So, it looks like Jason Aaron has really done it. He's really taken the least appealing thing about Ang Lee's Hulk movie and turned it into a central thrust of his debut arc on The Incredible Hulk – gamma-zapped animals.
Despite the cover of The Incredible Hulk #3 showing us a Hulk/Banner showdown (now that they've been physically separated), the majority of the issue is the Hulk beating up green boar-monsters, who I think are supposed to be amusing and possibly endearing in some way. To some, they may be. For me, all they bring to mind are gamma poodles. Now, I'm generally a defender of Lee's take on Hulk, but I do understand why people don't like it, and the gamma poodle is a big reason why. It just makes for eye-rolling.
Thus, the fact that the issue ends with Banner sporting a massive menagerie of gamma animals as his force to bring down the Hulk doesn't bode well for the future of Aaron's run… or at least this arc.
Last issue, we saw that Banner had apparently become a complete idiot, giving himself a brain tumor in the mad scramble to re-Hulk himself. Since that makes no sense, we have to wait for Aaron to give us his explanation. In this issue, we get a glimpse of that, and see that we're probably going to have to wait a few more issues for this to start being coherent.
There's a brief scene where we see the laboratory in which Hulk and Banner were separated post-Fear Itself, with an unnamed third party being scientifically responsible. It stands to reason that, since the dividing line between Bruce and Hulk is hardly a clean one, it's essentially a shell game to see what portions of Banner's psyche were allotted to each body. Hulk seems to have rationality, surliness and a sense of zen, while Bruce has all the crazy, the paranoia, and the rage. That's the Hulk-fanboy explanation, at least. Will that be Aaron's take? He seems to be hitting the 'they are separate people' thing pretty hard, as well as the "Hulk=Good, Banner=Bad" angle. Leaving us with the impression that he's going his own way no matter how much sense we think i makes. Time will tell if that's truth or pessimism.
Marc Silvestri, of course, is a legend of the business and remains so, although one has to wonder if he's getting tired of drawing the Hulk with his one expression of 'quietly angry.' Still, he radiates power in his monsters and his work is always welcome. He's back down to the sole credit for the line art after last issue's massive 11-artist credit fest, and it's all solid, good stuff.
For all the misgivings I have about where Aaron's Incredible Hulk is going, I'm not going to get all worked up into a nerd-rage about it – at least not right now with the holiday spirit and all. Here's the bottom line with this and most any run of comics – if it turns out good, hot damn, great. If it turns out crap, then it will eventually end and fade into obscurity as one of those chapters in the character's history we don't talk about. Every iconic character has some of them. Sure, it's annoying as all get-out in the short term when one of your favorite characters is going through a suck phase, or when you think it's a suck phase but everyone else seems to drool over it, but patience is a virtue. This, too, will pass.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 5/10