"Hide in Plain Sight (part 4)"
Writer: Bruce Jones
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Carl Creel is imprisoned within a sphere of plasma energy in a maximum security prison so bad-ass that it's actually underneath a cemetary. Creel cannot move, which invites uncomfortable speculation as to his dietary incoming and outgoing processes. But Creel has freed his mind, as they say, and uses it to invade the consciousness and subconscious of others. Bruce Banner has stumbled into Creel's plans and has now been compelled to become the Hulk and break Creel free of his bonds.
I appreciate that Marvel has increased the publishing frequency of their top comics; it's cool to get more than one Spider-Man or Hulk each month. But at the same time I realize that I'm spending more than I had budgeted, which usually means that there's one comic every other week that I'm not reading just to keep up with the extra issues of Spider-Man and Hulk. I'm sure that this works to Marvel's advantage in a couple of ways: First, if the story is great, reader buzz will keep the sales brisk and rush the trade paperback onto shelves. Second, if the story is weak, well, Marvel actually moves the book off the shelves that much sooner, which must make retailers happy. It's a win-win for everybody, right? Well, except for those other comics I'm not buying, that is.
The Absorbing Man, Carl Creel, remains locked away in a secret prison somewhere in upstate New York, under a cemetery no less. Creel is immobilized within an impenetrable plasma shield. It's old school Marvel pseudo-science, something writer Bruce Jones uses as a plot device in order to force an eventual confrontation between the Hulk and the Absorbing Man, which will probably be like fifteen issues from now judging by Jones's pacing. Even though Creel's physical form is barricaded within an energy orb he's found a way to take over the minds of any single person anywhere, I still don't know how really, but if you just play along it makes for interesting drama. Consequently, even if Creel gets the Warden to turn off the juice to his prison restraints, there's still the nasty dilemma of a couple of dozen armed guards to contend with. Fortunately, Creel has obtained the temporary services of the Hulk and has compelled Bruce Banner to bust him out.
In what has to be one of the most contrived sequences in my recent comic memory, Jones opens this issue with Bruce Banner holding a bloody knife on a 9 year-old girl, while her family lays dead in their car a few feet away. Naturally the police have arrived and draw down on Banner, who then proceeds to talk his way out of the situation by telling the cops that he's the Hulk and unless they let him walk, he'll lay some green on their asses. Now I like that Banner is taking the initiative and not making like the victim, but when the cops holster their firearms and let him use their patrol car radio to place a personal call, well, I had to get up and walk around the room once to shake it off. As if that wasn't enough, one of the cops decides to take a shot at Banner, just because. Hulk mania ensues.
If I close my eyes I can conjure up a mental image of Bruce Jones typing on his laptop at a Starbucks while his caramel, half-caf, no foam latte cools beside him. He is almost certainly chuckling to himself as he writes this nonsense. Meanwhile, somewhere in South America artist Leandro Fernandez is reading one of Jones's scripts and wondering if his English reading skills are poor or if this stuff is truly as bad as it appears. Fernandez, however, really does a fine job illustrating the world of Bruce Banner, Carl Creel and the Hulk - even though he's only shown on three pages.
I reviewed the last issue of Hulk only a couple of weeks ago. I was pretty unflattering. I like this issue even less. Bruce Jones keeps transferring random thoughts from cocktail napkins to the comic page, whether they make sense or not. Consider the scene where the Hulk launches a police cruiser into another car just a couple of feet from a little girl and when the page turns Banner is just walking away from the scene as though nothing has happened. I thought two pages had been stuck together. Somewhere a Marvel editor is rocking back and forth uncontrollably in his office chair, mumbling to himself, "only two more issues left, just two more."
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