Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Smash Mouth

Posted by Don MacPherson on November 21st, 2012

Variant coverIndestructible Hulk #1
“Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Colors: Sunny Gho
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Yu (regular)/Joe Quesada, Yu, Scottie Young & Walt Simonson (variants)
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US

One of the reasons Mark Waid’s Daredevil has proven to be such a critical hit was his tempering of the dark edge that had defined the character for the past few decades with a lighter, more playful tone reminiscent of his Silver Age origins. DD is a must-read for many, and I’m sure there were plenty of people who were eagerly anticipating Waid’s foray into the world of Marvel’s iconic rage monster/hero. The overall tone of Waid’s script and plot here, though, is far more modern. The script dwells on solving ills that plague the planet in the 21st century, while the plot presents a mad scientist has a terrorist threat. Nevertheless, despite the title character’s bestial nature, what makes this an engaging read is the intellectual quality of Waid’s dialogue. He’s crafted a smart script about a ridiculously smart man, and while it didn’t quite click for me on the level of Daredevil, I remain interested and plan on following Waid’s run on this relaunched book.

Variant coverVariant coverVariant coverS.H.I.E.L.D. director Maria Hill has a lot on her plate, but what’s preoccupying her the most is the fact Bruce Banner is in the wind. There’s no telling what the Hulk could end up doing unchecked. But Banner doesn’t plan to leave the Hulk unchecked. In the wake of the war with the Phoenix Force, Banner has come to some realizations and has decided on a new path in his life. He wants to use his scientific genius to benefit mankind, and he wants to use the limitless, destructive power of the Hulk to protect it. He can’t do these things alone, though, so he reaches out to someone to make it happen.

Leinil Yu’s loose, rough but detailed style is a good fit for the Hulk, as destruction and chaos are always sure to play a big role in any story featuring the character. The artist really grabbed my attention with the opening page, which was quite a feat, since it depicts a rather mundane, everyday scene. But Yu makes a busy, small-town diner seem interesting, and he does so with the unusual, bird’s-eye perspective. He certainly conveys the power and large frame of the Hulk nicely, but the action scenes are a bit difficult to make out at times. Honestly, my favorite aspect of the art is how Yu depicts Banner. He’s focused and confident, and it shows through in the body language and posture the artist portrays in the diner scene.

This issue features a major fight scene between the Hulk and a classic Marvel villain, dressed up in the technology of another classic Marvel villain. But that scene pales in comparison to the intensity of Banner’s conversation and pitch to his potential benefactor over a barbecue plate in a diner booth. Waid hammers Banner’s points and the overall premise of this new direction for the character with sharp, direct dialogue, and there’s a clarity and intellect behind it that grabs the reader’s attention.

An aspect of the script that struck me as odd was the notion this is the first moment when Bruce Banner decides to work within the system for the benefit of others. While the general impression of Banner and the Hulk is of someone who’s perpetually on the run, that hasn’t always been the case. I remain interested and even excited about the direction in which Waid is taking the character, but the newness of the central concept here feels a little false. It’s a minor quibble, I admit, but it did take me out of the opening scene somewhat. Mind you, it won’t pose a problem to newer Marvel readers and especially those who might have migrated to comics from Marvel’s popular movies (if they actually exist).

One of the many reasons Waid’s work on Daredevil has been such a strong draw for so many is it unfolds in its own little corner of the Marvel Universe, pretty much untouched by other recent events in the shared continuity. It appears Waid and Marvel’s editors are trying to do the same here, but unlike DD, readers of this new series ought to disregard what’s going on with the title character in other Marvel books. It’s hard to reconcile Banner’s new status quo here with the Hulk who’s hanging around Avengers Tower in Avengers Assemble, for example. My hope is Waid’s stories will be left alone and won’t dwell on what others are writing for the publisher at the moment, but given the strength (no pun intended) of the Hulk brand now and the many spinoffs and characters it’s spawned as of late, I worry about… intrusions. 7/10

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2 Responses to “Smash Mouth”

  1. Paul Says:

    I concur with your view of “intrusions.” Crossover events can ruin or severely cut short a well-crafted story (a la JMS’ run on Thor). I’ve never been a Hulk fan, but I love Waid’s simple yet unique way of storytelling.

  2. Don MacPherson Says:

    Paul wrote:
    Crossover events can ruin or severely cut short a well-crafted story (a la JMS’ run on Thor).

    Yes, Straczynski’s stint on Thor was quite strong, until it got mixed up in Siege. I’m honestly surprised Waid’s Daredevil hasn’t been involved in any event book yet (though it has crossed over with a couple of other regular titles, but the disruption was minimal).