Jason Aaron’s run comes to an end in “Incredible Hulk” #15, capping off a three act story that can best be described as “weird.” As with the rest of the run, the overall success here relies heavily on what you find funny. If you’ve got the same sense of humor as Aaron, great. If not, well…
The thing is, many of Aaron’s jokes are so deadpan that they barely even look like jokes from the outside. That’s not to say it’s short on big ideas, because the designs underpinning the story arc as a whole have been entertaining — a new take on the Hulk without Banner, a new take on the Hulk Vs. Banner and finally, a new take on the Hulk and Banner together — but if you’re not inherently amused by the likes of Amanda Von Doom, B.R.A.I.N., The Orb and The Vegetable, it’s doubtlessly been a long year.
Personally, I enjoyed Aaron’s Hulk, although it’s hard to feel as though his run is coming to a natural close. This issue leaves the Hulk and Banner in a place we’ve never quite seen them, but despite a token attempting to reference earlier stories, it doesn’t feel like the conclusion to a year-long series, just the end of the current arc. The final scene ends on a joke, and the dangling threads make it feel like it’s rolling into the next story even though it seems unlikely that Mark Waid will pick them up in “Indestructible Hulk” for Marvel NOW! next month.
The results are unsatisfying. Few things damage investment in a story like the knowledge that the ending isn’t going to pay off (just ask the disgruntled fans of “The Matrix” trilogy or “Lost”) and that’s the problem here. It’s a good story, but not an ending that makes you feel like the writer was more than a step ahead of you, as the best ones should.
With Marvel NOW! undoubtedly providing the impetus for the relaunch, you can argue that the overall craft isn’t what’s at fault. Aaron’s dialogue is wickedly funny and artist Jefte Palo makes for the perfect comedic collaborator, capable of making even the most mundane panel hilarious with his playful sense of scale and framing. The final page is a fantastic Hulk image by any standards. It’s just disappointing that two capable creators end up with an aesthetic that doesn’t seem to have clicked with Hulk fans in general.
Still, when you have a book that’s as visually and textually idiosyncratic as Aaron’s “Incredible Hulk” has been, perhaps you have to expect failure on some level. The only thing that feels like Aaron’s fault, rather than his design, is the lack of a solid conclusion to Banner’s insanity, which dominated the earliest issues and never really got the explanation or dismissal it deserved.
A bold experiment, then, but one which wasn’t as successful as it could have been. Not so much “Incredible Hulk” as “Unconventional Hulk”. Whether you enjoyed it or not, it’s safe to say that it was time to wrap it up. It’s just a shame that didn’t happen more definitively.