Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu's "Indestructible Hulk" #1 begins new era for Bruce Banner as he becomes more accepting of his "disease" of turning big and green when he gets mad.
Waid has a talent for upbeat, casual dialogue, and "Indestructible Hulk" #1 reinforces this with its opening scene. The opening setting humanizes the exchange between two powers, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Bruce Banner/Hulk, and the busy, crowded environment also conveniently provides ample annoyances that could provoke Banner's temper.
It's a pleasure to see how Waid isn't afraid to mock his characters, gently or otherwise. Banner bristles angrily at the mention of Tony Stark. Men with genius I.Q.s are no strangers to jealousy and rivalry, and it will be fun to see if Waid has them pulling each other's hair in a future storyline. On a similar, even more mocking note, the villain in "Indestructible Hulk" #1 waits for S.H.I.E.L.D. and kills time by arguing for his own brilliance in his real-time audio memoir entry. Even Waid's word choice of "memoir" over "diary" reinforces the villain's ego and the humor of the situation.
Yu's art pays attention to details like the wrinkles and folds in clothing, and his backgrounds keep the café scene busy and active-feeling. However, Yu overuses the technique of characters popping out of panel borders for dramatic effect. There's an awkward panel transition in the scene where a man bumps into Banner's back. Yu has the offender popping out of the panel, which might have been okay if the guy's hand didn't seem to be caressing Agent Hill's forehead that is popping out of the adjacent panel. Hill's chin is dangerously close to digging into Banner's head (also popping out of the bottom panel). It's too much for one page. Colorist Sunny Gho has an attractive palette, with a good combination of neutrals and bright hues, but she overdoes it with highlighting effects, resulting in hair and clothing sometimes looking more plastic than natural.
"Indestructible Hulk" #1 is a great setup for future adventures and it's enjoyable as a self-contained story. However, it feels lightweight due to a lack of real suspense. The villain has only time to cackle before the heroes arrive, and his presence in "Indestructible Hulk" #1 is obviously a plot device or proving ground for Banner's new plan. He never feels like a serious threat to either the good guys or the populace.
While Waid and Yu draft a long fight sequence, the story's true, less visible stakes are in Banner's plan for how he's going to use his Hulk side. There, too, there is little potential for failure, and the stakes remain low. Banner is a smart man, and he wants to win. Logically, he would choose a test case where he was needed, but also one in which he was reasonably sure that he could impress. As a result, the mundane setting of the opening, where Hulk's rage could touch civilians and government agents alike, had more narrative tension than the battle scene.
Waid has set a high bar for his work with his own oeuvre, especially with the pathos and humor of his work on "Daredevil." His challenge with "Indestructible Hulk" will be to keep his characteristic humor, but to also raise the stakes for a hero who is used to being the smartest or strongest man in the room -- and knows it. Banner is a difficult personality; after all, he's always angry despite his immense educational privilege and his gifts. The teaser for the next issue promises a fun match-up that may be promising ground for characterization as well as trading punches.