Hey Kids, remember back in the Fall of 2012 when Marvel started rolling out new #1 Titles that gave a number of characters in the Marvel U a “Soft Reboot” under the banner MARVEL NOW? Guess What? They’re doin’ it all again, Baby!
It’s the ALL NEW MARVEL NOW! Over the next few months, I’ll be taking a look at the first issue of each new title as it hits the comics stands. (This only applies to REAL #1 Titles – None of this .Now stuff.) Wanna know if this series seems like a keeper or is destined for the quarter bin of our interest? Sit back and enjoy my analysis. You just might learn something.
The Hulk. The big green guy is probably the 4th most recognizable superhero on the planet (after Batman, Superman and Spider-Man). With a successful t.v. show in the 70s, a couple flicks at the cinemas and a starring role in the smash hit that was The Avengers, it’s safe to say that most people know who your talking about when you mention the alter ego of Bruce Banner. And yet, much like the Fantastic Four and Big Blue, he’s had his fair share of struggles in recent years when it comes to keeping a comic book afloat. Over a year ago, we saw the beggining of Indestructible Hulk, a new series by Mark Waid where Banner was now in the service of S.H.I.E.L.D. as both a scientist and a weapon. A great concept to be sure. Unfortunately, this title didn’t end up doing as well as folks thought it would so now here we are again with a new Hulk series. Mark Waid’s still at the helm and this time he’s brought another Mark with him, Mark Bagley on the art chores. With a story that spins directly out of the former series and fresh new #1 issue, the question is “Will this bring the momentum needed for a hit?” After reading said #1, I don’t really see how it could.
The cover of this comic reads “Who Shot Bruce Banner?” which if you’re over the age of 35 means that you probably think it’s funny that Marvel is ripping off Dallas, but I digress. The answer to that question isn’t all that forth coming as we begin our tale. Dr. Aaron Carpenter, the top living brain surgeon has been picked up by S.H.I.E.L.D. to perform the surgery of his career. He’s been tasked with removing two bullets from the skull of Bruce Banner. The shots were in the perfect spot to ensure that Banner would not instantly die or turn into the Hulk. This percision marksmenship has left Bruce on death’s door so Carpenter must move fast to save his life. But there’s an alterior motive behind this rescue mission. Carpenter, who went to the same university as Banner and had a very passing association with the man, looks back on his life and sees that there was maybe a time when he could have stopped Banner from becoming the Hulk in the first place. His thoughts catch up with him as he works away on saving this man but even that’s not whole story. As I said, we don’t get the true answer to “Who shot Bruce Banner?”, but we get the “Why?”. It’s all about power and control and the people in charge of this rescue might not be who you think they are. This leads to an action packed climax followed by a startling reveal.
What Mark Waid has done here is nothing new. We get to see a story from a virtual outsider looking in on the world of our “fair hero”. In this case, the outsider gets a better look than usual as he’s trying to save his life and he’s had a passing connection to the character. There’s a implied rising tension as it’s unclear what’s going to happen (although not really since the book is called The Hulk) and who’s pulling the strings from behind the scenes. There’s a twist in the third act and a somewhat cliffhanger at the end. We’ve seen this done plenty of times before in a comic, especially a Mark Waid comic. Usually, the writer finds a new way to deliver these beats to give a gut punch to the reader and leave them amazed. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen here. Instead we get a paint by numbers comic where most of the big moments are just going through the motions with no real tension to speak of. Because of this lack of real investment in the story, the reader is left with the exact opposite reaction of what the writer would hope for. If the book was more exciting and engaging, there’s a chance that the last page would have been heartbreaking or at least surprising. Now, when the big reveal happens, it’s almost comical. In order for the end of the issue to work, the story needed to be a lot darker and scary. At no point did I fear for Banner’s life or question the intentions of Dr. Carpenter. Like the story itself, I was just going through the motions. While the story concept was an interesting one, the execution was handled poorly.
When approaching a story of this style, one has to consider all the moving parts in bringing this comic together. Some artists are better equiped than others at delivering certain stories based on their style. In the case of The Hulk, Mark Bagley is one of the greatest examples of an artist being mismatched with a story. This book needed mystery and intrigue. Bagley, while a competent artist, is best suited for big, fun superhero romps. There’s no darkness to his work. This is why he excelled on Ultimate Spider-Man. This is why he’s not the artist to draw this story. Jason Keith and Andrew Hennessy provide colours and inks that compliment Bagley’s style but do nothing to make up for his lack of mystique. If this same story was drawn by Jae Lee or Leinil Yu, it might have been more thrilling. Might have.
I still believe the Hulk has a ton of great comic stories left in him and I believe that Mark Waid has some interesting ideas on where to take him. Unfortunately, this issue does not back up these beliefs. I hope that this series finds its footing and brings us the Hulk comic we all deserve. For now, I would suggest passing on Hulk #1 as it will just make you angry….and you wouldn’t like it when you’re angry (because who wants to deal with their own anger, am I right?).
Check back here for more ALL NEW MARVEL NOW first issue reviews. Until then, stay in the NOW!
If you’re gonna geek out GEEK HARD!