Mahmud Asrar leaps on board to smash the art chores for “Indestructible Hulk” #16 and gives Bruce Banner an assist in the lab as he tries to make up for lost time. Mark Waid welcomes his new artistic collaborator on the adventures of Banner and Hulk by resuming the quest for “Hulk destroys, Banner builds” as one of the most brilliant minds in the Marvel Universe tries to crank out a couple new innovations in the early half of this issue.
The latter half of “Indestructible Hulk” #16 sees Banner and one of his lab assistants, Randall Jessup, disobey orders and go to check out a S.H.I.E.L.D. monitored disturbance in an Aztec temple. Fans of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” will find the story oddly familiar, but the concept of dropping the Hulk — or at least the potentiality of the Hulk — into an already tense setting buries that familiarity and presents Waid with the perfect opportunity to build some character interactions into a fast-paced adventure. Waid even layers in some background for Jessup, providing a comic book level psychoanalysis for why Jessup is doing what he’s doing. Jessup isn’t the next coming of Rick Jones, but he makes for a good surrogate in this issue.
Waid keeps the pieces moving around Banner, giving the Hulk’s alter ego a shifting landscape to adapt to in much the same way the writer gives attention to Matt Murdock’s life over in “Daredevil.” Just as Samnee aptly handles both aspects of the titular character’s life in that title, Asrar is a fine fit for Banner and Hulk. Asrar’s style gives the characters in “Indestructible Hulk” #16 a heftiness to them that makes them seem like cutouts drifting through the backgrounds of this story. His style is not identical to his work on “Dynamo 5” or “Supergirl” as the artist is able to adapt to the characters and settings presented. Joined by colorist Dave McCaig, Asrar details the transformations between Banner and Hulk and back again without overburdening the artwork with lines or layers. As Banner is frustrated at being scooped on one of his developments by Tony Stark, there is no doubt that he hulks out, but transformation is just subtly communicated through the coloring as Asrar simply focuses on the expression of anger.
After the time-hopping adventures of the last arc, “Indestructible Hulk” #16 feels like a standalone story, but readers who have been reading all along with Waid’s work will recognize the continuation of concepts introduced in the first issue. Waid and Asrar are a fine creative duo for this title as “Inhumanity” creeps into these pages. Asrar’s shadowy, weighty work coupled with Waid’s knack for masterfully blending characters and plots present fine conditions for the mystery and uncertainty of the next big development in the Marvel Universe with Hulk standing n the front lines.