The basic idea that Jason Aaron’s brought to the latest “Incredible Hulk” storyline — the Hulk is the sane one and has to stay angry, or he’ll turn into the criminally insane Bruce Banner — is a fun one. (It’s also awfully reminiscent of the film “Crank,” and let’s face it, Jason Statham angry is sort of like a physically smaller version of the Hulk.) But with “Incredible Hulk” #9, we’re already falling quite quickly into a pattern being set, and in doing so it makes the book’s shine a bit duller.
Aaron’s current strategy for “Incredible Hulk” appears to be rather straightforward. Hulk wakes up and discovers that Banner’s been up to something bad, dumping him in the process in a new location. Hulk then has to spend the issue struggling to stay angry (as to not turn back into Banner), until the issue wraps up and it closes with Hulk being forced back into Banner and the process starting all over again.
So with “Incredible Hulk” #9 plunging the Hulk to the bottom of the ocean floor in an isolated section of Atlantis, we’re seeing that pattern form, even down to the final moments of the issue. It also means that beyond a certain point it’s easy to find these chapters a little disposable; for now there’s no sign of characters or settings carrying on behind a single issue. Presumably the final chapter will have everything add up together with each of Banner’s evil deeds forming a much larger device, but when some of these items include a random magic stone with nebulously defined properties, it’s not like you can play detective to figure out Banner’s overall plan to entertain yourself up until the conclusion.
In the case of “Incredible Hulk” #9, the big saving grace isn’t that we get to watch the Hulk battle a giant squid, or anything else that Aaron tosses in for this month’s obstacles. Rather, it’s that we get to watch Pasqual Ferry draw the Hulk battling a giant squid. “Incredible Hulk” is currently going through an artistic round-robin (#8 was drawn by Steve Dillon, #10 will be Tom Raney) and having Ferry even for a single issue is a great thing. Ferry’s art has a liquid feel with the way it moves across the panel (especially apt for an issue set almost entirely beneath the ocean’s surface), and his depictions of the Atlanteans, the squid and everything else thrown at the Hulk all look eye-catching. I also appreciate that unlike the previous issue, the Hulk still looks like a monster, not just a guy in green body paint. He’s not as massive and, well, as much of a hulk as normal, but this is still a step in the right direction. Then again, with Ferry’s art it’s hard to go wrong. Even something as simple as vomiting up liquid looks cool, thanks to Ferry.
“Incredible Hulk” #9 looks fantastic, but the story doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain. With another location jump set up at the end of this issue for #10, I’m hoping that Aaron breaks the pattern before too long. The Banner/Hulk reversal is entertaining, but the situation deserves a plot that isn’t locked into a boilerplate so quickly. Let’s shake things up a bit, please.