- Written By: Donny Cates
- Art By: Ryan Ottley
- Colors By: Frank Martin
- Letters By: VC’s Cory Petit
- Cover Art By: Ryan Ottley, Frank Martin
- Cover Price: $4.99
- Release Date: November 24, 2021
Hulk #1 asks a very simple question: “Is the Hulk really here to protect us from Bruce Banner?”. This new arc explores just how far Bruce Banner will go to protect the world from the Hulk’s destruction and to win control over his own life. In the end, could Banner’s cure be worse than the Hulk’s disease?
Was It Good?
Let’s get this out of the way right now. Yes, it was an entertaining, albeit slightly challenging, first issue.
Cates takes the death and destruction related to a recent “incident” in El Paso as the motivation for Banner to take surprisingly extreme measures to protect everyone. So often when discussing the Hulk, we’re discussing just the Hulk and forgetting that Dr. Bruce Banner is one of the smartest minds on the planet. Cates builds a foundation where Banner uses his smarts and science (and possibly some magic) to take full control of the Hulk long enough to make a drastic move for the sake of the world.
The key difference in this iteration is Banner’s heel turn into a man driven by his own rage over losing his life to the big green guy. The story plays on the idea of Hulk and Banner being two separate people not only in memories and motivations but emotional states. Banner has his own rage and anger fueled by his own reasons, and here we see him shed his historically meek and mild exterior to become a man driven… obsessed.
When you split Banner and Hulk psychologically (and split they do in a way you’ve probably not seen before), Banner turns out to be possibly as reckless and dangerous as the Hulk. When Tony Stark tries to stop Hulk with a squad of Hulkbusters, the results are devastating for Tony. There’s little to be done against a man so obsessed with accomplishing his goal that he lets no one and nothing get in his way, even old friends.
Here’s the challenging part. The split takes some imagination juice to work out. Imagine taking different aspects of your personality, creating a virtual world for all of them to exist independently, then manipulating those aspects and the virtual world to create a “machine” that does your bidding. Yeah, it’s like that, but once you can picture it, the story makes total sense.
The art is generally good in this issue. Ottley’s style and eye for action excel during the fight scenes. That said, the art comes off slightly cartoonish during the dramatic moments when characters are having personal conversations. During the close-up conversations (and most of the conversations are very close up), the characters appear stiff and their mouths are very elastic in size. It’s as if Ottley can’t decide when a mouth should be big and wide open or small, and it tended to be a distraction in an otherwise thematically heavy book.
Bits and Pieces
Hulk #1 imagines what would happen if you pushed one of the world’s smartest scientists too far and he turns the tables on being a victim of the Hulk to commandeering the Hulk as the ultimate vessel of destruction. The concept is lofty but intriguing once you get your brain around it, and once the setup is done, the cliffhanger opens up a (pocket) universe of unpredictable possibilities. The art is generally good, but the facework needs some improvement.