Hulk + magic = big changes.
You might not know it, but in two weeks Marvel Comics is getting a brand new super team. Okay, maybe not exactly brand new since The Defenders has existed before, but not like this. With a new horror show that is Hulk, Silver Surfer, and Namor to name just three, this is a team that should be quite new in their approach. Prior to the launch, Marvel is releasing solo issues giving readers a hint as to how this motley crew gets together. First up is Hulk.
So what’s it about?
Read our preview.
Why does this matter?
Al Ewing has been writing a lights-out series with Immortal Hulk which makes this a must read for me. This issue is a good one-shot with a mystery twist that should get folks interested in where the character goes from here. Let’s just say Ewing introduces something that changes the character in a big way.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Bruce Banner has good reason to be unhappy with himself. He’s basically carrying around a 5 ton monster inside himself and he’s watching the monster take lives. This issue gives Banner the controls as he attempts to figure out what happened to a magical character. As he carries out his detective work he takes a lot of lumps, but pushes through. There’s some punishment he’s dishing out, but also a determination that makes his endeavor heroic. This all leads to a character changing object that most likely will shift how this character is used going forward. It’s a fun element too.
Something everyone will be talking about with this issue is how Ewing and artist Simon Di Meothe use reprinted panels from classic Incredible Hulk scenes. One might think this is due to Stan Lee’s passing, but chances are Ewing and Di Meothe planned this way before his death. It’s a clever use of old panels in part because they are so strikingly different than Di Meo’s sketchy, detailed and darker art. It’s also an interesting storytelling mechanic as it draws your attention to the history of the Hulk and how different he once was. This character has been through a lot which adds a layer you may not be thinking of when reading him.
The art by Di Meo is strong and hammers home the punishment Banner goes through. Sure, he’ll heal once he changes to the Hulk, but damn does he take a licking. Banner’s exhausted body language shines through too and when Hulk shows up–you know he’s gonna–it’s via an impressive double page splash.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Aside from the ingenious use of old panels, the issue does seem to drag its feet in regards to its purpose. It’s a slow pace that doesn’t necessarily need to be as slow as it is here. Banner basically drags himself around a dead town trying to figure things out and it tries your patience. There’s also a bewildering interlude that has no context although I’m sure it’ll mean something in the greater Defenders picture.
Is it good?
A solid Hulk story due to its ingenious way of using classic Jack Kirby and Stan Lee panels. This story also changes the Hulk in a clever way, setting the stage for a new kind of hero once he joins his new team.