Only a week after the last issue, Mark Waid’s Hulk returns for an issue that for some reason is labelled as an ‘Inhumanity’ tie-in, but actually has nothing at all to do with the Inhumans, which is odd, unless I wasn’t paying attention to the real reasoning behind the threat Hulk fought in this issue. What this issue is instead is a great way to refocus the title on it’s core mission statement after the (very fun) time-travel diversion story, as well as shed some spotlight on one of Bruce Banner’s lab assistants that hasn’t already had some.
The issue begins with Banner realising that, because of his jaunts through time, he’s fallen behind on his pledge to ‘build’ and deliver a new invention that will improve mankind every week. So he gets to work, only, in a brilliant series of scenes, every time he nears completion of a project, he discovers that another one of Marvel’s big brains, be it Tony Stark, Hank Pym or Reed Richards has beaten him to it and invented the exact same thing! Not only is this very funny, but Waid does a good job of showing us just where Banner ranks in the Genius tables, he’s almost as good as the others, just not quite there.
This of course makes Banner angry and you know the rest, he starts Hulking out and tells Jessup to call up Maria Hill and give him something to smash. She tells him there is a situation down in Mexico, but she doesn’t need the Hulk for it. Even though Jessup has manage to calm him down through the power of gum, Banner still wants to go punch something, so he and Jessup use some awesome invisibility hoodies to sneak on board.
Throughout all of this, we are treated to brief flashbacks of Jessup’s backstory, his mother was an alcoholic, and when he refused to answer her calls, it somehow led to both her and his dad being dead. I can’t tell if it was a suicide pact or what, but it was dark stuff, and it explains why Jessup is so eager to help Banner and not let him down. He let his mother down once, and it killed his whole family. Even after 16 issues, I still don’t feel like Waid has defined Banner’s various assistants as characters, so stuff like this is very welcome, even when the end of the issue implies it probably won’t matter in the long run.
Banner and Jessup arrive in Mexico, sneak into the pyramid where the weird shit is going down, and Hulk proceed to smash up a big lizard-monster that is coming out of a portal for some reason. Mahmud Asrar’s art comes into it’s own with these action scenes, which really get across the appropriate sense of scale and impact of a Hulk-sized fight. I’ve been a fan of his art since Supergirl, and I’m glad he’s on this title now.
In the end, Hulk and Jessup use their brains and brawn to defeat the monster, and Jessup manages to sneak away the weird sphere that opened the portal, and reiterates that he’ll never let Banner down, which is true, as Banner’s narration reveals that in a week’s time from this moment, Jessup will die to save humanity. Dammit, just when we learn who one of these characters is and start to like him, Waid kills him! I’m excited to see just how all of this will go down, and that this title is back on doing what it set out to do, make the Hulk work as a hero and a part of SHIELD, and rehabilitate Bruce Banner.