Sure, Infinity, Marvel’s next major event, hasn’t even started yet, but as is the nature in the comic book business, we’re already looking ahead to the stories coming once the universe-shattering storyline has reached its end.
Specifically here, we look to Indestructible Hulk. In November’s #16, the story sees what happens when a brain like Bruce Banner’s is exposed to a cosmic disaster like Infinity. While his motto may have been “Hulk Smashes, Banner Builds” up until now, after Infinity, everything changes. The way Marvel describes it, Banner seeks to create a power stronger than Hulk, and he’s making it a bomb.
We talked to Mark Waid about this new arc, and what it’s like working with new artist Mahmud Asrar (who is also handling the Hulk Annual with Jeff Parker ). We even got some teases about the arc in-between and Banner/Hulk’s long-term plans.
Newsarama: Mark, it feels a little weird to jump right into a conversation about an arc that follows not just an arc that hasn't started, but an event that hasn't started. So let's start here – now that Bruce and Hulk have established themselves pretty firmly into S.H.I.E.L.D., what's Banner's mindset at this point? Does he feel comfortable? Is this a life he can maintain in the long-term?
Mark Waid: He could if it were entirely up to him. Unfortunately, he's beginning to suspect that S.H.I.E.L.D. may be taking advantage of him in ways he hadn't imagined – and friction is building.
Nrama: Events like Infinity always seem to hit Hulk in a very specific way – by challenging his status as strongest there is. How will Infinity challenge Bruce as well as Hulk?
Waid: Because the challenge is a Bruce problem, not a Hulk problem. There's nothing to hit (not at first, anyway). It's a chance for Bruce to pull off the ultimate redemptive "make-good" mission, and everything rides on that. We know how strong Hulk is. The question is, how smart is Banner?
Nrama: So, we're looking beyond that story and into the future of Indestructible Hulk. Similar to the first question, I know you can't say much for fear of spoilers, but after time travel and Infinity, it seems Bruce's mindset may change a bit, so where is he mentally as this arc begins in November?
Waid: He's learned a few key things about Hulk's ultimate potential, things he didn't know before. Which frightens him. But it also makes him even more eager to redeem himself as a force for good--and eager to take his lab assistants further under his wing.
Nrama: Bruce's mission, and reason for joining S.H.I.E.L.D. Has been "Hulk Smashes, Banner Builds," so it seems antithetical for him to be building the extremely powerful bomb described in the solicitation for the arc. Why the sudden change of heart?
Waid: That's exactly what Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Hank Pym, and Marvel's other super-scientists are asking. To them, this seems like an EXTRAORDINARLY bad idea. How much can they trust Bruce?
Nrama: S.H.I.E.L.D. usually has an agenda hidden behind an agenda hidden behind an agenda, and that's surely the case with Banner/Hulk. Is this the arc, as Banner gets potentially destructive, where we'll start to see more of that creep through?
Waid: More and more. The problem with S.H.I.E.L.D. is that they see conspiracies behind everything from government coups to ice-cream shops, and their paranoia doesn't go very far in keeping Bruce Banner relaxed.
Nrama: How does Banner's team react to the seeming change in mission? Will we see their reactions to Infinity as well as what Banner is trying to do now?
Waid: Absolutely. They take the stage alongside Banner in this story, happily. Well, happily for all but one.
Nrama: Cue readers guessing which one! With more frequent and more controlled changes back and forth between Banner and Hulk, what are the chances the two start to bleed into each other a bit? Are there aspects of each that you see more clearly shining through the other as you enter your second year with the characters?
Waid: Apparently, someone's given you an advance peek at issue 15!
Nrama: If only. Thanks for the tip. You have been slowly bringing this new take on Hulk into the rest of the Marvel Universe, with an old (young) Thor, and then Daredevil – why is it important to take it slowly when it comes to re-introducing Hulk's dynamic with other characters?
Waid: I just like the one-on-one time. I like the idea that, unlike, say Captain America or Spider-Man, Hulk is a character who's going to provoke a totally different reaction in each of Marvel's heroes; they'll all respond uniquely to him, as we've seen so far. That's a great dynamic to play with.
Nrama: Likewise, who else might we see coming around in this next arc? It seems that several members of the Marvel Universe would react poorly to such a weapon being built – who else might hear about this and have something to say?
Waid: I can't imagine Red Hulk would be to happy about it.
Nrama: Finally, you're working with Mahmud Asrar for this arc, who we just spoke with about the annual he's doing with Jeff Parker. What are some of Asrar's strengths that you're excited to play to?
Waid: The sheer weight he brings to the character--not just physically, making him massive and tough, but the sense of menace that's there in every panel, in every pose. There's a density to Mahmud's Hulk that makes him appropriately terrifying.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to tease about Indestructible Hulk in the next several months?
Waid: Remember, Banner and his lawyer Matt Murdock are collaborating on...something. And when you find out what, the whole Marvel Universe is likely to turn upside-down!