And, NOW!: The Indestructible Hulk

And, NOW! is a series of posts about Marvel NOW!

The Hulk is probably one of Marvel's more confusing characters right now, certainly much more than any of his teammates from the Avengers movie, all of whom have had relatively stable comics versions for some time. There are the colored Hulks, for one, and Banner and Hulk were separated for a while and didn't he spend some time off of the planet, or something? All of that should be set to change, though, with Marvel's best under-the-radar writer teaming with one of its favorite artists to handle a character who seemed to get a particularly favorable response from audiences last summer.

Look: Mark Waid's main idea for Indestructible Hulk is fabulous. We've got Banner and Hulk together again, which is great, and we've got a Banner with a real personality and a certain amount of ambition, which is nice to see. The good Dr. is intent on using his time as himself to save the world, and he's decided that he's going to manipulate his greener half for destruction that's both necessary and controlled. I love that Waid has, finally, written a Banner who is  comfortable in both who he it is that he is and in what it is that he can become. I love that, finally, we get a Banner who understands that he is, as he tells Maria Hill, incurable.

Given all of this, Indestructible Hulk should be a great comic. But its not. This is Lenil Yu's fault. I know a lot of people like Yu, but I'm not sure why; to my eyes, his work looks sketchy, half-finished, like he just kind of churned it out. Many of the panels use a grey or green gradient as the background which, as a time saving idea, isn't so bad, except that the lack of any distraction behind Yu's figures mean that there's nothing to distract from the fact that his figures are stiff and over dark. When something does happen in them, it doesn't really make sense; this issue's second half is devoted to an utterly incomprehensible fight scene, six or so pages that don't come together coherently and which do their best to suggest that, imagine this, fighting is chaotic, without giving any actual idea of who's winning or what's going on.

Even when less complicated movement is required, Yu is apparently unable to suggest sensical spacial relations. Take, for example, the panels to the right, which are essentially the crux of the book. Banner, having pitched his services to Maria Hill, asks "What it'll be?" and both of them are turned towards the  storefronts in the background. In the next panel, though, things fall apart: as the Dr. asks "In or out?," he appears to be turning away from Director Hill, apparently so that we can get a good understanding of her answer. I think we're supposed to assume that she picks up the two-by-four from the boarded up storefront so, leaving the problem of how she grabbed it so fast aside, why is Banner all of the sudden facing away? That doesn't make any sense either physically or emotionally-- isn't this a moment when he should be looking her right in the eye, particularly since he's just barged in a top secret S.H.I.E.L.D mission? Even if he was bashful about this proposal-- which he obviously is not-- why would he put his back to her rather than simply turning his head to the side? Why would he turn all the way around and then finish his question? Just so Hill could hit him? This is not a panel that makes very much sense. It's too bad, too, since this moment could be the book's emotional center rather than simply the point at which the plot turns.

And, holy hell, that isn't even the worst sequence in the comic! No, no, that particular honor goes to this marvelous disaster:

I just want to be clear about this: I love panel interaction. Panels that don't interact are the sign of a staid, traditional cartooning style that forces a reader to completely close the space between panels himself. Those artists who make their panels talk to each other, that is, those artists who suggest a way of reading to the reader are often much more interesting and their work is often a lot better for it. This here, though, is a heavy mess. First of all, how do you bump a sitting person in the middle of their back as you walk by? You'd have to be walking sideways to manage it, particularly if you're walking across their body and not towards it. That unlikely movement is insignificant, though, compared to what that guy's hand is doing: is he patting Maria Hill on the head? It certainly looks like he is, doesn't it? Is there anyone, in the whole of the Marvel Universe, who could get away with that? What makes this guy so special? To make the whole thing even sillier, the panel on the left is a medium shot while the panel on the right is a close up of Hill, so a guy who has a bicep as big as Banner's face appears to have tiny, tiny hands and S.H.I.E.L.D's director apparently has a big, big head. I don't even know what to make of it-- how do sequences like this ever get published? Is anybody actually looking at these comics before they go out?

Variance: Art Adams

Art Adams on FF #1

No Sleep Before Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Fest

The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Fest was a week ago Saturday, so all of this is a little belated, but I just wanted to take a second to say that, as someone attending the festival for the first time, I kind of loved it and I kind of hated it. Although my initial impressions, all formed during two panels featuring Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware and Lilli Carre, among others, and moderated by festival cofounder Bill Kartalopoulos, were all very positive, my quick jaunt in the show area of the festival itself left my sweaty and breathless. I can see why the fest's organizers like the space, at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, but the sheer number of people milling around made it impossible for me to enjoy myself and, more importantly, to do the discovery that I came to do. Of the eleven books I went home with, I had walked into the show intending to buy six, with an established desire to also check out Blexbolex, whose books I ended up buying at Desert Island later, rather than in the exhibit hall itself.

That I shimmied out of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel as fast as I could manage isn't any kind of tragedy, but I would have liked to have been able to investigate more stuff before I became too flustered to function, particularly since the festival did a very good job of attracting European and Canadian publishers with whom I have very little experience or exposure. I also would have liked to have spoken to Jordan Crane; although I purchased all four volumes of his Keeping Two collection minis, I would have liked to have had his ear for awhile, if only to say that I give The Last Lonely Saturday to anyone who doesn't believe that comics are worthwhile. That I didn't feel like I was able to is, I should add, my fault and my fault alone.

Obviously, I think its good that people are showing up to shows like this, and, obviously, I'm happy for the BCGF people that their show was such a rousing success. But I also want to say that I don't think that the organizers were prepared for the kind of crowd they were going to get: the day's first panel, which featured Spiegelman and Ware, was standing room only, and a few people were sitting in the Knitting Factory's bar and listening in to the discussion as it was going on. Kartalopoulos, for his part, seemed  genuinely surprised that there was going to be such good turnout for Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware. I don't really know how to explain that. I want to like BCGF, I really do, but unless they move venues next year I don't think I'll be going again.

What I might go to, though, are happenings associated with festival but outside of the exhibitor hall. I thought all of the events and showings that I attended were excellent, and over the next few weeks I want to pick apart a few of things that Chris Ware and Art Spiegelman said in that first panel, as well as think about the gallery settings for the work of Lilli Carre and Blexbolex which, as always, is an exceedingly difficult venue in which to approach comics as a kind of readable art. I first wrote about Carre's art in a gallery context almost two years ago, and its going to be satisfying to approach again, particularly since the work she showed at Desert Island comics was much more appropriate for gallery walls that what I saw before. The work of Blexbolex and Oliver Schrauwen was similarly suited for viewing in this way, although, I think, for much different reasons, and I'll talk about that too.

All of this is to say that I think BCGF was extremely stimulating from an intellectual point of view, so much so that I'm going to spend some time writing about it, but that I wish that it had done a better job of allowing for the serendipity of discovery at the tables of the people who had come to share their work.