The Hulk has been given a #1 and a new direction for the character. Much of this purportedly rolls out from the recent “Fear Itself” event. If you haven’t been keeping up then you are going to be left in the dark to a fair degree while reading this issue. We are plonked in the middle of a whole new status quo and not given many clues as to how we have ended up here. The result is a comic that is discombobulating and doesn’t patch up the holes with anything resembling an engaging narrative or iconic comic.
Many will turn up to this comic purely because it marks the triumphant return of Marc Silvestri on art. Others will steer clear of this comic because it heralds the return of Silvestri. Both parties will be vindicated in the end. Jason Aaron serves up plenty of pages for Silvestri to have fun with. The Hulk is now living deep underground and battling magma dwelling monsters and presiding over Moloid banquets with majestic crystalline backgrounds. The scope of these images is large and feels like they were lobbed up as easy practice for Silvestri. We also get copious panels of Hulk standing and flexing menacingly or just frowning into the ether. There’s quality there, for what these pages are, though they feel more like a succession of pin ups rather than a sequentially told tale.
The main problem with this issue, especially as a debut, is that it doesn’t tell us where it came from and it doesn’t actually inform us as to its future direction. There are hints and teases as to what might be coming up and the rest is just an exercise in posturing pretending to indicate tone. This wants to be the biggest book where the most brutal hulk smashes gigantic things with vigor. As a mission statement, that might sound cool, but it doesn’t give the reader a reason to return next month. If you want a few ‘aw, cool’ moments then you might be sated. If you’re after cohesive story that gives a holistically pleasing experience while adding to more, then you won’t find it here. This issue is barely a prologue for what is to come.
Hulk as a metaphor for other internal human concerns is often a trope that works for this character. This book goes in the opposite direction and even states it blankly when Hulk thinks, “Hulk knows how to smash. Not how to dream.” That could sum up this issue, because there isn’t anything transcendent about the action presented. It is exactly what it is, or possibly even less. Just when the Hulk thinks he’s out, something pulls him back in. It could have been elevated with stronger words or images, but sadly neither manage to become a magic moment that will stick in your mind after turning the page.
There is every chance that Aaron and Silvestri are going to build something epic and legendary and fantastic in this title. It felt like they would, or at least could. Instead, this debut manages to not hook you in at all. Everything set up in the first two thirds of the issue is all for nothing as Hulk looks to be moving on from it and so those pages feel mildly pointless. They convey the concept that Hulk wants to get away, be alone, have a sulk. The rest of the issue paints a crazy portrait of Bruce Banner as a scientist on the edge. Those pages are nebulous in intent and concern, and they lack the teeth they feel they are baring.
This new debut of a classic Marvel character feels like a hearty barbeque reproduction of a vegan falafel. They try to make everything fit, and feel the same, and look the same, but the taste won’t fool you. This isn’t what you ordered and it won’t be what you want. It’s close, and you want to try it, but you’ll walk away sorry for your curiosity. Perhaps, if you are curious, you should just wait until the second issue where the story might actually start.