by Mark Waid (Writer) Jheremy Raapack, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Tom Grummett, Karl Kesel, Andrew Hennessy (Artists), Val Staples (Colorist)
The Story: Bruce tries to find out just what happened to Jessup as an evil organisation plans for nefarious deeds related to inhumans.
The Review: Some writers are known to surprise readers. It can be an especially nice thing to know that someone is able to circumvent expectations, allowing for twists and turns to be shown at random. To not be able to see where the title could be headed is a blessing for fans, with a untold possibilities being presented in each issues.
However, not all such writers can achieve good results with said approach at all times. For all the praise Mark Waid has received for work such as Kingdom Come, Daredevil and Superman: Birthright, there are some things he did that don’t exactly warrant the same kind of commendation. Unfortunately, his Indestructible Hulk run, for the most part, simply hasn’t been the best of showcase when it comes to the man and his talent, with this issue being a good example.
It’s not that it’s bad, far from it. There are multiple qualities that are quite visible, making the book not a terrible read, but a bit of an unfulfilling one. For one, the characterization of Bruce Banner is not only sound, but also interesting. The use of narration to provide an outlet for his inner thoughts and his more analytical tendencies prove to be a rather apt method to present characterization and contextualization without slowing things down. His rage, his attempts at calming down and his interactions with others prove to be rather amusing, with Waid pushing forth his version of the character in ways that feel natural to the story he’s telling here.
Where the writer gain some more points is with his supporting cast, which is getting a bit more panel time and focus here, with some characters like Jessup and Wolman being a bit more defined and used here. Using some of the previous events and characterization presented earlier in the series, there is a bit more meat to the cast here with a bit more information and insight and how they react and what they think, making them a bit more important and therefore a bit more interesting. Not all are actually developed, though, with Leucerstein and Veteri still needing much more attention to become something more than just mere presences in the book. It’s not complete, but the effort of Waid is something of note considering the fact that this cast had been introduced a good number of issues ago.
Where the book falter severely, though, is the lack of overall story arc. While the concept of Bruce Banner as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is one full of potential, there hasn’t been a general and evolving conflict or threat that could connect everything together in a way that made the progression of events that riveting to begin with. The inclusion of a new antagonist group, Beehive, could be a nice touch if they weren’t so bland and ultimately generic. While their tie-in to the whole Inhumanity event is a nice touch, it doesn’t make them any interesting, presenting themselves as another evil group of scientists without any moral scruple save their objective. Dr. Goodrich, the main villain of this issue, comes off as a cold and calculating man, yet does not do quite a lot to differentiate himself from quite a lot of evil scientific stereotypes.
Where it’s a little bit more solid, yet not exactly enough to provide greatness is the art. With Jheremy Raapack providing the majority of the artwork along with multiple others helping out, the issue still manage to have a solid and uniform appearance that makes the switch of style more often fluid than not. What Raapack and the others do simulate well enough is depth along with a sense of scale. Using perspective in many ways alongside a switch between full-backgrounds and empty space, the action and some of the settings never gets in the way of the storytelling, letting the bubbles and the narration with enough space so that they do not get in the way.
Where the comics work quite well, though, is with its characters. The way the artists draws the Hulk, the monster in which Jessup turns into and many of the more humanoid characters is quite good. With a subtlety in terms of emotions and a credible body language at times, the ways they all interact and reacts makes for a rather decent read. There isn’t the greatest of range in terms of expressions most of the time, with a certain seriousness and stoic visages mixed with faint and earnest smiles sometimes, but when the artists do go for something different, it ends up being noticeable due to this very attrition.
Where it’s not exactly as impressive, though, is with the colorization. Val Staples, while a good adept at using brightness, shadows to simulate the effect of daylight and artificial light, doesn’t exactly bring out the best of range when it comes to diversity and palette choice. While there are a few use of clear-cut contrasts and some obvious yet effective use of background colors, there is an overabundance on duller colors like grey, brown and their sort without any fantastical or stylized choice to balance things out. While some of the visuals are indeed good-looking, the colors doesn’t do them any favours as some great scenes end up being just a bit above decent, which is a shame.
The Conclusion: There are some improvements in terms of characterization and the general artwork, yet the lack of a big threat, credible villain and the lack of diversity in the colorization does not make this a particularly exciting issue. Competent, with some decent level of craft at play, but not as good as it could be.
Hugo Robberts Larivière