“Hide in Plain Sight part 4: Brain Dead”
Writer: Bruce Jones
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Banner, face to face with a squad of police officers, squares off against Carl “Crusher” Creel. Not the Absorbing Man of old, but this time in the body of a little girl. Carl’s figured a new use of his absorbing powers and is now absorbing minds. Creel, through the little girl, has killed her parents and now Banner is holding the bloody knife. The dilemma: If Banner changes into the Hulk to escape, Creel goes free or maybe absorbs his mind, taking over the Hulk’s body. That’s Creel’s eventual goal anyway and he makes no secret of it: take over the Hulk and free his own body, which lies imprisoned beneath an old cemetery just north of Vicksburg. Getting there is the problem.
I very nearly quit buying this series as the last storyline drew to a close. The whole Abomination story was drawn out and boring. The art was nice, but overall it was a dud. I canceled the book at my local comic shop, but Cheryl (owner-extraordinaire) had already placed the order for the next issue. Being a responsible patron I bought it when it arrived and was extremely surprised by what I read. What I had expected to be a movie-tie-in usage of Creel turned out to be something very different. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Creel hasn’t been this interesting since Avengers 183-184 back in mid 1979. I’ve heard some complaining around the web about Jones changing Creel’s personality and how much better it would have been if he’d used a psychic character instead of forcing the movie connection. At first I thought the same thing, but a casual comment in this issue makes me wonder just what Jones has in mind (no pun intended) for Creel. Is he picking up characteristics of people whose minds he absorbs? Or is something else going on here? The events taking place at Creel’s prison are keeping me interested as well. The way the characters distrust one another makes me wonder if what’s happening with Creel is entirely of his own doing. Either way, I’m hooked. Have been since part one.
The work of guest-artist Leandro Fernandez is actually what grabbed me in part one. The page layout was very inventive and continues to help move the story along at a brisk pace. His style is a little cartoony, but effective. Facial expressions are well done and there is never any doubt where Creel’s mind is being housed from jump to jump. Plus, Fernandez’s Hulk is a very stylish, classic take on the character, causing massive destruction with almost the flick of a wrist. There is something reminiscent of classic Kyle Baker work here, going back to Baker’s work on the Shadow all those years ago. And the casual centering of the dead parents, still in their car, in scene after scene worked to provide a disturbing tableau for the first half of the book. This is countered nicely with the unpleasant “father/daughter” relationship Banner is forced to act out in the second half.
This is a very good issue of a book that has been dragging for quite some time now. This is not a call, a very popular one these days, for the wrapping up of the mysterious Mr. Blue, or whatever, storyline. That can go on for as long as Jones wants, so long as he fleshes out that skeleton with solid, well-told stories like this one. We’ll see what happens once this story is complete and Fernandez goes on his merry way.
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