By Paul Montgomery
In the fallout of INFINITY, Dr. Bruce Banner begins construction on a bomb of unprecedented power.
What threat proves so daunting that it demands a solution far more devastating than a Hulk? This November, Mark Waid and incoming artist Mahmud Asrar forge headlong into Inhumanity. It all starts in INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #16.
|Indestructible Hulk #16 cover by Mahmud Asrar|
“Thanks to the events of Inhumanity, something noxious this way comes,” says Waid, “There’s something drifting over from where [the Inhuman capital] Attilan used to be, over toward more populated areas. The world’s greatest scientists—the Reed Richards, the Tony Starks and so forth—bow to Bruce Banner and his expertise. No one knows more about weird radiation that can turn you into a monster than Bruce Banner does.”
Banner becomes the first line of defense against this radiation cloud.
“The problem is that this isn’t something you can punch,” Waid continues. “This is more of a problem for Banner and his assistants than for the Hulk. Obviously the Hulk manages to elbow his way into every conflict anyway, and that will happen here.”
Tied intimately with Inhumanity, INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK delves deep into Marvel mythology. The events of INFINITY serve as catalyst not just for the transformation of the Marvel Universe, but for Banner’s newfound prominence and esteem within the scientific community and as a guide for friends and colleagues whose lives are affected by this massive shift in society and the very ecosystem.
“One of my fondest memories of the Hulk is that first INCREDIBLE HULK ANNUAL where he met the Inhumans,” recalls Waid. “He’s one of the first, if not the first Marvel hero outside the Fantastic Four to ever deal with the Inhumans. There’s a long history there. I want to play with that. There’s also beauty in the fact that certain Inhumans have powers weirdly complimentary to Hulk’s. To some degree they’re like scalpels to Hulk’s jackhammer approach, but I can’t imagine a conflict between these factions would go well for either side.
“The whole ethos of this run has been ‘Hulk destroys; Banner builds.’ That paradigm is reversed here. Banner is building a bomb. But remember: This, in a way, is Banner’s chance to redeem himself for the gamma bomb he built all those years ago that created the Hulk and caused all this destruction. It’s really an interesting internal conflict in the Marvel Universe and everyone turns to Banner for a solution. His solution is, ‘Okay, I’m going to build a bomb.’ That’s not what you want to hear out of Bruce Banner, but there’s a method to his madness and a redemptive method to this madness.”
|Incredible Hulk Annual #1|
Of course, catharsis and redemption don’t rank so high for Banner’s handlers at S.H.I.E.L.D.
“On a personal level, if I have one bone to pick with S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s that, to them, everything from a terrorist attack to a lemonade stand is a potential threat,” says Waid. “Here, they’re stymied because the nature of the problem is not a Hulk solution, on the face of it. Again, there’s nothing to punch. S.H.I.E.L.D. is willing to let Banner do his thing, but the tension is growing between them, month to month. The paranoia that Bruce is beginning to have that this organization is using him in ways he doesn’t realize may not be paranoia at all.”
Thus far, collaborators like Leinil Francis Yu, Walt Simonson and Matteo Scalera have each contributed independently ferocious depictions of the Hulk during Waid’s tenure on the series. Now Mahmud Asrar surges out of his perceived comfort zone to lend his own strengths to the character.
“Hulk is the original big guy in comics,” notes the artist, “I think that’s the challenge right there. Hulk is all about emotion. Even standing still Hulk should convey the rage that drives him.”
Waid agrees, referring to the ideal depiction of the Hulk as “a time bomb waiting to go off, a force of nature ready to explode.”
Asrar counts Dale Keown, Gary Frank and Adam Kubert among his favorite Hulk artists, though he endeavors to deliver a gamma beast uniquely his own.
“Perhaps the biggest challenge for me is drawing something that is, really, the opposite of what I've been doing recently,” he says. “I'm kind of known and appreciated for drawing female characters. Drawing the Hulk is probably the furthest I can get away from that. It's part of why I'm so happy doing this run as it will stretch my abilities quite a bit, while hopefully providing the opportunity to show a level of versatility.”
Perhaps Waid speaks best to the success of those efforts, applauding Asrar’s ability to capture the Hulk’s physical gravity:
“It’s just terrific. The comic book itself looks like it ought to weigh four pounds.”