Friday, 1 March 2013

Deconstructing the Indestructible Hulk #1-4

Or I want to know if Mark Waid is doing something meta.

Right now I'm trying to decide between Matt Fraction and Mike Allred's FF and Mark Waid and Leinil Yu's Indestructible Hulk for a comic to include in the only ten mainstream comics I read (because budgetting etc). I think both comics are pretty great, which is making this decision pretty difficult. But this choice is also being complicated by the fact that both comics just aren't completely clicking for me... that there are small issues that stop them from completely grabbing me.

There will be some *MILD SPOILERS* in here.

For FF, I think it is mostly that it's not Jonathan Hickman writing it... it's just not the same book without him. I guess I'm just not ready for change? Or maybe that the book needs a little time to assert itself?

For Indestructible Hulk my issue is a more direct story thing. The central premise of the comic, that Bruce Banner wants to maximise his Banner time by making substantiative Scientific and humanitarian contributions and wants to use his Hulk time as a Smashing weapon for Shield, is absolutely brilliant. And every single issue has also been sprinkled with all kinds of great little Waidian ideas: Bruce being forced to live in a nuclear test site ghost town, an underwater SHIELD submarine carrier/base, luring Iron Man out to the mountains just to fight him a little. It's great. But there is still something that bothers me a bit: my issue is that most of my favourite things about this comic have to do with Bruce Banner and absolutely nothing to do with Hulk.

I'm deeply fascinated with Banner's story.  His new relationship with SHIELD is interesting and I really want to learn more about how he is negotiating it and more about his really clever living situation. I'm even more curious about Banner's new squad of idealistic and dubious lab assistants. I want to know who they are and see them interact and work with Banner. I even want to see more of Banner and Maria Hill, and the kind of sparky chemistry I might be detecting. Basically, I want to emphasize that I am SO into the Banner chunk of The Indestructible Hulk.

The trouble is Hulk always shows up and derails things just when the Banner story gets interesting. Basically every single issue has been more or less split between building up Banner's new status quo and sending Hulk off to smash some fairly random and thus far narratively unconnected threat. When the question of a conflict is can Hulk smash a guy or thing, because Hulk is strongest he will smash the hell out of it. And so the physical conflicts the Hulk finds himself in are not the most dramatic things at the moment.  I find Hulk's chunk of The Indestructible Hulk far less interesting than the Banner portion of each issue.

So maybe a better way to articulate my issue with The Indestructible Hulk is that the Hulk keeps getting in the way of my Banner story.

Which might just be intentional. Maybe?

Think about it: Banner's problem in this comic is that he wants to get useful things done as Banner but that this work keeps getting interrupted by him Hulking out. By structuring the story in such a way that the interesting Banner bits keep getting interrupted by the Hulk being deployed, we the reader get to essentially experience Banner's problem of Hulk-us interruptus. As such any frustration I feel in Hulk getting in the way of Banner's humanitarian plans is the same frustration Banner is no doubt feeling. And if this is an intentional plot device on the part of Mark Waid it's absolutely brilliant: he is making his audience experience his protagonists emotions; he is making his audience literally empathize with Banner.

Of course, I could be wrong and that this is all a happy accident.

(Alternately, I could be the only person who is way more into the Banner storyline and that everyone else is just waiting for Hulk to bust loose every issue. In which case, maybe we need to make Team Banner and Team Hulk T-shirts and have it out?)

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