by Jessica Greenlee
In Indestructible Hulk Volume 1, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Bruce Banner opted to give up trying to be free of the Hulk and to focus his energy on scientific discovery. He made a bargain with Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In return for a laboratory and his choice of assistants he would provide them with any advances he made, and Hulk could be called on to deal with messy, Hulk-sized conflicts. It proved a good bargain for all involved, and Indestructible Hulk Volume 2, Gods and Monster, which collects Indestructible Hulk 6-10, sees this agreement continuing to develop. It turns out that Banner has chosen his assistants not only for their scientific expertise but because each has a problem he believes he–and the Hulk–can help them with. The team travels together to Jotunheim on a scientific expedition and ends up tangling with frost giants (of course!) and meeting a pre-Avengers Thor. Back in our world, dealing with an illicit arms shipment turns out to be more in Hulk’s area of expertise (lots of smashing) and teams him up with Daredevil. This, too, is a winning team-up: Daredevil is one of the heroes who has a genuine friendship with both Hulk and Banner, treating them with equal respect, though he treads carefully around Hulk due to his currently varying intelligence.
Mark Waid’s work in reinventing Hulk continues to be top-notch. Relaxing the tensions between Hulk, Banner, and the authorities opens up new storylines, allowing Banner to be the top-ranking scientist he is and for his discoveries to work out in the way only Marvel-universe science can. Banner’s decision to use his hard-won knowledge about dealing with inner monsters to help his assistants is a welcome sign of maturity and opens the way to any number of fascinating subplots; only one starts to be explored in this volume. His somewhat malicious teasing of Hill and her prickly responses add a note of fun–and unease. Also, It’s always good to see Hulk team up with another hero to do some smashing, and his battle against the frost giants at Thor’s side is a stellar example.
An additional pleasure in this volume is seeing Walter Simonson draw past-Thor in the style of past-Thor: His god of thunder appears to have dropped in from an earlier comic, while still fitting into the decidedly more modern world Simonson draws for the rest of the panel. Scalera’s work in issues 9-10 is also impressive, especially the more fragmented, explosive moments when Hulk gets involved with the fighting.
There are hints in Gods and Monster that the carefully balanced truce between Banner and S.H.I.E.L.D. may be ending soon. I hope it lasts for a while longer; it is allowing for some truly interesting, layered stories.