Tuesday, 27 November 2012

On Indestructible Hulk #1

It's so much easier to have exceptionally intelligent characters behaving like psychologically damaged idiots. Why should a writer worry about constructing a convincing storyline when they can just have their supposedly brilliant protagonists perpetually behaving like oblivious fools? In a Marvel Universe that's top-heavy with the notably bright as well as the super-genius, it's a struggle to think of a single one that's consistently displayed the self-awareness and emotional maturity of anything more than a teenager. After fifty years and more of adventures, Reed Richards is still excluding his wife from the truth of his schemes despite all the misery that his obfuscation and lying has previously caused. Similarly, Peter Parker remains the world's oldest adolescent despite being an experience-saturated decade or so out of high school, and so on.

While much of Marvel's appeal has always been down to its protagonist's angsty flaws, there's an obvious difference between a character with a compelling human limitation and a perpetually oblivious, self-hamstringing idiot. While it would obviously make no sense to remove the conflict-generating failings from a super-person's nature, it's far too easy to ratchet them up to the degree to which a character's entirely helpless before them. The exceptionally clever and supposedly heroic character who never learns, and who actually seems to become stupider and more dangerous to themselves and others with time, is a cheap and grating way to stir up jeopardy. As the same old problems are recycled in ever more hysterically concentrated ways, the process inevitably wears away at the reader's capacity to believe, to care.

Bruce Banner has just been driven into a momentary rage by the very thought of his super-intellectual rivals and, in doing so, triggered a concern in an experienced SHIELD agent that he's going to transform into the Hulk. What can we tell of this in this subsequent panel? Does he even doesn't appear "sorry", or in any way regretful about his lack of a legacy, in terms of the dialogue in this panel? If pushed, we might see something sinister or manically focused in his expression, although how that relates to the script is a confusing business. So what is being suggested in the art here? The more the reader stares at a typical Yu panel, the less precise sense it makes, with frames which appear at first glance to be telling the story revealing themselves to be far less focused and helpful than might be assumed.
Thankfully, Mark Waid appears to have embarked on a campaign to credit Marvel's brightest heroes with the very intelligence that's supposed to define them. He's already presented us with a Matt Murdock who's determinedly working to mitigate the effects of his obsessional and depressive tendencies. (Although Daredevil may not be a hyper-brain capable of throwing together an interstellar spacecraft from the contents of an average household kitchen cupboard, he is a first-rate lawyer and an acutely bright individual. He may not be able to think away his psychological problems, but he can at least recognise and mitigate them, as Waid's brilliantly had him do.) Now, in Indestructible Hulk #1, Waid offers up a Bruce Banner who, after more than five decades of denial, finally accepts the overwhelming evidence that the Hulk will inevitably be part of him forever. His green-skinned alter-ego is an expression of an "incurable", "chronic" condition, Banner declares, which means that the only rational way forward is for him to manage the situation while trying to make the most of his life. Though it's hardly a deduction which requires a super-intellect to reach, it's still a remarkably sensible one to find in the pages of the superbook.

Pushing aside my concerns about Banner appearing to be a rather super-cool, handsome bloke here, many of the key problems with Yu's work are present on this page. Take Banner's expression in panel 5, for example. What emotion is Yu's work actually expressing there? Furthermore, what are those shadows doing in the frame? Whose silhouettes are we looking at and why? It's all very slick, but there's nothing specific about the meaning of the art.  Heads and arms break through panel borders for no narrative reason at all beyond creating the impression that something - whatever it might be - is going on. Strange choices abound; the first panel features Banner's latest invention in a way that actually undermines its potential risk and pushes for its status as a hi-tech soup maker or some such. Oddly enough, You chooses to present the supposedly-anxious Hill from a worm's-eye angle, which actually empowers her, as such a shot nearly always will. As for Hill's expression, it barely seems to change from panel 1 - where she seems just a little concerned about what might be a bomb - to panel 3 - where there briefly appears to be the imminent possibility of Banner turning into the Hulk. To be cool under pressure is one thing, but she gives no impression of anything beyond being a tiny bit little concerned while looking very toothfully attractive. In panel 2, the sense appears to be that the guy who "thumps" into Banner does so deliberately, given how it looks like he's gleefully aimed his elbow at Banner's head. (There's no information there to indicate that it's an accident.) Then there's the matter of Banner's assailant's hand, breaking through as it does into the third frame, where it gives every impression of stroking Hill's forehead. (It even seems to be casting a shadow there.) Although the necessary events appear to be all present in some form on the page, there's an almost complete lack of context in terms of character, action and feeling, while the panel to panel continuity is awkward and unsatisfying. 
Sadly, the imprecision of artist Leinil Yu's work makes it impossible to know what we're to make of this at least partially clear-thinking Banner on any emotional level. Though Yu's work is fan-pleasingly glossy and packed with bold, static poses which appear to be very, very meaningful indeed, trying to deduce what his characters are thinking and feeling is an exhausting business. Characters reach through panel borders and pose without any context or purpose at all on his pages, as if the suggestion of activity and spectacle is more important than effectively transmitting the inner as well as the outer lives of his characters With very few exceptions, his frames carry at best a vague and puzzling sense of how his cast are experiencing and interacting with the world around them. Anyone following the story-opening meeting between Banner and Agent Hill, for example, will be stumped to know much about either person beyond what's carried in the word balloons, and even there, Waid's script is often made to seem confusing because of the way in which the art fails to clarify the writer's meaning. Given that's so, the fact that we're shown a Banner who's capable at moments of rational thought is more than cancelled out by the absence of any consistent, convincing sense of who he is as a person. Whether it's the lack of any precise emotion in individual panels, or the absence of an easily understood continuity of feeling between one frame and another, Yu's focus on isolated moments of eye-catching comic-book cool constantly derail proceedings on anything but the most facile of levels. And so, where Waid's words have Banner declaring that he's "sorry", Yu delivers a face that's anything but, while the artist's depiction of a supposedly-surprised Banner actually transmits all the concern of a man idly checking his watch against the time given by a wall-mounted clock. Because of this strange narrative-killing preference for the fannishly obsessive moment over the narratively specific, we just can't tell whether this Banner's genuinely cheerful or putting up a playful front, a brilliantly Machiavellian operator or an almost-overwhelmed victim attempting to cobble together a grand strategy. Beyond a single frame in which Yu shows Banner hammering his fists on a table in what might be jealously or frustration at the very thought of Tony Stark, it's hard to know anything much about him at all that might lend us give a reason to empathise

Agent Hill is here standing before a mostly-naked and partially-buried-by-masonry Banner as she offers him a job in SHIELD. What does that expression mean, or even hint at? Why does she look like an unnaturally attractive teenager who's challenged by nothing more demanding or interesting than what fruit juice might be ordered from a breakfast menu? Beyond "stereotypically attractive", what does Yu's art here contribute to either the basic events of the story or its meaning in terms of character, sub-text, foreshadowing etc etc.
As with Banner, so with Hill, who's presented as a sweetly blank-faced if exceptionally beautiful and very young woman with a remarkably constricted range of responses. There's little sense of intelligence, guile, or heart in how Yu presents her at all, with the artist choosing instead to represent her as nothing more and nothing less than pretty if hard-edged. And so, she looks no more engaged or moved when she's just discovered Banner half-buried underneath a mass of rubble than she does when she's swinging a conveniently-placed wooden plank at his head. If the idea is that Hill possesses a remarkably good poker-face regardless of circumstances, then it's down to Yu to provide the subtle and telling variations which transmit her character and intentions underneath the mask. But between the modelesque, blunt-effect front of Agent Hill and the oddly unreadable Banner, the reader's left wondering what could be possibly be going on. Yes, Banner is looking to strike a deal with SHIELD, but why is he doing so? After all, his plan to work on improving humanity's lot while allowing SHIELD to put the Hulk's rampages to use is a clearly flawed one. Are we supposed to believe that either Banner or Hill believe that the Hulk can be let loose on a target and the consequences of that controlled? Surely not. And yet Yu's art lends us no sense at all of what to make of a Banner who seems to be both very smart, in terms of grasping his medical condition, and self-deluded, in terms of the Hulk's capacity to serve anyone else's agenda. Is this a transformed Banner who's gleeful when blackmailing Hill, or one putting forward a front while masking how desperate for sanctuary he is. Is this a man who's barely hanging on, or entirely in control, or perhaps a mixture of the two? Who can tell? The promise of the script, and that includes the potentially beguiling contradictions in Banner's plan, evaporates when it's superimposed over the constantly underinforming art.

Hill's first sighting of Banner, and for once there's an uncompromised sense that Banner's now is a jaunty, confident individual who's taking some pleasure in his situation.. Furthermore, there's at least some little response in Hill's face in panel 1 when first sighting Banner. It's the most informing sequence in the book in terms of emotion, although Hill's passive body language and focus on her tablet in the third panel is puzzling and undermines the drama of the moment. Why has she shifted from a measure of shock to an utter lack of interest?
Despite the weariness inspired by SHIELD's ubiquitous presence in yet another of this week's Marvel books, the basic premise of the Hulk as a WOMD in the hands of America's own law-unto-itself para-military is a fascinating one. So too is the idea of a Banner trying to create a life for himself while striving to cope with the intimidating shadow of the Hulk. But in the absence of the pathos which Yu's shiny, busy, dead-hearted pages fails to create, it's hard to care.

Waid's new direction for the Hulk is a potentially enthralling one, full of fascinating ideas and laced with forward momentum. Sadly, the art's nowhere near as smart as the script is, which leaves writer and artist working as well together as Banner and the Hulk have usually tended to. Indestructible Hulk could've been far more than its headline beats of Banner Schemes, Hill Calm'n'Pretty, Hulk Smash and Mad Thinker Bad, but sadly, that's pretty much all the reader's left with once it's finished.


  1. Yeah, this one was fine but felt very familiar. Which makes sense, since the clear editorial mission statement was "Do Daredevil again, but with the Hulk, and less exciting art."

    1. Hello Bill:- I read an interview with Waid where he said that he'd been stumped by the assignment until he realised he ought to focus on Banner rather than the Hulk as a starting point, just as he focused on Murdock rather than DD. Yet if I hadn't seen that, I'd have shared your suspicions. It's a logical deduction, and that's especially so since Banner seems alot like Mike Murdock when he first appears in this issue. For a moment. Before the visuals for who Banner is and what he feels started shifting all over the place ...

  2. "Waid offers up a Bruce Banner who, after more than five decades of denial, finally accepts the overwhelming evidence that the Hulk will inevitably be part of him forever." I don't know if you've read Peter David's ridiculously long run on Incredible Hulk, but a lot of it is about precisely this - Banner coming to an accommodation with the Hulk. So perhaps not quite "five decades" - more like 25 years, a long, 11-year caesura, and then the past 15 years or so.

    Excellent points about Yu, as his work clearly screams "kewl" but doesn't have much in the way of storytelling. When the best page in your book is a double-page splash of the Hulk smashing, that's not good. Yu has never been the greatest artist, but his older work is better, unfortunately. I don't know if you've read High Roads, by Scott Lobdell and Yu, but it's really fine work by the artist, as it crackles with energy that this, for the most part, lacks, and Yu does actually do some nice work with expressions and emotions. It's not too subtle - the book is a World War II adventure story that features a midget who happens to look like Hitler, after all - but it's better than this is. I agree with you about the characters bursting out of the panels - what's up with that?

    I think I enjoyed this a bit more than you did, but it could be a lot better. Oh well!

    1. Hello Greg:- I can't say how much I admire Peter David's run on the Hulk. In many ways, it's one of Marvel's greatest achievments, and that's especially so given how hard the times were for creators. More than anyone else, he pioneered how the superhero book can and should constantly reinvent itself. Of course, you obviously know this. But yes, I'm a great admirer even if I'm not always a big fan. (I struggle at times with PD's sense of humour, though I fully accept that's 100% POV and not an objective criticism.) As such, I fully accept your point. I didn't mean "BB hadn't reached this conclusion before", but rather "He's only being shown reaching it again in 2012", or, as you say, a quarter century after PD blazed that trail.

      It was a great run, the David Hulk, wasn't it? For me, it reached its peak with the Dale K. Defenders issues.

      I've never read High Roads, and given that Yu was working with Scott Lobdell - whose work I've always struggled badly with - I never would have thought to do so without your recommendation. But I would like to see pages by Yu which, as you say, crackle with energy. And the midget Hitler impersonator sounds like it ... has to be seen.

      There's a terrible clash between Waid and Yu's work here. I know Mr Waid wouldn't agree, as I've heard and read of him praising his co-creator at length. But for me, this mix of a writer of precision with an artist of anything but feels like such a miss-match.

      Or, as you say, "what's up with that" ? :)

    2. I figured you had read David's Hulk, so I'm glad you have. Yeah, they're tremendous comics. Even the lesser ones - from the end of Frank's run to the beginning of Kubert's - are trying to be interesting, even if various crossovers keep getting in the way!

      As for High Roads - I wrote quite a bit about it here. The comments don't all agree with me, of course, and perhaps I'm a bit more kind to Lobdell than you are, but I do think it's one of his best works. And there's some art at the link, so you can take a look at it. Yu still suffers from "characters popping out of panels for no reason" disease, but not as much as he does here, and he definitely seems to be having more fun. That was ten years ago. I wonder if working for Marvel has sucked all the fun right out of him!

    3. Hello Greg~:- Having read some of what David's written about his Hulk run, it's impossible not to be amazed by what he achieved under the conditions that he did. I'm enjoying X-Factor too, though not as I once did the Hulk. Mind you, there were months when the Hulk was the only book worth reading from Marvel. By which I mean, it stood out in a terrible time. There's more competition now. Having said that, I think X-Factor was one of perhaps 8 or 9 comics in the 50+ I nominated as evidence of a new monthly golden age. I don't mean to slight it with faint praise.

      Thanks for the link for High Roads, which I had the strangest feeling I'd dreamt about and attached to your name in the ways of dreams when I awoke this morning. I've popped over to your post before breakfast - oh, the DUTY! - and you're right, the art is SO much more energetic and interesting. Now I can't tell whether he's telling a story or not, and that's of course m'point in the above. But from first glance, there's a dynamism in that art which is missing from IH#1.

      I'll be back to finish the article after poached eggs on toast :) Thank you.

  3. I enjoyed this issue when I read it, yet couldn't help but sense something off about that diner scene. Couldn't quite put my finger on it until I read your post – thanks for articulating it so well.

    1. Hello Matt:- Thank you for saying that. It's very much appreciated :)

  4. I've been giving these new MarvelNOW books a try, and frankly i haven't been able to get behind any of them so far. this was probably the one i liked the least; Thor was okay. i kind of enjoyed the Miss America character from the preview, but mainly for the design. i dunno, i'm guessing these just aren't for me. oh well.

    1. Hello Milton:- I fear that the Now! books may not be for you. Mostly, and to my regret, they're not for me either. I really did enjoy Miss America and I thought Thor was splendid. I enjoyed Iron Man, though aspects of the art are a problem from me. Oh, and I liked the Ant Man/FF prequel too. Beyond that .... actually, beyond that there's been a run of mediocre books. I think there's some quality to be found in Sif, which I must re-read. But generally, it's not been the success which Marvel needed ... As you say, oh well ....

  5. "Oddly enough, You chooses to present the supposedly-anxious Hill from a worm's-eye angle, which actually empowers her, as such a shot nearly always will."

    A quibble.

    I will limit myself to major pop culture here, but this simply isn't true. One of Michael Bay's signature shots is a low spin around protagonists as they realize how out of control and helpless they are, as evidenced here:


    Or consider Whedon use of a near-worm's eye as the crew of Serenity, at the raggedy edge, enacts their desperate plan. These are self-evidently not people in power:


    Practicalities also necessitate the use of the worm's eye view as well -- consider the climbing scenes in The Dark Knight Rises, where Wayne is constantly being shot from below, despite being almost completely powerless at this point in the film:


    The use of the worm's eye view is not "nearly always" used to empower, but at best "sometimes." The panel in question is actually a shot used frequently in Breaking Bad, where something is placed in the foreground to emphasize the power an object has over a character, despite its dimunitive size:


    Yu's panel clearly falls into this category: despite her ostensible position as Queen of SHIELD, Hill's power and authority are threatened by Banner's device, despite its compactness, efficiently suggesting that his intellect is as much as a menace as his alter ego.

    (Your observations about facial expressions do remain accurate here, of course.)

    There's also a smaller tradition of the worm's eye view to denote isolation and menace in horror, but I've gone on long enough. Suffice it to say that I respect you far too much to let you keep dragging the tired old "worm's eye/lack-of-power" saw around (which I believe has its sequential art origins in the pernicious HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY, but occasionally pops up in film as well).

    Quibble concluded. My deepest apologies.

    -- Jacob

    1. Hello Jacob:- No apologies necessary in the slightest. I'm going to disagree in part with your argument, and just as I've every faith that you won't mind me doing so, even as we MAY well disagree, I've no objection at all to your POV. That's particularly true given how informed and yet civil your disagreement is.

      The roots of the worms-eye-view argument may well lie in How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way for some other ill-informed critics, but this ill-informed critic absorbed it - in addition to the broad debate about how the meaning has undoubtedly slipped over time - from my years painfully studying and trying to teach Film Theory and Media in the Sixth Form Colleges of Britain. And there, we'd spent ... oh, minutes at a time arguing about the conventions of low angle shots and how that's been reinforced over time as well as fundamentally rewritten. And that's why I used to all-important caveat "nearly" in my comment. Having but a sentence to refer to the issue, and not wanting to digress in the post into the debate, I attempted to indicate my awareness of it while racing on. I was aware when I wrote it that I was reducing a massively complex issue to a straight forward and deceptively reductionist statement, and yet, in the context of the review and given that caveat, I'm going to - gulp -stick by what I said.

      To say that a convention has been consistently violated and supplanted, and that it is used in different contexts in different ways, doesn't in any way undercut the general truth of how the shot has tended - tended, I say, tended - to be used and understood. Nor does it change the fact - and I do believe that it is a fact - that we are far more likely to be impressed and even intimidated by a figure that to one degree looms above us than we are by one that we look down upon. Does this point stand as a rule? Well, nothing does in film studies, or in any other form of textual analysis that I've studied and, quite often, struggled to my best abilities and subsequent sense of shame to debate. But to argue that general meanings have collapsed, and that the basic truths of human perception have too, is, I think, to loose sight of the wood for the trees. As a general rule applied to the specific context here, I'm going to stick by it. Not because I'm unaware of the debate you've so excellently summarised, but despite it.


    2. cont

      One of the things that I find very difficult to do is to make a general statement which I believe has value and which I know references far broader debates and opens me up to valid criticism. Several times this years I've triggered debates, and in one case an absolute %&£!storm of condemnation, because I did so. Yet I think one of the problems with expert debate is that it can work to obscure broad points which do have genuine value. Now, I must say, I do hate to have given you the impression that I don't know about this debate, as I obviously have, and I feel uncomfortable about looking stupid in your eyes. But thems the risks I guess I'm opting for. Your response is well informed - exceptionally so - and your passion clear but never rude. And I'm just going to have to do the hardest thing for a bloke whose life have been spent academically dotting every T etc etc can do. Because I'm just going to have to say that I disagree in a general sense even as I agree in the sense of all the specifics you've delivered. An indefensible position? Oh, yes, I think so. And yet, I know I have to get braver about this very issue. When writing for Q, for example, when I might have 100 words to describe an artist's entire body of work and their newest epic, I find myself crippled with the longing for another ten thousand words. What I'm saying there can so easily and accurately be criticised in anything but the general sense. Yet when there's a limited space and the point is generally true, the context demands it's made. Or so I believe. And it's something I'm doing more and more, despite feeling incredibly vulnerable doing so.

      In closing, I would suggest that as a general rule - that phrase again - the worm's-eye convention is exceptionally useful. It reflects not just a tradition, but real-world experience. Comic book artists ought to be keenly aware of it so that they're can take it into consideration even when purposefully violating it. That's particularly so in comics, which have a separate set of practical constraints and an in-part distinct tradition of storytelling too to that of film and tv. Of course, the overlap is there. But I don't accept the implication that comics and film/tv can be directly compared. The vibrancy of the screen and the endlessly kinetic and meaningful choices which film and TV creators have access to constantly add greater context and thereby meaning to their work. In short, they're capable of endless redefining meaning through the management of the flow of the information they deliver. In comics, as is of course obvious, the page is still, the flow of time is frozen, the degree of information massively curtailed, and meanings are far less open to being played with. Slight imprecisions in sense have catastrophic consequences for the clarity of straight-forward narratives in comics in ways which the moving image is not subject to. This is particularly so in a melodramatic super-book, where the demands of the form insist under most conditions upon clarity and precision. To create a scene which carries ambiguous meanings when precision is called for is to squander the opportunities of the page because of ill-disciplined storytelling. Now, to stray into the film-is-not-comics argument here isn't my intention either in any depth, but hopefully you'll forgive me if I argue that I think the different context of the page compared to, for example, the moving image on the screen, comes into play here.


    3. concluded;

      This problem of a basic competency is so important because a great deal of super-comics has lost control of the precision of its storytelling. Conventions aren't being played with and new ones created from a base of knowledge so much as meaning lost through a lack of craft and application. I think there is a basic set of codes which can be used - used as tools, not bowed down to as law - to guide storytelling when it comes to the matter of transparent, involving tales. It's the absence of those as a starting point which is so harming the golly gee whiz I-CAN-DO-ANYTHING approach so common in so much of the post-Image-Nineties superbook. And regardless of how we might argue about meaning and the degree to which it is - or ever was - fixed, comics desperately need a base-level vocabulary to achieve the absolute necessary goal of, as a starting point, Making Sense.

      And so, my own apologies, I'll dodge the incoming missiles and leave the stage now. I hope the day finds you well.

  6. Hello Colin:

    I think that you really nailed why INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK was a bit underwhelming.

    Mark Waid certainly did his part about as well as could be expected. He did something rare in this era constant #1 issues and honored the number on the cover. There was a lot of new stuff going on in this issue. The story-telling engine of the Hulk got a major overhaul in 20 pages. Waid accomplished that while setting up and maintaining two different threads of suspense that each paid off. It was really well written.

    Sadly, Lenil Yu is just the right artist to tell a story that hinges on subtly shifting emotions. His faces are too stiff and expressionless. It is a shame, because Yu does have strengths in other areas. Unless the subsequent issues are vastly different in tone than the first, Yu seems to have been the wrong person to draw this title.

    1. Hello Dean:- The more I try to read Waid's script, the more I think that this book really could've a splendid debut. You're absolutely right about how it turned the whole franchise on its head in 20 pages. Sadly, it's really a two-hander and that two-hander upon which everything relies is so poorly executed in the art. I wonder if as many folks would've been so keen on the DD reboot and recognised it immediately for the pearl it was if there'd been a similarly flashy and yet unsympathetic artist on that?

      Yu certainly does have strengths. And his name alone will sell a great many books too. But if only he'd pay attention to the basics. Just the basics. There's nothing more important than making sure the story makes perfect sense and moves us accordingly.

  7. Sir--

    First, let me just say how much I enjoyed this post as a whole; it made me realize that while I was reasonably pleased by the story that was told, I did spend some time fighting through the art to get there. Not uncommon, either, now that I think about it; while I find his work enormously charming and atmospheric, Yu does seem to clash with the narratives quite a bit.

    About the worm, I have perhaps gone too far.

    I must emphasize my quibble, while still captious in the extreme, was not directed so much at the WEV convention in general as its specific application here (especially since it's the one thing on the page I thought reasonably effective). My evidence was gathered as much to defend my plea for exception as it was to assault the rule; rest assured I never for a moment thought you weren't familiar with the debate!

    So: I do, to be clear, recognize and appreciate the existence of the WEV tradition, particularly as someone who has made his own fumbling attempts at comic creation. Beyond this point, however, I fear we veer sharply toward the vast critical oblivion where all rules are superseded by response; where I see an efficient panel delivering necessary meaning by breaking a rule that deserves to be broken, you see another bit of sloppy storytelling in a page rife with similar violations.

    I did recognize your original sentence's nod toward nuance and feel terrible for having dragged you into this (and it was in a caption, too, for god's sake!); my only hope for this derail's redemption is that you can perhaps throw an asterisk up in the future when discussing WEV that links to your entirely reasonable clarification here for the sake of future efficiency. I know how difficult it is to tread between the hopelessly broad declaration and the obsessive, useless detail (as my many and varied teachers, tutors, and professors could attest) and think you do a fine job at finding the proper balance.

    But I fear that we have spent far too much time in the explication of a single and ultimately trivial panel when our time could be better spent -- myself amongst dreams, given the lateness of the hour; yourself in the composition of the no doubt imminent review of SUPERMAN: E1V2, which I await with the eagerness and faith of a child on Christmas Eve.

    Ho ho ho.

    P.S. I do hope you have the comics vs. film divide somewhere on your grand list of future posts, as it's a topic I find endlessly fascinating.

    -- Jacob

    1. Hello Jacob:- Not only has it been fun debating with you, but useful. It's good to go through the process of being called on a difficult-to-defend point by someone who knows what they're about and argues it well and fairly. But you've also raised a sensible point that I ought to have long-ago thought of myself, namely, where I know I'm moving swiftly through contentious waters, I ought to throw up a fottnote just saying "Please excuse me, I know this is a general conclusion. Do feel free to debate it beloew" :) Huzzah!

      Please do be assured that I'm not trying to argue for a fixed set of rules for storytelling. Rather, I'm against work which isn't grounded in a general grasp of the fundamentals. To break with what's gone before for a purpose, and to therefore create new ways of approaching a particular creative task, is one thing. In fact, it's the essential thing, an extension of knowledge and achievment that feeds back into the culture of storytelling. All I mind is the idea that storytelling in a popular, serial form is a question of whatever looks co-ol and pretty.

      Of course, such an approach can of course pay dividends under certain circumstances. And yet the artist who never recognises a purpose beyond fannishly pretty is unlikely to develop as they might. One of the wonders of looking back over comics history is noting how artists create new schools. One of the tragedies is seeing how some creators never really manage to consciously or unconsciously create a language which has substance as well as style. That we're so often presented with books where creators obviously have no idea how Kirby or Shuster or Fine or Wood or Adams or whoever would've solved a problem ... It's a collapse of meaning which I find so frustrating.

      But as you say, there's rules that need to be broken. There's probably not a rule in art that doesn't. In fact - pauses from typing - how could there be? But in storytelling, there has to be a purpose beyond "the creator felt like this". The retreat from an obligation to reach a general audience has seen comics all too often retreat from sense.

      Thanks for taking the time to challenge what I wrote, and to express your difference as you've gone on to. I hope it reads as the truth that it is rather than a gesture - fr it's not - but you've given me both food for thought and the chance to work through my own ideas in a way I'd not done before.

      Both Superman E12 and the comics v film debate scare the pants off of me. The first of them, however, is because I just don't how to express my feelings without repeating myself. The second ... well, that's a Big Ocean, and as in everything, I'm really a Sunday sailor happy only on the municipal lake.

      As it were.

      All the best :)

    2. Proof again that Too Busy Thinking is that rarest of things on the comics internet: a blog where the comments are worth reading.

      On this particular issue I assume the WEV relationship with power is to do with size (if they're looking down on me [the reader] they must be big/powerful) and Yu was using perspective to present the illusion of size/power status of the gadget. A trick that might have been more successful if Agent Hill had a recognisable expression?

      Either way, interesting thoughts from both of you. Thanks.

    3. Hello Mark:- Thank you for saying that about the comments, and thanks to everyone who so generously contributes here, including your good self. Jacob certainly gave me a whole range of issues to consider, and several of them are still reverberating around my skull. I'm a lucky bloke, in that the comments have a welcome habit of doing that.

      I think you're quite right to effectively point out that there's a string of factors in that panel which combine to drain it of not just drama, but clarity. Part of that is the WEV - or a degree of that - but that is part of a very strange set of choices indeed. The gadget, for example, is thrown away in the composition, while Banner is pushed out of sight for no good reason. And as you say, if Hill had had an expression that the reader could just identity and empathise with, much of the problem could have been sidestepped. When it comes to emotions, I'm of a mind that the basics of character's feelings should be obvious without the script being referenced at all. Yet when the emotion is confusing even when the script is there, then there is really a problem.

  8. During Greg Pak's run, Bruce Banner was depowered but told Reed Richards and others that he knew the Hulk's comeback was inevitable. If he didn't accept the Hulk on an emotional level, he at least knew the Hulk was a part of him intellectually.

    I'll pick this up at some point because my bar for Hulk comics is not that high. As long as they clear "Not Terrible," I'm on board. It sounds like Indestructible Hulk 1 can safely be rated Not Terrible. Hopefully, future issues will be better now that the set-up is out of the way. Also, it's Marvel; if you don't like the art, wait two issues and they'll change it. (Honestly, one of the most aggravating realities of modern Big 2 super-hero comics.)

    - Mike Loughlin

    1. Hello Mike:- Thanks for the background on the Greg Pak run, which I respected for its commercial clout and yet never personally came to grips with. It always seemed to be about a great many very big super-people hitting each other in a way that meant I struggled to find an emotional snare to keep me around. But my comment about the book's success in the marketplace wasn't meant in any way to sound disrespectful. To create a franchise out of a single, hardly-bestselling book was no little achievement.

      I didn't know you were a man of the Hulk. I've never been a huge fan, though the mid-70s cute'n'childish version was often endearing. And of course Peter David's run too.

      The set-up here IS interesting, and it is of course Mark Waid who's doing the setting up. I do want to follow the book, but while I can cope with adequate art if it's clear and precise, I can't cope with more fan-pleasing fare that doesn't nail the story in place.

      And Waid's kept me hooked on DD despite the artistic musical chairs. So there's hope. (Please do feel free to let me know if a good future issue appears. I'd be grateful.)

  9. The Hulk & I go all the way back to the Bixby/ Ferrigno years. My 4-5 yr old self was both enthralled and scared by the big green guy, and boy was blank-eyed, about-to-transform David Banner freaky!

    The Peter David/ Dale Keown run made me a fan of both the character and comics as a whole. This happened when I was 12. Combined with fond memories of the live action show, cartoon, and Mego action figure (a favorite for years of my childhood), the Hulk has imprinted on me.

    The Pak issues were good, solid big-monsters-hitting-each-other stuff. If you didn't stick with them, you would have missed the stronger-than-expected emotional content. I can't recommend them to you if they didn't grab you initially. Planet Hulk was probably the best story in the lot, and the father/ son theme in Incredible Hulks 601-611 was well-done. On the other hand, the storytelling was occasionally weak due to crossovers in which key scenes happened in Jeph Loeb's Hulk, and decompression and inconsistent art didn't help. They weren't as good as the better Peter David issues, but I still liked them.

    Then again, I didn't hate the Loeb issues I read, either (except for the execrable issue 600), and I read a little over half of them. Ed McGuiness's art worked for big monster fights, and having Art Adams do some fill-ins goes a long way. My taste is now permanently suspect, I suppose. If nothing else, that's your proof that I really, really like the Hulk.

    - Mike Loughlin

    1. Hello Mike:- There's little defense against a childhood love, and nor should there be. I just slightly too over the hill for the Bixby Hulk to work for me, an ancient 15 year old to your sprightly 5. But for that, I suspect that I'd be sharing your fondness for the character.

      And that's especially true if I'd have had a Mego Hulk :)

      Planet Hulk is something which I've only a passing experience of. As you say, it did seem all big-monsters-hitting-each-other, and while I've nothing against that, it wasnt a snare for me. As for Loeb's Hulk issues, I thought they were no more and no less than would be expected, which isn't, I have to say, a particularly good thing. I read a run of them when I had a year's cheap sub to Marvel Digital. When Art Adams was the artist, it was - however - easy to find something of value on the page. That did indeed go a long way.

      Permanently suspect? We all have those pop-culture weaknesses. It took the presence of Rob Liefeld on the page to stop me buying comics supposedly featuring the first Battlestar Galactica, for eample. Indefensible? Undoubtedly, but when the new series is out by DnA, I'll be there, no matter how dodgy the original programme so often was.

  10. I just remembered what is probably one of the more famous WEVs in modern comics, the cover to Powers 1:


    It's particularly interesting when compared to one of the covers for Volume 2:


    (To be clear, I consider the great debate tabled; I was just excited by these well-known examples and wanted to share.)

    -- Jacob

    1. Hello Jacob:- Lovely examples. I particular like how clever the first example is, in that we're being told that even a powerful guy like the piece's subject still needs to be careful, given the dark, the floodlights, the gun and the flying birds-of-prey-people. It's a fine example of what we were both talking about in the comments above as we progressed, namely the use of conventions in innovative work. Both covers are good, of course. The first one seemed to me to be very relevant.

      Or, TPIAW: good calls!

  11. thanks for sharing.

  12. i just read this, issues #1 & 2. Blew my mind, which is of average intelligence, I'm afraid, but nontheless... Greatness, I say! Say, it got me to thinking about what comics can do that movies can't, and hence the reverse: when Banner slams his fists on the diner table in frustration, it didn't have the "jump scare" effect Banner elicits in the Avengers movie. oh my, deep thoughts, lol :D

    The new Iron Man book is great as well- worth mentioning, as Tony makes an appearance in Indestructible #2. Check it out, Man!
    -Sincerely, the other Colin

    1. Hello SDTP:- Hah. Keep me honest, now. It helps to know enthusiastic folks can be. Keeps my thoughts in perspective.

      I did read the new Iron Man series by Mr Gillen. There's alot of promise there, though I fear that I just can't afford it at the rate that Marvel is producing. Oh well.

  13. Are we supposed to believe that either Banner or Hill believe that the Hulk can be let loose on a target and the consequences of that controlled?

    Your statement here seems to highlight the Achilles' heel of this entire premise. I haven't been keeping up with the Hulk, but--isn't this still the Hulk? Once Banner changes to the Hulk on a SHIELD mission, why would he think he's a "company man" on SHIELD's payroll? He'd probably trash whatever was in the room that provoked his change, but what then? He dusts his hands, smirks, and hops back on board the Helicarrier for lunch before changing back to Banner and heading back to the lab?

    Looks good on paper, doesn't it. How about, instead, the Hulk leaps off to disappear once again, with Banner's little arrangement not even registering in his head? And maybe attacking the Helicarrier on his way out for good measure?

    The one element I think I like about this series is Banner's obvious (if slight) instability he's showing while laying out his proposal, a state of mind which is understandable considering how pointless and frustrating his life as Bruce Banner has been for so long--as well as the nicely-made point that his reputation as a scientist is going to be almost totally occluded by his identity as the Hulk. Frankly, we don't know Banner's potential for scientific achievement beyond harnessing gamma radiation for WMDs. So an arrangement like this is intriguing, if something of a recycling of his time with the Pantheon. Yet in the Pantheon, we clearly had a Hulk with Banner's mind; but since Banner makes such a point to Hill of delivering the Hulk's indestructible power--power which depends on mindless rage--I can only conclude that the Hulk he intends to offer is one that can be sent to attack without any of Banner's weaknesses or scruples. Or, in other words, any of Banner.

    We got a team player in The Avengers film without explanation. I'm not letting this series so easily off the hook.

    1. Hello Comicsfan:- You're right, it's a strange contradiction to have paraded so obviously in the book. Perhaps there was a fundamental change in the Hulk's relationship to Banner, and in the restraint which he can tolerate, in the comics leading up to this issue, but if so, I never saw it and there's no mention of it here. I have recently read an Avengers tale in which Banner and the Hulk seem to be able to switch at will, and in which the Hulk seems happy to act out Banner's desires even over long periods of time. Whatever major change to the status quo has occurede - I'm assuming that's so - I think it might have explained in a more helpful way.

      I do have every faith that Mr Waid's got it all under control. I don't doubt that it will make sense. But I do think that's a big issue to leave unexplained, and in doing so, Hill gets left looking like an idiot. Combined with what for me was imprecise and unhelpful artwork, I won't be back for awhile. There was too much unexplained in story and art for me to want to. A shame. I'm a huge fan of MW. But there's too many other books and too little dosh. I'll pop back somewhere around #6 and see how it's going.

  14. Hi, again, Colin--

    While this essay is thought-provoking as usual, I wanted to thank you for this observation in particular:

    "In a Marvel Universe that's top-heavy with the notably bright as well as the super-genius, it's a struggle to think of a single one that's consistently displayed the self-awareness and emotional maturity of anything more than a teenager."

    With the weirdness that's playing out at DC lately, I've been unable to enjoy their books, but I find I'm not really able to completely embrace Marvel for my superhero needs either. And it's been strange feeling like that when there are many fine books coming out. I can intellectly admire the new Fantastic Four and I love Mike Allred almost unconditionally (almost = The Golden Plates), but I picked up the first issue on the recommendation of you and Mark White and haven't picked up anymore, despite Mike Allred drawing a mighty She-Hulk.

    I think there is something about the embrace of that level of emotional maturity--the angst of teenage boys--that puts me off. And I suspect that with Disney seeing Marvel as a way of picking up an audience of boys, there's not going to be much reason for that to change.

    Anyway, thank you for helping me start to work out what's putting me off.


    1. Hello Carol:- Thank you for popping in. Your presence is always a welcome one, and I appreciate your generous words, I do.

      You are right about the first Fantastic Four by MF and MA, and things haven't improved. (I've dropped out already.) I found aspects of that debut charming even if the storytelling was ... problematical. But the whole business of Reed ONCE AGAIN lying to Sue ate away at my regard as time passed, and the more that happened, the more the problems with the other characters became even more obvious. Why was Ben being such an idiot? Why was Sue reduced once again to a Fifties housewife, albeit with an extended household rather than a nuclear family?

      It's the absence of what you rightly call the emotional maturity of teenage boys which makes the likes of Waid's Daredevil, Gillen's JIM and UXM, and Aaron's Wolverine and The X-Men so precious, and sadly so rare.

      It's worrying that the corporate powers seem to work on the assumption that teenage boys can't cope with emotional and intellectual depth. The great and successful comics properties have always been smart and human as well as packed with spectacle. The books that have counted the most have tended to be the books which aspired in untypical ways to extend the, er, envelope of blokeishness. If all there is to be is a manic focus on the bloke-fan, then there's going to have to be a constant process of crassification in order to hold fragile attention spans. Off with the digits, ammonia in the eyes, death, torture, torture, death and so on.

      Strangely enough, as of course I know you'd be able to express far better than me, the best super-books have always been confrontational not in their degree of gore and objectivisation, but in the aspirational quality of their contents. From Stan Lee and his collaborators extending the range of the superhero tale into soap and playfully cod-metaphysics onwards, the best comics have been powered by ambition rather than contempt. The reverse of that as a deliberate modern-day policy in certain qualities is the perfect expression of corporate-minded thinkers who really don't understand the matter at all.

      Pah, and pah again.

  15. It's refreshing to see someone analyze the construction of comics, but I feel you got this part really wrong.

    Specifically, "Heads and arms break through panel borders for no narrative reason at all beyond creating the impression that something - whatever it might be - is going on."

    The reason I say that is because of a comment Simonson made on his FB page, which may be indicative of Waid's suggestion:


    "..that outer line is the outside edge of the trim. I wanted to suggest that he's too big for the page."

    To me, what Yu was going for (perhaps at Waid's suggestion) was that the diner was crowded, elbows constantly bumping into Banner. One thing Waid wanted to convey was Hill being nervous about Banner transforming.

    So the feeling of claustrophobia caused by overlapping parts breaking into other panels is an intentional choice I feel.

    As for the changing expressions, again, I'd say you've interpreted it one way, whereas I read it as another. To me, Hill is generally collected, but can be surprised. She's distracted by the looming deadline and has a lot on her mind. So, it's possible she can be distracted momentarily and return to her unflappable self almost immediately thereafter. For her to be surprised but bury her nose back into the tablet overseeing an operation.

    Anyways, I'll definitely have to check out the rest of your reviews. Thanks!

    1. Hello there;- Thank you disagreeing in such an understanding and well-informed fashion. If I disagree back, it's not meant to seem like stubborness. For the truth is that though I think your explanations for what Yu may have been attempting make perfect sense, the work itself doesn't transmit the effect you suggest. Or rather, it doesn't for me! The scenes in the cafe were confusing without being informative from where I stand, while the expressions remain obtuse and excluding. Yet that's just from my place in the cheap seats, and obviously what I feel isn't true for you. I certainly wouldn't want to suggest that your stance can possibly be wrong. How could it be?

      As far as I can see, the two main reasons to write a post about such a thing are to (1) get a better idea of one's own opinion while (2) having the opportunity to grasp how other's feel about the same issue. I appreciate you expressing so clearly and generously an oppossing point of view. It means that both targets have been reached! Yet since there's no third point on that list - no "(3) to find out the objective truth!!!!" - all I can offer is my respectful disagreement.

      Thanks for popping in. I hope that my take helped you sharpen up your own obviously well-thought out opinion just a little more, as you certainly did for mine :)