"Indestructible Hulk" #15 has the uphill battle of trying to address the consequences of meddling with the time stream that occurred in "Age of Ultron." It's a difficult situation considering there were no real guidelines to time travel within the Marvel Universe in the first place -- emphasized over the course of this story. It’s hard to break rules that didn’t really exist in the first place.
When it comes to storyline cleanup, there are fewer in the industry more qualified to do it than the Winston Wolfe of comic books, Mark Waid. The problem is that Bruce has to explain so much to the reader while still trying to be a present component of the story. It made following the final threads of Zarrko and Khotto’s ultimate plot confusing.
Hulk wraps up his travels through the time stream with a final showdown at the Gamma bomb testing site where he was born. Khotto’s machinations allowing the bomb blast to create an überHulk, a Hulk that has been Hulked and may also be the tastiest dish to order at any German restaurant. Zarrko the Tomorrow Man watches from the future as the anomalies pile one top of themselves, forcing Banner to push himself back in to place as the One True Hulk (except for all of the others).
Waid’s characterization is as on point as always. One of the great things about this comic is that he has made Bruce Banner as much of a hero as the Hulk. This is not the fearful, skinny scientist wracked with guilt over his secrets. Waid understands that accepting who you are allows forward movement to become the person you want to be. Watching Banner’s joy when he lets go of his emotions without green consequences is a great piece of character work, and allows readers to feel the weight of his decision to put the Hulk back in his bottle.
I usually love time travel stories, but the time travel elements just didn’t mesh up for me. I liked Zarrko and Khotto as a threat -- Waid builds them as credible villains -- but there was so much still unclear by the end. Paradoxes are stacked on paradoxes, which leads to a situation where the only rule is that there are no rules, leaving readers feeling rudderless within the flow of the story. Our conflict resolution is the Hulk punching through time, which felt very out of left field.
Kim Jacinto does a solid job on art, though not much subtlety of emotion is to be found in these characters. Everyone has an almost Anime reaction to everything happening, which is understandable given that the entire comic takes place in the heart of a time storm while a bomb is going off. The pages flow well, packed with big gritty action reminiscent of Leinel Yu’s earlier work on the series.
I will always trust that Mark Waid has a long-term plan for whatever he is writing, but the end of this arc left confusion as to what this will add to the Hulk’s mythos. The cliffhanger shows that this will have some longer-reaching effect on the story, but for now I feel like I was left in the time stream, waiting for Hulk to punch back through and pull me forward.