Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon team up for “Incredible Hulk #8”, which begins the new “Stay Angry” storyline and guest-stars a character familiar to both Aaron and Dillon: The Punisher.
Following the events of the previous storyline, Aaron has switched the Hulk’s status quo into something that is both familiar and innovative. Now, Bruce Banner is the “monster” that Hulk changes into and in order to stop that, he has to stay angry, hence the title.
Arguably, this is more a change of perspective than anything else. We’re used to seeing Banner resisting transformation, but here, it’s the Hulk trying to fight it back. Aaron chooses to omit Banner’s adventures, allowing us to view the story the way Hulk sees it. It’s somewhat disorienting (as it’s intended to be) and the fact that the audience is in the same boat as the Hulk gives us a chance to try and guess what’s going on at the same time he does, which is an added dimension of enjoyment for the issue.
Steve Dillon’s Hulk is the most human-looking for some time, and seems to be influenced more by Lou Ferrigno than the CGI-creations of the recent movies. Where most artists give the Hulk an exaggerated physiology, Dillon gives him one that could conceivably exist in the real world (green skin notwithstanding).
The results are reflected in Aaron’s story, which sees the Hulk operating at the most “street-level” we’ve seen in some time. Sure, he’s bullet-proof and super-strong, but this is a Hulk who scraps with non-powered thugs, rather than tears down buildings. Dillon’s storytelling prowess means he’s also a far better choice to deliver Aaron’s comic moments than the artists from the start of this relaunch, who were strong on action but weak on subtlety.
Aside from the dramatic improvement in art, the title continues the general tone and quality that Aaron’s run has assumed since the start. It’s unashamedly over-the-top, veering between laugh-out-loud funny and oddly unsettling and clearly not following in the footsteps of any previous writer. As a long-time Hulk fan, it’s great to see someone breaking new ground with the character even if the general critical reception has been all over the place as a result.
While at this point the Punisher guest slot doesn’t seem to actually service the story, the issue’s finale suggests we may see some more guests soon enough, and that in turn suggests that it’s not something happening by accident. We’ll no doubt see before long. If you’ve got any interest in the character, now is a good time to start reading — although do yourself a favor and read the similarly great #7.1 issue too!