this issue, as heroes cooperate together to not only solve a mystery, but kick a little butt as well in the process. This team-up, with special focus on Bruce Banner, seems like an issue from older times, which isn’t a disadvantage in the least.
Unlike an old team-up issue, though, there is no antique tropes used here as the obligatory misunderstood fight pitting heroes against each other is left unused. Instead, the heroes work together as they examine the supposedly time displaced Otto Octavius. Despite this premise, Costa never lets go of the fun aspect of this issue as he shows the readers what happens when super-geniuses are left to their own devices. Moments like these fills the issue, with some being particularly charming and funny, like when Bruce experiments a new way to calm down the Hulk.* In terms of entertainment, it’s pretty apt.
The characterization is also quite thorough, with most of the characters being true to their root here. The savagery of Hulk, the snarky and arrogant attitude of Spider-Ock, the sheer new optimism and playfulness of Bruce Banner, the clueless with of Iceman and many more are all present, adding to the tale while creating some memorable lines in the process. Never once does Costa derails a character to service the story he is trying to tell, which is commendable to say the least.
The story in itself isn’t particularly spectacular, though, as it moves from point A to B without much of a fuss. It does provide some action along with the opportunity for jokes here and there, yet it never really impress with some clever use of lore, character or already implemented plot-point. There is a twist near the very end of the issue, to be sure, yet it is mostly a last-page revelation that will be developed, without a doubt, in the very last chapter of The Arms of the Octopus. It is competently told and doesn’t fumbles along the way, yet it does not achieve much anyway.
Where the issue achieves a bit more is in the visual department, thanks to Jacob Wyatt. While his style is deceptively simple when it comes to characters and how he draws them, Wyatt possess a good story flow along with a good sense of what make some of these character iconic. When the Hulk is angry in the first few panels of this issue, he is drawn as being a menacing character, yet then we see him as something very different after a few panel as he plays with the readers expectation. The aforementioned story flow greatly benefits the action scene, as he is able to bring the type of fight Hulk would have against a foe close to his size competently. Where he falters a bit is with his backgrounds, as he does seem to be able to bring lush and detailed elements around his characters, yet does so inconsistently as a good chunk of his panels are merely void of any such details. While some of them do put the focus on the characters and their actions, it creates some visual inconsistency throughout the issue as a result.
The colorization by Jordie Bellaire is a bit more on the consistent side, though, as she use a somewhat realistic and normalized palette in most instances. Using a lot of brown, yellow, beige and the like, she allows for the relatively normal elements to clash against the much more abnormal ones, which are then brought to the forefront with greatly exaggerated colorization in the process. The abundance of red during the more violent moment of the big fight Hulk has in this issue is no mistake, as it emphasizes the brutality through the deep and warm colorization, which comes in contrast when it cuts to the colder and more logical colors in the scenes featuring Beast that swaps with the fight. It’s a simple yet efficient colorization for relatively simple yet effective art.
The Conclusion: The story in itself may not be accomplishing much, yet the characterization, art, colorization and the sheer fun factor makes the second chapter in this big team-up a worthy read nonetheless.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière
*It was about time Bruce Banner discovered the awesome power of the puppy bomb. Imagine how many conflicts this kind of weapon could solve in mere instant!