Thursday, May 22, 2014

Incredible Hulk by Jason Aaron vol. 2 (comics)

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Jefte Palo, Steve Dillon, Pasquel Ferry, Tom Raney, Dalibor Talajic, Carlos Pacheco
Collects: Incredible Hulk #7.1, #8-15

I liked volume one, but it left me concerned. While the high concept flipped the script on the Hulk in an interesting way, the things it said about Banner were not exactly kind. Turns out Jason Aaron knew what he was doing all along.

Too bad it stops here.

At the conclusion of the first volume, Banner had perished in the battle with Hulk. Or so we thought. After Hulk enjoys some time without Banner, he realizes his other half isn't quite as gone as he thought. What follows is a romp through the Marvel Universe, as Hulk tries his hardest to stay angry and somehow figure out what nefarious plan Banner has up his sleeve. But everything is not quite as it seems.

Jason Aaron broke away from the pack to become one of my favorite writers in a short amount of time and at least a part of that comes down to his sense of humor. Even a fairly serious story will be littered with a well time piece of dialogue or sight gag. Wolverine and the X-Men has a ton of it. His Ghost Rider run had a bunch of outlandish, ridiculous crap that you couldn't help smiling at. His Wolverine run had cancer bullets. A Jason Aaron comic stands out because it gives you things you never even thought of. The second and final volume of his Hulk has more of this type of levity than the first did and is better for it. I won't spoil some of the better moments, but suffice to say it made a decent comic even better.

Better than that is the fact that the story answers the question of what exactly was up with Banner in a satisfying way that doesn't really throw the character under the bus. Many Hulk writers have explored the MPD angle of the Hulk, but no one ever touches the implications. Hulk is a part of Banner, right? He's an undeniable part of Bruce Banner, the past he repressed most of his life, given physical form whenever he loses his temper. Yet Banner always wanted to get rid of Hulk. What happens when you do manage to eradicate a part of yourself? Nothing good could possibly come of that, right?

Turns out that question drove this story all along. I'm still not sure it speaks well of Banner - without Hulk, the manifestation of Banners rage, the history of insanity in his family comes to the fore - but it explains a lot and it's a novel take on the formula. Also a plus is the fact that, when whole, Aarons version of Banner is not a total douchebag, which was a problem in Indestructible Hulk.

Everything wraps up in a satisfying manner, clearing the deck for the next era, which would be the aforementioned Indestructible. The only real question I had pertained to Dr. Doom, more specifically what was going on with him. I assume it relates to events elsewhere in the Marvel universe, but there isn't even a "check ____ for the full story" footnote to help you find out. It isn't super important to the story, so it doesn't matter much in the long run, but it's an odd omission.

Unfortunately, there are a couple strikes against this. The least important of the two is the issue of length. At sixteen issues - including the point one in the number - it's the shortest run Jason Aaron has had on a Marvel property that I'm aware of. The first volume is good, but not quite great. The second is far better - as well as the point where it feels like Aaron has really settled in - but before you know it, the ride is over. Too long to be a punchy statement on the character, but too short to leave any sort of impact. The next Hulk series doesn't even reference it.

Worse is the art situation. Volume ones art was, well, not great. Volume two has the opposite problem. I'm sure you've noticed the artist list up top; no less than six people worked on this volume, most at one issue a piece. Most of it is good - Steve Dillon does the issue where Punisher guest stars and it's good to see him draw the character again, even if the issue seems to exist entirely for the "shoot me in the face" gag - but the result is a volume that lacks any sort of visual identity. It's offset by the fact that each issue is its own story within the arc, but even so, that's about eight artists for sixteen issues.

All told, between its length and the art, Jason Aarons Hulk is probably not going to go down as a definitive run. That's a shame. Maybe we'll see him take another crack at it in the future. Regardless, the story he did tell turned out to be worth it in the end and at two volumes it isn't exactly a big money sink, so I recommend it regardless.

My Opinion: Read It

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