The Indestructible Hulk #1
The oh so exuberantly titled Marvel NOW! movement, from which this book comes, is what we coiners of terms like to call a ‘soft reboot’; in short the character or concept is put in the hands of new creatives who craft from it a new narrative which will be entirely accessible to new readers without actually starting again from scratch ( without disregarding continuity and thus retreading those tired, old origin stories). Think of it like a sequel to a film that wasn’t planned as a franchise or the second season of a show whose studio gives it some leeway to adapt during the break; it is, in other words, a do over, a second chance and here it is the Hulk that is hoping for a hail mary.
Despite being one of the most iconic and widely known comic book characters around – on the level of Batman and Supes – Hulk hasn’t had the best luck with his actual literature. I haven’t read many, or honestly any, of his solo books and this is because none really have the reputation to require it. His on screen treatment has suffered too as despite having a whole host of films (and a television series) to his name Hulk has never been much of a critical or commercial success ( Ang Lee’s movie had some of the former and Louis’ some of the later but even combined they couldn’t match a Batman). Earlier in the year the character looked dry and the property done; the Hulk looked dead. Though of course he can’t die can he? He’s indestructible, the perfect candidate for a resurrection, a reboot.
That was Marvel then, this is Marvel Now. Can the Hulk be re-booted? Well, we’ve all seen The Avengers so we’ve all been sold on the idea of the big green guy. He’s already been given a second chance on the big screen, can he get a third on the printed page? Mark Waid, the writer of this new series, is now best known for the work he is doing on Daredevil – a character that he brought back from banality and the brink of the B-list late last year – can he re-work that magic here? What are the chances of Lightning striking twice twice? And does it? Well? Seriously, I’m asking you because at this stage I’m still not sure. Twenty two pages is usually enough to give me an idea but here I am at a loss as to whether or not I like the book and if I should give it a second issue.
The idea at its core is a clever one and has a lot of potential for future plots. The Hulk is, as the title suggests, indestructible and therefore isn’t going to be going away any time soon. Banner finally realizes this, realizes that rather than spending all his time and scientific knowledge fighting that fact he needs to simply accept it and achieve what he can with the few hours of focus that this leaves him. Banner is a scientist and as smart as any other in this world but, as he says, no-one is going to remember him for that; they’re only going to recall the riots and rampages.
We can all relate to this idea of legacy and lost time, we all look back sometimes and think of everything that we could have done back then, of everything that we should be doing now and the exemplification of that here could be rather compelling if it were actually a coherent focus. Instead though it is given to us in exposition and treated more as context for the action to come than as the core concept of the comic as a whole. It should be said though that the philosophical statement of Daredevil has been slow and sparsely spread across issues; so this simplicity doesn’t simply mean that the series will be a shallow one, just that we need to show some patience.
Where the issue really lets itself down though is in the short term storytelling. The second half of the book is dedicated to a convenient drama: some super-villain is slapping together something super-evil and so the fight of the week action begins. That this formula exists is fine but the way that Waid and co. execute it is not. The Mad Thinker seems a perfect kind of villain for a mind like Mark’s and the work that he does with the character’s literally formulaic (mathematically speaking) dialogue almost saves the scene but it is unfortunately the only interesting thing in it. Being indestructible has its downsides, primarily that battles become a bit of a bore when one side is locked in to win; bullets bounce off his skin without a scratch while his swinging fists slaughter everything in their path. The man talks about wanting to win with his mind and then beats the baddie with his body.
The art in the action scenes, and in the book as a whole, don’t do much to alleviate this issue. I don’t know where the blame lies – in the pencils of Lenil Francis Yu or the colours of Sunny Gho – but there is something about the style here that I just didn’t like. The level of detail is something of a deterrent – faces and facades are liney in all the wrong places – the layouts are unnecessarily awkward and overall I just found the style to be unappealing to my eyes. Sure it is serviceable, it tells the story succinctly for the most part and sometimes even smartly ( there are two successful visual motif’s at play throughout: the colour green and a ticking clock) but i didn’t like looking at it and that’s a big flaw.
Despite all of that though I still think that this book could be something special and i still liked, though only liked, reading this first issue. The problem is that I think I liked The Indestructible Hulk more before I did, more when it was an idea then when it was put on paper. So I think i’ll give this second chance a second chance and return for the second issue, but if it repeats near half as much as this sentence that will be a death sentence for the series, one that even the big guy won’t get back up from.