It's amazing to think now, but despite the Hulk's incredible popularity, he was originally something of a flop. Unlike the Fantastic Four, Thor, and Spider-Man, readers of Marvel Comics didn't embrace Stan Lee's latest creation. It wasn't until the Hulk started teaming up with other superheroes that his popularity began to rise. But that makes perfect sense, because while we all admire the intelligence of Doctor Bruce Banner, and the incredible strength of his alter-ego, once he hulks out, he's just an uncontrollable beast of destruction.
Well, isn't he?
In Mark Waid's series Indestructible Hulk, Dr. Banner seems to have found a way to get a handle on his emotions. While on the run from his pursuers, he sits down to assess his life, and decides it's time he changed his approach.
In the first pages of Indestructible Hulk Vol 1: Agent of SHIELD, Director Maria Hill is sitting in a small town diner, studying news reports on her tablet computer, and messaging with her subordinate Phil Coulson. She's there to capture the Mad Thinker, who is developing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in a local factory. The minutes are ticking down until the planned raid. But while she waits to initiate the operation, her mind is really on something else. Or should I say Someone Else, someone she views as a far greater threat.
Despite her constant vigilance, and his continual rages, SHIELD has been unable to capture the Hulk. She feels guilty for leaving headquarters, and worries that a report on his location will arise and her subordinates won't be able to successfully follow it up. She wonders what damage the Hulk might be causing. Will she learn that news agencies' initial reports of earthquakes or hurricanes turn out to be destruction wrought by the Hulk? After all, SHIELD isn't the only group of people looking for the Hulk. Some want to capture him for nefarious purposes, such as analyzing his blood to create armies of super soldiers. In this modern world, with so many individuals and groups capable of manipulating information, what reports can she believe? And then there's the question of other groups, such as HYDRA, who might have subverted SHIELD with sleeper agents.
Imagine her surprise when Dr. Banner takes another chair at her table and hands her an experimental filtration device he's invented. He claims that, with a little development, it could help eliminate all water-born viruses. Then he tells her that he's tired of running. He's willing to accept that the Hulk, like Diabetes, is a disease he cannot cure. So rather than fighting it, he wants to embrace it, and use his Hulk-capabilities for SHIELD.
Here's his pitch: if SHIELD will furnish him with a modern laboratory, and a capable team, he'll devote his brain to developing other inventions for the betterment of mankind. Additionally, when a dangerous situation develops that calls for his unique physical capabilities, he'll use his braun to damage, destroy, or (if you prefer) SMASH! the target.
Maria Hill is skeptical, but just as Bruce is tired of running from the authorities, she is tired of constantly coordinating efforts to find him. She can sympathize with Dr. Banner, who would prefer working in a laboratory to running. But just because Banner has had this epiphany doesn't mean that he'll be able to restrain himself from hulking out in a more controlled environment. Imagine living with someone emotionally unstable like that, who one moment can be perfectly rational, trustworthy, even loving, but then the next minute grows anxious, irritated, or downright angry, seemingly with no provocation from you. Some folks choose to live like that, to accept the good half of such a person along with the bad. But Maria Hill can't make decisions solely based on optimism. If Banner hulks out at the wrong moment, or proves uncontrollable during field work, missions could be compromised, and the collateral damage terrible.
If you were Maria Hill, would you make a deal with someone like Dr. Bruce Banner, someone incredibly intelligent and capable, who seems rational right now, yet who has repeatedly lost control and inflicted incalculable harm upon yourself and others? Someone who's capable of turning into something like this?
Or would you lock him up, and throw away the key?