With last week’s Indestructible Hulk #16 released just a week after #15, this week brings us Indestructible Hulk Annual #1, with returning artist Mahmud Asrar and regular writer Mar… JEFF PARKER?! Is he strong enough to stand-in for the mighty Mark Waid? Are humans too puny to handle so much Hulk in so little time? Is it good?
Indestructible Hulk Annual #1 (Marvel Comics)
This does not actually happen inside the comic.
Aside from the highly enjoyable 3-parter illustrated by Walt Simonson (in which Hulk/Bruce Banner and his assisting scientists battle Frost Giants with Thor), my favorite single issue of this series thus far has been #2, penciled by Leinil Francis Yu, in which Hulk/Banner and Iron Man/Tony Stark team up, fight each other, and make-up in the span of one issue, as superheroes are wont to do. I don’t know if Mark Waid is the first writer to suggest a rivalry between Banner and Stark, but it’s a clever idea that contributes to the themes that Waid has been exploring throughout his run.
Much like his superb Daredevil run, Waid kicked off his Hulk series by presenting us with the titular character in an uncharacteristically optimistic state. After years of trying—and failing—to reject the Hulk affliction from his mind and body, he finally decided to accept the Hulk as something he cannot change. Instead, spends more time on himself and, by extension, the world as he applies his scientific brilliance for the betterment of mankind, rather than killing the monstrous side of himself. It’s quite a beautiful metaphor.
But even this happier, self-assured Dr. Banner is still, at times, green… with envy (sorry). Tony Stark is the man that Bruce wishes he could be. Though equally brilliant, Banner’s brilliance seems to have only brought him misfortune and misery. Stark, on the other hand, was born into privilege, and despite considerable hardships, still seems to revel in fame, fortune, and sex appeal. Not unreasonably, Banner believes that, had he been luckier, he could have had just as much luxury and respect as Stark. It doesn’t help that Tony has a habit of showing off.
Jeff Parker (who not-to-long-ago came off of a lengthy run of issues about Hulks of the red variety) uses the dynamics the Banner-Stark relationship as a springboard for this enjoyable, if inessential done-in-one of an annual. It’s certified new-reader-friendly (not that such a certification exists), and regular readers will be happy to see that Parker has been keeping up with the series himself. There’s much fun to be had as Hulk and Iron Man exploring a mysterious island full of monsters and strange technology, but the plot’s still pretty simple, even predictable at times.
I don’t envy Parker for stepping in for Mark Waid, but in this situation it would be negligent of me as a critic to avoid comparisons altogether. Parker’s writing for this issue does not differ wildly from Waid’s style, and I may not have perceived any change had I not been told otherwise. Yet I was told, and the differences are notable, if not necessarily noticeable. Without appearing to outright ape Waid’s style, Parker mostly hits all the same notes that Waid has accustomed us to for an Indestructible Hulk comic. The witty banter, bombastic action, and emotional undercurrents are all still there, and Parker usually makes it all work quite well. The difference is that under Parker’s pen, it often feels labored. Again, it’s not a pervasive problem, but without stepping into spoiler territory, I will say that there is at least one tender moment that feels a bit too conveniently placed.
Mahmud Asrar’s art helps retain the book’s visual consistency, but he’s beginning to frustrate me. As I noted in my last review, his faces still seem a bit too youthful, but that’s not the only issue. Asrar certainly has talent, as his covers prove, but that’s just the thing—he doesn’t seem to be applying enough of that talent to his interiors. One could expect an artist’s covers to look snazzier than his interiors, but with covers that display such great design sense, it’s disappointing to see so little of that used inside the comic. There’s nothing wrong with simple, effective page layouts, but it’s both a boon and a hinderance to know that Asrar has such better tricks up his sleeve that he just isn’t using.
- Amusing look at Banner’s jealousy towards Stark.
- Jeff Parker admirably fills in for Mark Waid.
- An accessible romp
- Mahmud Asrar seems to be holding back.
- Writing feels forced at times.
If you like Hulk and/or Iron Man even a little bit, you’ll likely have good time with Indestructible Hulk Annual #1, but even those who have been following the main series won’t miss much if they skip it either.
Is It Good?
Sure, but don’t sweat it if it’s out of stock at your local store.