Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Matteo Scalera
Colorist: Val Staples
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Have I told you lately that I love Yu?
Eleven issues in to Indestructible Hulk, and there have now been more issues of the book that weren’t penciled by Yu than issues that were. Yu penciled the first five issues of the book, then there was a Thor story for three issues followed by a Daredevil story for a further two issues, and it didn’t feel overly strange for different artists to be brought on penciling duties much the same way that guests stars were brought in to the narrative. But now that Banner and Hulk are the stars of their own book again, it feels like the visual star of the book, Leinil Yu should be back too.
In much the same way that Mike Weiringo established a visual style for The Flash that was hard to follow, Yu set the visual standard for the Hulk and for his naked-no-more armor that’s hard to follow. Mateo Scalera, on his third issue of the book, just can’t match the depth of character or expressiveness or level of design work that Yu brought to the book. Instead, the art comes off as cartoonish at best and confusing at worst.
Luckily though, Waid is still writing the book as well as he ever has and seems to genuinely be enjoying the opportunities that are afforded to him by the ramifications of the recent Age Of Ultron storyline. Who would have thought that a big event book would actually have ramifications?
An awful lot of this issue is set up and exposition. We find out that there’s a secret division of S.H.I.E.L.D called T.I.M.E, which stands for Temporal Irregularity Management and Eradication. We also find out that Banner’s assistants are working for this secret division, though Morris Day is nowhere to be seen. S.H.I.E.L.D have a secret weapon in the form of a secret prisoner, Zarrko: The Tomorrow Man. Zarrko has the ability to see through time and the ability to tell Banner and the reader exactly what is happening. As a plot-furthering device, that’s pretty handy.
All of the time travel that’s happened recently has broken time and has led to a series of paradoxes, leaving the time stream vulnerable to a group called the Chronarchists who are changing time to suit their own ends. The first widespread symptom of which is a series of vanishings, but a much more interesting symptom of which is the difference in the temperament and intelligence of The Hulk at each transformation. Banner has been under the impression that it depends on how the Gamma Radiation interacts with the natural changes in his biochemistry, but according to Zarrko, the Chronarchists are screwing with the origins of The Hulk, which is currently tweaking The Hulk but could ultimately eliminate him.
That news is enough to convince Banner to get on board with the mission Maria Hill is trying to recruit him for. The Chronarchists need to be stopped, and while the stresses of the time stream are too much for an average person, The Hulk may be able to withstand them. But as The Hulk can’t be let run rampant through time on his lonesome, a pretty clever means of teaming up Banner with The Hulk is devised. The only proviso is that The Hulk has to remain as The Hulk. The first hunting ground for the Hulk / Banner team is in 1873, but as soon as they arrive they’re faced with…something that doesn’t belong in 1873. Let the shenanigans begin!
Despite the less than stellar art and the fact that a lot of the book is exposition, it’s still immensely enjoyable. The use of Banner’s “Work Diary” in place of a standard first-person narrative works brilliantly well and Waid has some great fun with the changes in time that are happening all around the present. As a stand-alone issue, it won’t rank as a classic, but it is a sign of some great things to come and the prospect of the ability to change The Hulk’s mood and intelligence and origin on a whim holds great promise.
3 out of 5 nerds