Today, Ethan and Drew are discussing Indestructible Hulk 9, originally released June 19th, 2013.
Ethan: Given time, life is going to throw us a curveball that we can’t quite hit, no matter how on top of our game we are. The politicians most on-message always seem to make the inevitable career-ending gaffe; level-headed Olympians of spotless character waver in a moment of weakness and shoot up to get the gold. When we’re at a pivotal moment, the people around us can help encourage (or goad) us on to success, or inject a much-needed grain of reality into our head with a well placed word. We’ve seen Banner in a mentoring role with his researchers, but in Indestructible Hulk #9, writer Mark Waid and artist Matteo Scalera take a look at the interactions Banner has with his peers, Director Maria Hill and Daredevil, and how they each keep him going in their own signature ways.
This time, S.H.I.E.L.D. is after a shipment of Thor-level munitions being smuggled into the country, and they aim to strike while the cargo is still on the destroyer-looking ship. Hulk is the equivalent of a breaching charge, jumping out of a plane and punching through the deck… though he didn’t know that was his role until he pulls the ripcord on his defective parachute. Director Hill enjoys her practical jokes. Banner’s unnamed contact — the one he checks in with on a weekly basis as insurance against being killed by S.H.I.E.L.D. — is along for the ride this time, and it turns out to be his lawyer, Daredevil (Matt Murdock). The team subdues the crew and secures the shipment, minus one superweapon. Banner and Daredevil charge into the city to track it down, locating it in a bar. The smuggler manages to trigger the weapon — an ultrasound gun on steroids — before either of them can get to him, incapacitating the hyper-sensitive Daredevil, and even stopping Hulk in his tracks. The bar erupts in a huge explosion, apparently KO’ing the heroes and throwing the bad guy clear. He flees to an unassuming brownstone to complete the arms deal, where the issue closes on a shot of Baron Zemo, reclining in all his bad eminence.
Though he only has one panel in this issue, here’s a quick recap on Baron Zemo, since it looks like we may have to deal with him more in the future. In a word: wackjob. In a few more words: our Zemo is Helmut J. Zemo, 13th Baron of the name; his dad was the first Zemo mentioned in Marvel, your standard Nazi mad scientist who liked testing bioweapons on people. Zemo the Younger initially followed in his father’s footsteps, mainly messing with Captain America (like all the best Nazi supervillains do), until he falls into a bunch of really powerful boiling glue during a fight. Bummer of a way to go. After that, he shows up with some great facial scars and married to a woman who was imprinted with the brain patterns of his late father. Um. Ew. Eventually he grows out of that… uh… phase? and tries to be a superhero as the leader of the Thunderbolts. Doesn’t go well, superheroes tend to dislike ex-nazis, you can’t come play in our playhouse, etc, etc. Zemo goes on to make life difficult for Bucky, Trick Shot, and Hawkeye. And now, apparently, he’s kicking back in some random corner of Manhattan.
But forget Zemo! What the heck happened to Big Red & Green (the Christmas Crusaders!) back at that bar? How the heck did a gun stop Hulk from smashing? Granted, these particular guns WERE billed as “Thor-level ordnance,” a vague-ish term I’m taking to mean “powerful enough to kill a god,” kind of like the “Hulk-buster” tech that pops up from time to time. Neat little turn of phrase that this gear gets rated against Thor rather than the Hulk, since we just ended a Thor-centric arc. Even so, given the wide range of things that the Hulk’s been shot with / eaten by in this title so far, I was a little irked by the fact that this special ultrasound gun apparently can make a dent in the Hulk where the other threats fell short. First, guns don’t have personalities like supervillains do. If somethings going to throw the Hulk off his stride, I’d rather it be something that has some motivation and cheesy monologue rather than a big rectangular chunk of metal that, when you push a button, goes “KREEEHHHMMM.” Second, if we think back to Hulk’s encounter with the Mastermind, I thought that we confirmed that his strength was “incalculable” and increases exponentially the angrier he gets. Maybe getting zapped with a bunch of small-frequency waves doesn’t make him that angry. I couldn’t tell ya.
Gimmicky gun aside, I liked the attention given to Banner’s relationships with Hill and Daredevil. Even after Banner pushes Hill’s buttons by chatting about top-secret S.H.I.E.L.D. do-ingsover the phone, she seems to be starting to think about Banner as a person instead of a weapon when she hands him a parachute and tells him he can rest a bit and take a back seat this time. Sure Bruce, even though you do everything you can to drive Hill crazy, you should definitely jump out of a plane in human-form with nothing more than a parachute that SHE PERSONALLY GAVE YOU. She’s a trained agent, a trooper; she doesn’t mind all the times you challenge her authority and break the rules she cherishes. Or, wait, maybe not.
On the other side, we have Banner’s relationship with Daredevil. When Banner signed up to work direclty with S.H.I.E.L.D., he was aware that at some point, he might be viewed as more of a danger than an asset to the point that the Helicarrier people might try to off him. To balance this threat from his new employer, he decided to set up a recurring phone call with his lawyer, Matt Murdock, with the reasoning that if he fails to check in, Murdock will know something is amiss and can come looking for him, or avenge him if he’s been killed. This kind of trust is hard to come by, but anyone who knows Murdock knows that he’s a pretty decent candidate. So it makes sense that when Hulk is in the grip of his monolithic rage and about to murder an enemy combatant that the person who can snap him out of it is Daredevil.
Drew, I failed to get to the great art Scalera throws our way — were there any panels that particularly grabbed your eye? And how do you feel about the so-called “Thor-level” tech these low-lifes are toting around?
Drew: So, basically, a sound so loud it can do as much damage as a rampaging god? I was going to make a joke about the Who, but it turns out their title as world’s loudest band has been claimed by others several times since then, and may now rest with the Foo Fighters (take a minute for that to really sink in). But seriously, how loud does a sound have to be to equal Thor? The eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 is considered one of the loudest sounds in recorded history, and that destroyed nearly two-thirds of an island, and killed over 36,000 people, which is objectively pretty god-like (of course, most of that destruction was caused by the explosion that caused the sound, and not the sound itself, but let’s not split hairs here). Then again, we only see this gun blow up a bar, so I’m not exactly sure exactly what we’re dealing with, here.
(While I have the opportunity, I have to draw everyone’s attention to a sound known only as the “Bloop,” which is in contention for the loudest sound ever recorded, with the wrinkle that it was underwater. I only bring it up because, in spite of being impossibly loud, we don’t actually know what caused it. That is to say, the Bloop was not affiliated with any island-levelling event, in spite of being louder than Krakatoa. Maybe really loud sounds don’t cause Thor-level damage, after all.)
At any rate, the point is: this thing is dangerous — especially now that it’s in the hands of Baron Zemo. Banner and Murdoch may not be the most obvious team-up, but Waid flexes his prowess with both characters to elevate the pairing beyond a marketing gimmick. On the abstract level, Matt’s subtler methods of experiencing the world is a fascinating counterpoint to Hulk, but my favorite moment of this issue emphasizes the differences between Matt and Bruce.
Of course Bruce can’t keep up with Matt — the stunts he pulls are stressful. Heck, Bruce doesn’t even like New York because it’s so stressful. It’s not a conflict that had ever occurred to me, but it makes perfect sense. Waid is particularly adept at picking out these little details that feel almost inevitable, but add an impressive amount of reality to his stories.
I’m quite fond of Scalera’s work in this issue. It somehow bridges the gap between Leinil Wu and Walt Simonson, which doesn’t sound like it should work, but somehow does beautifully. The obvious choice for a favorite passage is the scene where Hulk takes on one of my favorite roles for him — unsubtle threat of horrible violence. I’m including the whole passage so we can all bask in the brilliant pacing of it.
It’s a simple enough gag, but it reemphasizes just how logical this team-up is: who else would be ballsy enough to use Hulk as their backup? Waid subtly reminds us how dangerous Hulk is at the start of the issue, where S.H.I.E.L.D. is carful to give him a wide berth while he smashes the boat. He also introduces the idea that Matt has a bit of influence over Hulk because Bruce likes and trusts him, which is both an interesting piece of mythology AND an efficient piece of relationship development.
All in all, this might be my favorite issue of Waid’s run — it’s quick, breezy, and has no shortage of clever ideas. That may be some of my love of his Daredevil run rubbing off, but it’s well deserved. I can’t wait to see more of this team-up next time. Color me excited.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?