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Hulk Vol. 1: Banner D.O.A.

Written by: Mark Waid

Art by: Mark Bagley

22 October 2014

Marvel/88 pages/digital copy/$12.99

We’ve seen the Hulk in Age of Ultron which tried to show a more sensitive side of the man behind the beast. But with only one solo film of this iteration of the MCU, how does Marvel’s rampaging green monster hold up a narrative in comics? It’s nothing like the movies.

Bruce Banner is comatose and is in need of immediate brain surgery. The only man who can help him used to bull him when they were teenagers. These events build upon the conclusion of the previous series, Indestructible Hulk, where Bruce was shot twice at the back of the head point blank. And no one knows who did it. This leaves the current series with the more modest title, Hulk.

Previously, Bruce agreed to let his alter ego be a weapon for SHIELD being dropped like a bomb when the situation arose. Otherwise, he would spend time in a SHIELD designed lab, using his wits to formulate a less destructive legacy. He still didn’t completely trust SHIELD which is why he hired a lawyer whom he called every now and then to say things were fine.

This first arc of the series gives us an uncharacteristic glimpse of Bruce. Brain damaged, he’s oversensitive leaving SHIELD with the mission to satisfy his id – through ice cream and sandwiches – lest he Hulks out. It’s a smart choice that the story didn’t overplay this character.

Bruce and the Hulk have always been tricky characters to centre the story around. This time Banner is less capable so it’s easier for the story to move along with the help of Maria Hill who tries to undo her mistake of breaking what was SHIELD’s most destructive weapon. Although not entirely likeable, she carries much of the narrative when apart from the action.

Hulk, a title that revolves around a character with serious anger management issues, is rightly full of action. Here that action is clear and easy to follow which balances its narrative.

Abomination is revived by a mysterious mastermind, and brings in the action. Things pick up once he crashes on site. He’s refreshingly overpowered and there’s something off about him giving the sense of a real challenge. The Hulk bounces back only to be slammed repeatedly. Things only pick up when more iconic good guys arrive. The fight goes on for two issues which is appropriate length for a good, clean, bombastic brawl.

The art is decent if not inconsistent. It has the typical action comics look of serious cartoons though not exactly touching on realism. The splash at the end of issue three, however, is worth mentioning. Panels are easy to follow and gutters are their standard black and white design.

The story is nothing compelling and a mentally handicapped Bruce, though surprising, seemed only good for a few issues. The action is where things get interesting and the cameos serve not only to save the day but the series as well. Waid (Daredevil, DC’s 52) manages to salvage the Hulk given the rummaged plot left by Indestructible Hulk. He touched on the previous series’ stronger points and wrapped things nicely leaving a fresh start for volume two.  The standard art may be off-putting for readers already familiar with more artful Marvel titles currently available such as Black Widow and All-New Ghost Rider. Unless already invested in the Indestructible Hulk, it’s hard to recommend the four-issue Hulk: Banner D.O.A. especially with its current price point. One can only hope this first volume leads to a more smashing follow-up.

Reviewed by Stephen Suminguit

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