Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Incredible Hulk #008 Review

In the story so far, the Hulk had force ably separated himself from long-time alter ego, Bruce Banner. The good doctor didn't take losing his better half well and became the quintessential mad scientist in the hopes of recapturing the raw power he had lost. This brought the two halves into direct conflict, climaxing in a catastrophic Gamma bomb explosion, seemingly killing puny Banner once and for all!

This issue begins a new arc titled "Stay Angry". If the name wasn't enough to hint at the series' new direction, it transpires that the Gamma bomb in question fused Banner and Hulk back into one body. But while past issues focussed on the struggle of Banner to control the monster inside, he has now become that very monster and the Hulk must fight to stay angry enough to keep the mad scientist from re-emerging.

Jason Aaron's take on the Hulk had failed to grab me thus far. While I admit the notion of Hulk fighting Banner physically instead of psychologically was an interesting one, seeing Banner devolve into such a vile twisted shell of his former self felt like a horrible misrepresentation of a once noble man. Especially at a time where everyone is flocking to the cinema to see a heroic Bruce Banner in The Avengers. The character was the breakout success of the summer and Marvel choose to capitalise on this by...making him the villain?

The issue begins (and ends) with Hulk waking up amidst one of Banner's nefarious schemes. The reader is dropped into the story with just as much information as the main character i.e. none. All we have to go on is that he's in a rancid Mexican motel room, surrounded by a gang of bizarre "man-dogs" and a suitcase lying on the bed containing two million dollars! As much as I didn't like the first arc of this series, this is definitely the preferable way to approach the evil Banner concept. Having your hero wake up and have to investigate his situation is a fantastic way to begin a story. However, the truly interesting aspect of the issue (and one assumes the ensuing arc) are the methods by which Hulk has to remain angry at all times or fall prey to the evil Doctor Banner's machinations. Ranging from being shot in the face to diving out of a moving truck, a lot of the set pieces read like a superhero version of Crank. Imagine a big green Jason Statham doing crazy stunts to keep his heart rate up and you can perfectly envision this story.

Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the reunion of writer Jason Aaron with former PunisherMAX artist Steve Dillon and (although a different incarnation) the Punisher himself. The cameo of Frank Castle was pretty damn gratuitous. He just happens to be hunting down the gang that Banner has been dealing with and takes advantage of the Hulk by having him run offence for a few local missions. I'm not even entirely sure there's closure on what the Punisher was doing. He's in the story one moment, gone the next. At it's heart, I think it was just an excuse for Aaron and Dillon to work together on the Punisher again. But even so, their reunion did create a few funny team-up moments between the two anti-heroes. Frank being oh so gracious as to shoot Hulk in the face a half dozen times is an image you're not likely to forget in a hurry.

Along with the recent issue 7.1 that came out a few weeks ago, Aaron is slowly drawing me in to his version of the Hulk. I'm beginning to think that the only reason I didn't like the opening six issues was the terrible art by Marc Silvestri. With both issues since he left, I've found an enjoyment that was lacking before. There's a certain whimsical absurdity to Aaron's writing that can only be captured in appropriately cartoonish art. As long as this arc can maintain a consistent style that complements the writing, I don't see why I can't stick around for the whole story.

8 out of 10

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