Since being tapped by S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill for some not-so covert missions, Marvel Comics' Hulk has been smashing with a purpose for the first time in a long while. But writer Mark Waid and artist Leinil Francis Yu's Marvel NOW! series "Indestructible Hulk" is about more than the melee. According to the writer, it's about the whole world.
In upcoming issues of the series, the action will shift its focus from the American Southwest so closely associated with Bruce Banner's world to some of the stranger arenas of the Marvel Universe, including the depths of Atlantis and the icy wastelands of Jotunheim where the Frost Giants dwell. The places allow for some variety but also a challenge for the angry green goliath.
"I just like the idea of Hulk being in different places in the Marvel Universe," Waid told CBR News. "I like the idea of this being a travelogue of the less-frequented corners of the Marvel Universe. Because I like watching Hulk smash in the desert as much as the next guy, but I've seen that a lot. I would like to go other places. Luckily, in the Marvel Universe there are plenty of places to go. We haven't even gotten to the Negative Zone yet!"
And just like the Negative Zone, the locales Hulk travels to are chock-full of antagonists meant to keep the book interesting. "We see Hulk punch tanks all the time. The hard part is getting opponents and obstacles that are worthy of the Hulk. Because 'Hulk is the strongest one there is,' he needs somebody he can go toe-to-toe with."
In the current story, continuing soon in issue #5, that toe-to-toe battle will be more like fin-to-fin as Hulk takes on longtime Namor foe Attuma deep in his own element. "When the idea of using Attuma -- the undersea Conan, if you will -- as a villain, that seemed like a perfect fit. I like the idea of Hulk underwater. I like the idea that six miles underneath the ocean's surface, even Hulk may not be the strongest there is. There are some incredible pressures and darkness down there, and those all seem to be things that make Hulk's life difficult. So that was a great environment for the story. And then the art from Leinil and Gerry [Alangulian] and colors that Sunny Gho have done are just breathtaking work."
Across all the issues of the series, Waid said that another primary concert of "Indestructible Hulk" has been expanding the cast beyond the standard supporting players. Riding shotgun (though sometimes remotely) on Hulk's S.H.I.E.L.D. missions are a gathering of scientific minds that help balance out the series. "What's good about having other people to play against Banner is that it's more people to play against Hulk," the writer explained. "On a storytelling level, that helps me enormously, because once Banner Hulk's out, there is no internal monologue. There is no witty banter between Hulk and the villains. So you need somebody for the Hulk to bounce off of.
"Beyond that, I chose each of those characters because at least three or four of them, like Banner himself, have a secret self -- a secret that only Banner knows that they don't necessarily know he knows about. A good part of Banner's healing process, as we'll see in the next few issues, is turning on each of those people and helping them deal with the demons raging inside them."
This summer, the Hulk world tour will pick up another passenger in the form of guest artist Walt Simonson. As Waid explained, the teaser recently released in January by Marvel highlighting the appearance of Thor as drawn by the legendary artist came as a result of a more open collaboration on the series. "We actually had a Frost Giants story, and we brought Walt in just praying he'd want to play," the writer said. "And it was Walt who said, 'Can we put Thor in the story? And can it be this Thor? And can it be two issues instead of one? Actually, can it be three issues instead of two?' And my answer to Walt is always yes. It's been an incredibly delightful process working with Walt because I've never been able to work with him on that writer-artist relationship before. We know each other, and we've worked together when I've been on Editorial for stuff, but I've never done anything for him as a writer. He's putting his own stamp on these issues as well, and he's yet to go off in a direction that makes no sense. He's a great storyteller in his own right. So with Walt, if he wants to put Thor in the story you better let him put Thor in the story. Then it's just fun! It's Walt Simonson's Thor! Who wouldn't want to be a part of that creatively."
One thing the writer focused on for that upcoming arc is embracing a plot-first writing style that allowed Simonson to flex his muscles as a cartoonist. "I've given him plots that are maybe even less detailed than the plots I normally give. Walt does thumbnails on them and sends them to me with notes. We go back and forth on them before Walt puts them to pencils and suggests some dialogue. He tweaks things and changes things but never to the detriment of the story. And that's fine. It's great to work that way. It's really like a tennis match going back and forth constantly."
"Indestructible Hulk" #5 ships March 20 from Marvel Comics.