Monkeyshining: The Incredible Hulk #14 Reviewon October 2, 2012 at 9:11 am
I don’t know what writer Jason Aaron has been drinking, smoking, snorting or inhaling recently, but I want some. Because with The Incredible Hulk #14, Aaron is two-for-two this week on producing some of the biggest, most fun comics I’ve read in recent memory.
I have run hot and cold on Aaron’s run of The Incredible Hulk; at times it has been an different kind of character study of both Banner and Hulk, using the gimmick of separating them, and then making them enemies in the same body in an active way that I’ve never seen before, that has been generally unique and somewhat fun. At other times it has, in my opinion, grossy misjudged the relationship between Banner and Hulk, leading to a cuddle scene in issue 7 that damn near put me off the book. But regardless of the variations, The Incredible Hulk has always been interesting, which has been enough to keep me around for long past the “next couple of issues” I figured it would when the book debuted last October, even despite the constantly rotating tag team of artists that have drawn the book since originally solicited artist Mark Silvestri apparently discovered that the term “monthly comic book” hadn’t become just a playful suggestion between 1997 and now.
Well, it all comes together in The Incredible Hulk #14, where Aaron gives us big, stupid, violent fun, from clingy Doombots, to horny mercenaries to monkey pilots to a feared mercenary known only as The Vegetable. Alternating between tension and silliness and violence and humor, this issue is just a Goddamned blast.
The issue picks up after Banner and The Hulk, via a videotaped conversation, have put aside the differences that come when the dude living rent-free in your head has been actively trying to kill you while you sleep (am I right, ladies?). The Hulk reunites with Amanda Von Doom and The Mad Squad to go take revenge on Doctor Doom (no relation… although like Chekhov said: “If you show someone named Von Doom in act one, you’d better show her having done the Latverian Iron Mask Ride by act three”), while in the meantime, Doom’s Doombots have preemptively prepared to battle Hulk by hiring feared psychic assassin The Vegetable: a bedridden dude who’s been in a coma for 19 years and spent his time learning to kill you with his mind. Then stuff explodes and dudes get shot in the face.
The one downside to this issue is that, being part of an integrated, long-form story that has been going on for a year, it might be difficult for readers with no exposure to the story to date to know who everyone is and why certain things are happening… but allow me to suggest that it doesn’t really matter. Sure, it makes things a little less confusing to know Amanda Von Doom’s prior relationship with Hulk, but you’ll find that it in no way prevents you from enjoying her monkey pilot in the “Keep On Truckin’” cap. Yeah, it’s probably helpful to know that Hulk is after Doctor Doom for separating Banner from him early in the series, but that won’t stop you from giggling at Doom’s Doombots, who simultaneously prepare for attack while compulsively checking the answering machine to see if Master’s called. Would knowing how the current detente between Banner and Hulk occurred help your reading comprehension? Sure, but it won’t stop you from cackling when Banner gives control to Hulk, represented by a mental control panel with a joystick, little buttons labelled “reason” and “compromise”, and a giant red button labelled “SMASH”.
The art on The Incredible Hulk has varied widely since the first issue; like I said before, original artist Mark Silvestri took this project on as if his contract was the statement: “Sure, I’ll draw Hulk every month for a year! Now who’s got more Jack Daniels? Hey, somebody pissed my pants!” So it feels like the book’s had a different artist every month… and this month’s artist, Jefte Palo, is actually pretty interesting. I’d only previously seen his stuff on a few issues of last year’s Black Panther: The Man Without Fear, and frankly I don’t remember it all that well, since other issues of that book were done by personal favorite Francisco Francavilla. But I liked Palo’s art on this issue; he has a style that reminded me a little bit of Bill Sienkiewicz and Simon Bisley – strong lines with exaggerated, sometimes grotesque faces (Check out the salesmen from Brain Damage Inc. and tell me you can’t see Sienkiewicz’s influence), and an often angled, stylized physicality that looks cool while not generally resembling anything realistic. Let’s just say if porn stars could figure out how to stand the way Palo draws Amanda Von Doom, no porn would be free, and the Occupy kids would be camping outside fuck sets in the San Fernando Valley. Still, despite the stylization, Palo’s storytelling is clear and his layouts are easy to follow. If you like a naturalistic art style, you’re gonna have a problem with this book, but as someone who grew up reading 80s comics, I liked the look.
This entire issue feels like Jason Aaron wrote the outline for a standard Hulk story: Hulk decides to take revenge on Doctor Doom, Hulk finds some allies, Doctor Doom’s Doombot prepare to repel the assault, then battle ensues. But it seems to me that he then took that outline of general scenes, cracked his knuckles and Irished his coffee, and said, “You know what would be fucking cool?” every step of the way. And it absolutely and completely works; The Incredible Hulk #14 is loaded to the gills with laughs, cool visuals, and just plain fun. If you haven’t been reading the book until now, you won’t know what brought Hulk to this point, but who gives a shit? This book has a monkey flying a jet Winnebago. It’s cool. Check it out.