Writer: Bruce Jones
Artist: Leandro Fernandez
Publisher: Marvel Comics
When his latest lady friend is nearly killed by the police, we see the Hulk is freed from the Absorbing Man's mental control when he reverts back into Banner, and nearly gets himself killed leaping off the bridge. We then see Creel makes another effort at forcing Banner to change back into the Hulk, and the scene that Creel creates results in a highly charged standoff with the police that makes Banner look like a ruthless killer.
On one hand I can't help but feel this book would've been better served if the Absorbing Man hadn't been used as this arc's villain, as from the first chapter this new ability felt awkwardly tacked on, but this issue is even more telling as the book suddenly presents Creel as a cunning, masterful manipulator style villain, when all his other appearances have shown us that at the big super-villain bash, Creel would be lurking by the food table with the Rhino, spiking the punch. I mean Creel has never come across as all that intelligent, and lately he hasn't even come across as all that evil either, as over in the pages of Thor he's currently acting as an ever loyal follower of the Thunder God. Now with close to a dozen villains running around with the ability to take control of other people's minds, I have to wonder why Bruce Jones decided to use the Absorbing Man, but part of me is hoping that it's because the final chapter will feature the Hulk taking on the newly freed Creel, in a knock down, drag out exchange. However, as it stands I find that if I'm able to ignore the part of my mind that is busy making a fuss about this awkward use of Creel, the story does hold up as a fairly intense, and at times highly creepy adventure that shows us Banner up against a mind-controlling villain, who wants Banner to turn into the Hulk.
As for the art, the work is pretty effective when it's called upon to deliver the more sinister aspects of the plot, as the final pages do a wonderful job of making that little girl into a utterly ruthless killer. The credit page shot of the possessed Hulk was also a great visual teaser to open the issue, though the art could've done a better job during this sequence of suggesting that the police were trying to avoid hitting the hostage with their bullets, as their behavior comes across as downright reckless. I also have to make mention of the truly lovely cover, with its wonderful fire effect.
I have to admit I rather enjoyed the opening pages of this issue, as the scene opens with a police officer chastising another for not recognizing the Hulk, and then these cops spend the rest of the exchange proving they now absolutely nothing about the creature they have encountered. I mean one would think the first rule in the book on dealing with the Hulk is that shooting him doesn't work, and doing so while he's holding a hostage is an even dumber idea. Still, in spite of the absurd behavior displayed by the police in the opening pages, and the out of character usage of the Absorbing Man, this issue is a pretty effective display of Banner up against a villain who actively discourages his transformation into the Hulk, and as such the final page makes for a very effective little cliffhanger, as Banner's options looked extremely limited, with the easy out that the Hulk could provide being probably the worst choice he could make. The book could've done a stronger job of detailing why Creel simply doesn't take over Banner's body and will it to become the Hulk though.
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