Writer: Bruce Jones
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Publisher: Marvel Comics
As Banner arrives at the secret compound where the Absorbing Man's body is being held, we see Creel is able to secure Banner's help in breaking into this facility, and bringing down the energy field that surrounds his body. We then see with the Absorbing Man on the loose it falls upon the Hulk to bring the rampaging villain under control, but the Hulk simply isn't up to the task.
Apparently Bruce Jones is of the mind that readers sat through this entire arc waiting for the Hulk to emerge, so that the character could serve as a punching bag for the Absorbing Man. I mean it's one thing to ration the Hulk's appearance, as I'll concede that it makes the times when the Hulk does emerge far more dramatic. However, if one is really looking for a way to earn the ire of the Hulk's fan base, it's to have the Hulk turn in a truly uninspired showing against a middle weight like the Absorbing Man. Now I'm not saying that the Absorbing Man couldn't give the Hulk a fairly rough go of it, but this issue's encounter has Creel hand the Hulk his head with such relative ease that I could practically hear the steam coming out of the ears of the collective Hulk fandom. What's more the scene where the Absorbing Man is tricked into defeating himself is very poorly done, as in one panel the Hulk is clearly shown on his feet in full view of the Absorbing Man, but when it comes time for him to be tricked, he's not the slightest bit suspicious that Banner is suddenly lying unconscious on the ground without his having made a move against him. It also doesn't help that I don't think even the Rhino would've been fooled by the patently obvious ruse that was brought into play, that had Creel jumping into the mind of a dead man.
As for the art, Leandro Fernandez offers up a fairly impressive battle from a visual sense, as the Absorbing Man comes across as quite intimidating after he's set free, and the art does a solid job conveying his ability to absorb the properties of any object he comes into contact with. In fact the computer terminal monstrosity that Creel turns into is one of the best visual representations of his power that I've ever come across, and the cemetery earth version is also quite solid.
The simple fact of the matter is that this arc was probably the poorest bit of writing that Bruce Jones has offered up thus far, and frankly such a lapse couldn't have come at a worse time, as this is the arc that was supposed to catch the attention of the fans who went to the movie. The story is rifted with odd character behavior that services the needs of the story, and Bruce Jones uses some truly awkward contrivances to advance the plot from point a to point b. The big solution to the Absorbing Man's defeat is also downright silly, especially in light of the fact that throughout this arc Bruce Jones has been trying to sell Creel as a seemingly intelligent villain. There's also some strange moments in the book, like the Absorbing Man acting like he was well aware of Banner being able to access the Hulk's strength, or the super secure energy field having such a glaring weak spot in its design. This issue is simply one of the biggest disappointments I've some across in a long while, as Bruce Jones has shown he's far better that this plot by numbers wreck.
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