(MARVEL NOW!, 2013) - Reviewed by Feral Fang
I had been hearing a few hints and whispers about this title from all sorts of people and places, so I finally sat down with the first issue not too long ago and gave it a read. I was very surprised at this title, and how fun it can be. It isn’t “literature”, of course - I mean, it *is* the Hulk - but this title holds perfect ground between mindless SMASH and some pretty emotional drama. Now we’re up to issue #4 which, while it may not be the best one so far, still holds testament to the idea that makes this title the oddly workable premise it is. If you are new to this book, let me give you a quick run through: Bruce Banner has fully given in to the fact that he will never be rid of the Hulk, as everything that could possibly be tried to ‘cure’ him has been tried, and he sees no other options available of any kind. Using a surprise meeting with S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Maria Hill (in a diner, of all places), he runs an idea by her - if S.H.I.E.L.D. supplies Banner with all of the tech, Lab space, and workers he needs to fully realize his potential as a scientist, he will allow them to use the Hulk as a form of ‘weapon’ - just drop him in, point him in the right direction, and hope he destroys what you sent him to destroy. Banner sees this as a way to repay the world for all of the bad that Hulk has done over the years (as he says in this issue: “Hulk Breaks, Banner Builds”), while Maria Hill sees an interesting opportunity for S.H.I.E.L.D. The arrangement is made, and Banner begins to assemble his work, Lab, and assistants, while he is sent as the Hulk to handle missions not suited or safe enough for any normal agent. Oh, and eventually S.H.I.E.L.D. gives Bruce/Hulk a R.O.B. (Recording Observation Bot) to watch over him. There really hasn’t been enough of this ‘character’ to know here nor there on my opinion of it.
A.I.M. had reactivated the Quintronic Man - a “walking weapon of mass destruction” that Hulk has had quite the problem with in the past - and Hulk took him down, no problem. Now, Banner has the equally scary experience of meeting his new Lab Assistants, who may or may not be hiding interesting secrets and agendas. Giving them the “Banner is about to Hulk-out, what do I do???” test (which they all pass without flinching), Banner makes the creepy statement that the Hulk “does happen” and, if he does “you can get to safety…if you run.” To me that is what the whole book has been about - that fine line between Bruce and his other self, and the constant danger that, regardless of any helpful tech or other ways to curb his aggression, Banner can still become the Hulk at basically any time. Even in the safest of situations, he is a constant wild card. At this point in Banner’s life, it seems to have driven him to be a bit demented, maybe even darker. His humor is more jaded, his attitude more direct, and his want to create rather than destroy almost seems fueled by nothing but a deep guilt and regret at what his life has become. Now he wants that spot back, the Banner that he was before the accident. His seeing the Hulk as a bargaining chip with S.H.I.E.L.D. tells a lot about how he views himself, especially in that form. Expendable, unreliable, deadly and destructive. He may act as if he has found a sort of peace with his ‘problem’, but to me he reads as if he’s really just attempting to separate himself from the beast, allowing it to run free under S.H.I.E.L.D.’s loose control without Banner being fully responsible for his actions.
After Banner runs his new team through the Hulk Test, he meets with Director Hill to discuss an undersea city known as Lemuria, a place previously known as more of a rumor than a reality. Atlantean Warlord Attuma is attempting to seize control of the entire Pacific Ocean with the help of not only his impressive army and weaponry, but also giant sea monsters - ones that have been proven to originate from the legendary city. Hulk, in a specialized (and very Sci-Fi looking) suit, is sent off to deal with this attack, and a cliffhanger ending wraps it up nicely, with Attuma sending Hulk to his ‘death’. Which, of course, will *most likely* not be the case, but it’s still a fun cliffhanger to a great issue from one of new favorite titles.
WRITING: 7 / 10
ARTWORK: 7.5 / 10
COLOR ARTWORK: 8 / 10
OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 7 / 10