Writer: Joseph Keatinge
Cover Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Much of Marvel Knight’s Hulk asks the question of can man survive his destructive nature? The story slowly builds up the realization that Hulk is just another weapon of mass destruction. By the time the run reaches it’s climax, the story shows how weapons aren’t made to be controlled, rather they are meant to be used, even if it’s against the creator, inventor, soldier, villain or whoever.
The creators, Keatinge and Kowalski, wanted to begin this story with Banner in France. In order to establish this, they relied upon different storytelling techniques as well as European comic style art in order to achieve this Mise en scene. This is why the story starts off with a slow French Noir pacing and feel. However, the pacing is broken up with flashbacks to the Hulk. Kowalski transitions between the violent gamma ray bursts of the Hulk world and the surrealist art of the real world creates a good amount of tension. As the story progresses, the surrealism is all but completely smashed out by the violence and chaos of Hulk. This is portrayed in a 3D stereoscopic art style with a violent red pallet. It isn’t until Banner finally regains control does the art slip into the tranquil blues which were more prevalent in the beginning.
Another part of the story which nails down the concept is the femme fatale Nikoleta. A eugenicist project started by AIM in order to engineer the perfect killer. Just like the Hulk, AIM’s experiment became just as destructive and uncontrollable.
The last scene is truly remarkable, and it brought the story home again. When Banner apologizes and walks away alone, there’s not only a feeling of heartbreak but also of nostalgia. It evokes the closing scenes of the TV series, and it reminds us of the unique and tragic life of Bruce Banner. At the end of each struggle with Hulk, Banner must always carry the burden of the green monster by himself.
Despite dialogue in Hulk stories usually fall or kept to a minimum, Keatinge really kept his lines of dialogue sharp and defined every character quickly, rather this be through the use of subtitles, the Yankee drawls and muted consonants, to quips from a cantankerous old man. Every conversation was fun to read and didn’t make the reader want to skip ahead to the Hulk smashing action.
Overall, although the story arc kept the theme and plot in tight focus, the art, pacing and character development was unique and stylized. This book could have easily got lost in gamma radiated psychedelia, but it kept it’s vision focused and on course.