The Longer View – Incredible Hulk #611


I wanted to to take a few minutes here to talk a bit more about Incredible Hulk #611 that came out this week.  This is a Hulk book, so there is punching.

Seriously…there is LOTS of punching

So if you’re looking for action, this book definitely delivers.  But what makes this book stand out is the story involved here.  In case you’re unaware, here’s the basic rundown.  Spoilers ahoy!

Hulk was shot into space a few years back.  He met a woman and fell in love on an alien planet.  She got pregnant, Hulk left the planet just before it was blown up.  He came back rather upset at those who shot him into space and World War Hulk ensued, which left Bruce Banner completely de-powered.  In the meantime, it turned out the child survived, and grew up to become Skaar, who blamed the destruction of his home world on Hulk, so he ventured to Earth intent on killing Hulk, only to find out that Banner was stuck as a human.  As a result, Skaar decided to “team up” with Banner, accompanying him with the promise that when Banner turned to Hulk again, Skaar would kill Hulk.  Through various schemes, this is the issue where Hulk is back, and Skaar is itching for blood.

Now that you know all of that you can kick back and watch the battle royale between father and son!  Except, woven in here is a story that is surprisingly moving, and interesting to analyze.  The story moves back and forth between over the top action and a series of flashbacks to Bruce Banner’s youth with his abusive father.  This is where the book gains its emotional weight and also caused me to pause and consider the message being told here.

More spoilers alert!  I’m about to give away the ending of this issue!

At the end of the story, after Skaar and Hulk have beaten each other weary, the story ends with Skaar realizing his anger is wasted and unproductive, and Hulk understanding there’s more to life than just being the strongest one there is.  They end in an embrace as they’ve worked out all their aggression and gotten to a point where they both seem to recognize there’s some things more important than their anger.

It got me to thinking about what Greg Pak is trying to say.  Is he implying that an abusive relationship between family members only perpetuates because of the fear that one side has for the other?  Is this what happens when you completely remove the fear from the equation?  While this issue is theoretically a fight to the death, these are Hulk characters you’re dealing with whose literally get stronger the more they’re hurt.  Neither is going to drop, they’re only going to stop from lack of interest, at best.

What if abusive relationships in the real world could be handled like this?  If you could somehow remove the fear of death and injury from the situation, would both sides eventually realize that their anger is wasted?  Or is this just an “adolescent power fantasy” as most superhero comics are accused of being?

I’m not trained enough in psychology to answer these questions either way.  However, I give big accolades to any writer who is able to get me to think this much about a 22-page fight sequence.


3 Responses to “The Longer View – Incredible Hulk #611”

  1. Fun look at the emotional themes driving this issue, Tim! I agree that this issue is fascinating because the dynamics of (abusive) fathers and sons extends a central theme of Hulk: rage. When the meek and mild-mannered Bruce Banner gets transformed by the gamma bomb, triggered by stress or anger, all that pent-up emotion goes on a rampage. Therapeutic psychology calls anger a “cover emotion” since it is used as a defense mechanism against more vulnerable, hurtful feelings being experienced. When someone else causes us to feel hurt or wounded, we get mad and those “fight or flight” instincts kick in. We retreat or, more often, we “Hulk out” and usually misdirect those feelings onto others or objects. My hurt then becomes channeled into making some other hurt, which becomes the most vicious of cycles. Psychobabble aside, this gets to why the ending is so darn interesting (and SPOILERS AHOY).

    Hulk Dad versus Hulk Son, both made stronger by trading punches, is as you noted a stalemate. The damage to everything and everyone around them just gets worse. This is why Banner’s flashbacks are so key to the resolution for a father and son powered by anger and grief and resentment. Sure, the haters will scoff at them “hugging it out” but I think you’re onto something: the story just externalizes visually the inner pain of Hulk and Skaar because there is real affection there underneth it all… the shared love for the mother. By acknowledging and surrendering to their shared grief and pain, both Banner and son literally de-power the uncontrollable raging Hulks that are so destructive. When Bruce de-Hulks, Skaar can’t finish him because he wants the vengeful fight instead of the *vulnerable* meek ‘secret identity’. This is what shocked me most, because I didn’t realize that this rampaging beast Skaar (or scar, the residue of a profound wound) was just a child, and the Shazam-like twist took me by surprise. NOW I understood Bruce’s childhood flashbacks, felt his empathy, that these monsters that each was facing were the product of one another’s mutually-animating anger. The ending is a beginning, a turning point, for them that feels true simply because it usually is. Maybe that *is* what anger and rage and hate do in the world… reproduces itself.

  2. Then again, watching them punch each other into a different state or even outer space was just awesome. As a HULK comic, it delivered on all fronts!

  3. Great post thanks.

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