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Subj: Re: Mark Waid's Hulk #2 - The Case for Narration...?
Posted: Sat May 03, 2014 at 09:03:05 pm EDT (Viewed 319 times)
Reply Subj: What is MUST READ tomrrow?
Posted: Tue Apr 29, 2014 at 11:15:53 pm EDT (Viewed 385 times)
Computer ate my first draft report on this issue so I shall get right to the point and confess to some disappointment with the second issue of Mark Waid's Hulk...
Last issue of this relaunched title delivered a fine first opening chapter and promised a very different direction to the one which gradually had readers deserting the previous short lived Indestructible Hulk series from Mark Waid. We saw the sad fate of Bruce Banner, and saw the groundwork laid out for an intriguing 'Whodunnit'. A mysterious agency has an agent inside SHIELD who delivered precision shots into the back of Bruce Banner's head designed not to kill him, but leave him mentally crippled. The main thrust of the issue saw two bystanders from Banners past introduced and by issues end the direction headed in seemed set to be the use of these two new characters (a Doctor and 'Nurse') to serve as Banners support and a point of reference for the reader to follow. The other implication by relation was that with Banner damaged and now invalided the Hulk himself would naturally become more prominent in the narrative, as Bruce Banner's distorted self the Hulk offers him both protection and a possible outlet from his now severe disability. So in place of Banners influence in the book we would now see the Hulk take a more active role, with Doctor and 'Nurse' in support...
Except, with issue #2's arrival, none of these things occur.
There is no sign of our two new characters at all, their fate is a complete mystery. The Hulk appears for eight pages, but the only thing he says is in repeating the irate Bruce Banners last words. Is this really his book? Is it Banners? Either way, given both are reduced now to the status of moving wallpaper and FX they are now, bizarrely, the least interesting parts of the book.
Reading issue 2 the basic elements of the plot which is unfolding are all perfectly fine. We see all the familiar staples of the Incredible Hulk's long history present - a smalltown America setting, Bruce Banner picked on by redneck residents and almost Hulking out, shadowy secret agencies encroaching and watching Banner closely, an old foe turning up out of the blue in dramatic fashion... and the subsequent carnage resulting as the Hulk answers the challenge and smalltown America tumbles. Its all there. All very traditional 'Hulk' elements.
But even with the superb Mark Bagley illustrating, little of it has any feeling or passion. Why...?
The problem with this issue is entirely structural, and coming from the lack of the fundamental necessity in any storytelling, that being the need for a centralised voice in the piece - In any story there has to be a character or a narrator who acts as the audiences focus and point of reference, their guide as it were.
Last Issue I noted the similarities to the final two years of Bill Mantlo's time on the character, like Waid Mantlo removed Bruce Banner from the series and leaving the book with just the Hulk as its driving force, but now mindless and incapable of speech. In order to make such a format work the book adopted the omniscient narrators convention as its focal point and ironically despite no longer having an intelligent and vocal central character the book became more cerebral and engaging as a result. It was as much a response to the changing audience as it was necessity, but Bill Mantlo was resorting to a convention that was actually very popular and immensely successful in doing this. The use of narration was certainly not a new thing, comics had always used it, but up until the early 1980s it was never used as intensely nor as intelligently. Perhaps no greater example of this technique in vivid use comes in the shape of Alan Moore, who had by this point become well entrenched with Swamp Thing and used Narration heavily to deliver stories which redefined the storytelling in the industry.
Thirty years on it is incredible to think that this is a technique few writer still use... but this then is one of the fundamental flaws in Mark Waid's new direction for the title. Character walk onto panel with barely an introduction, the location shifts between pages and it is left to the reader to work out where they are now. We've seen The Hulk is capable of speech from the previous issue, so why has he nothing to say here?! He can follow SHIELD's directions so we know there is intelligence in there, what then is his agenda? What does he want? How does he feel about the recent events? Who knows...
But It offers just one more reason why Issue #2 of the title would have benefitted enormously from some judicious use of authors narration.
The star of the issue is unquestionably Mark Bagley. His energy is reminiscent of Paul Pelletier, but he delivers a more disciplined world for the Hulk and Banner while conveying some nicely nuances scenes. Pages 5 & 6 in particular stand out as we meet Bruce for the first time and the extent of his damage is revealed. Now reduced to the age of a six year olds mentally there seems nothing left of the man he used to be, with no narration at all in the book Mark Waid uses the 'Show, don't tell' method of storytelling and the result leaves the reader in the position of feeling there is a wall between them and Banner. Indeed a wall between them and virtually every character in the book. Things happen on the page but it is almost impossible to connect or feel with any of it.
Even the resurrection of the Abomination feels forced and improbable. Now brain-dead the character shares the same fate that afflict both Banner and the Hulk, he is reduced to being an effect. A prop. Which is a detail that might point to Waid's new format for the title being rather more than just poorly thought out. For Mark Waid is far too good a writer to not see the fundamental problems in not having an clear central voice for the story at hand; Waid famously used narration on his seminal run on DC comics' The Flash for just such reasons. He surely knows full well the necessity of such a focal point in any story to be able to keep the reader onboard and interested in the unfolding plot.
This choice of a lobotomised lead character and his mute/dumb alter-ego is unworkable. Next issue needs to see the book get back on track and deliver a focal character the reader can invest in or Waids run will be a short one indeed based on the example of this particular one...
The Hulk #2, not terrible, just not great. Praise be to Mark Bagley for delivering such a superb exercise in storytelling however. A fine talent who raises the level of the book considerably higher than where it has been in the last two years. Hopefully Mark Waid recovers his storytelling wits with next issue and the two can really start to put their stamp on the series.
On the one hand there is an irony here in seeing a Bruce Banner reduced the mental state that embodied the original childlike Hulk,
on the other though since the Hulk seems unimpaired by Banners injury - is this perhaps a hint of Banner's shocked psyche being replaced by one of his other 'selves'...?
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