Tuesday, 6 May 2014

New Beginnings - Hulk #1

by Matt Puddy

Hulk is a character that I really enjoy. Over the years I’ve seen him as a slave and a gladiator, a leader and a tyrant, a hermit and an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. He’s been a part of Banner and yet on more than one occasion he’s been apart from Banner. In the most recent iteration, Indestructible Hulk, Banner managed to craft a deal with S.H.I.E.L.D. that enabled him to focus on being a scientist and create, invent and generally give back to society, whilst Hulk became a living weapon that S.H.I.E.L.D. could almost point and fire. Even throughout the recent Terrigen mist incident things were going fine, but the culmination of it all left even the Hulk physically drained and opened Banner up to attack. In the final issue Banner was shot twice in the head leaving the question, "Who Shot Bruce Banner?"

Mark Waid picks up straight where this left off, although not with the obvious route. Drafting in a top neurosurgeon under mysterious circumstances, Aaron Carpenter finds himself operating on and trying to save his former classmate. Through the course of the operation, we review in passing how the original accident with the gamma bomb happened. How the Hulk is seen as a threat by some and a saviour by others. But most importantly we see a shadowy meeting between suits posing as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and a female figure who trained relentlessly to ensure the double tap to the head that she gave to Bruce was perfectly placed to ensure the correct outcome.

It’s only when they try to make an addition to Banner’s brain pan that things go wrong. Through a twist of fate, a woman who owes her life to big green is there to wake the Hulk. Frought with agony and pain, there is only really going to be one outcome in this scenario and smashing ensues. The finale of this first issue finds the real S.H.I.E.L.D. agents tracking down Bruce, but with one major issue. What once was one of the world's eight greatest minds is now less than a shadow of his former self.

As I mentioned before I’m a fan of the Hulk, so I was always going to pick up this title to read but as a result I may have got myself a little overeager and built this new beginning up a little too much. Mark Waid is a great writer and I’ve often enjoyed his work in the past, but this time I felt it spent too much time on the build up and maybe slid a little too much into cliché as well. The clandestine meeting, the shadowy figure, plus the fortuitous placement of a motivated “fan”. The one thing I did like is the cliffhanger problem, though will inevitably be solved somehow at the end.

Mark Bagley is another fantastic name to have on the title, Marvel have clearly put together a pair of powerhouses to make this title work. It is another vision of how the Hulk looks though, and there is always a favourite look that fans have. Personally I prefer the short-lived Marc Silvestri version, or Carlo Pagulayan’s imagery used in Planet Hulk, but that’s due to me liking the excessive nature whereas Bagley’s Hulk is a little more man-sized, albeit a very big man.

For the remainder of the book the images are full and detailed, easy to follow and pleasant to read. Jerome Opena’s cover artwork is really well worked and shows a variety of aspects in the Banner/Hulk dynamic, but yet again another version of Hulk.

Will I be following this title? Of course I will, and for anyone who was reading Indestructible Hulk it’s the natural next step. As part of Marvel Now it is also living up to its promise of investigating origins of main characters so even a new reader could easily pick up the loose history to Banner.

This title will tick a lot of boxes for a lot of people so it might be worth picking up, but if you’re going to then maybe take a look at what’s happened in the last 6 months to fill in a few gaps.

Matt Puddy has been waiting patiently for these articles to finally go up. Anyone would think the editor had been busy moving shop or something!

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