“Tempest Fugit” (issues #77-81)
written by Peter David
art by Lee Weeks
published by Marvel Comics

Peter David (Captain Marvel, Fallen Angel, Aquaman) returns to The Incredible Hulk after over a four-year absence. Originally, he explored the psyche of Bruce Banner/Hulk, adding many layers of depth to what had become a one note (“Hulk smash!”) character. One of the things Peter David accomplished during his tenure was develop the rich cast of characters surrounding the Hulk.

Then, after a 12 -year run, he was abruptly kicked off the book. Apparently Marvel Comics wanted to go in a different direction (next stop, Crap-ville). John Byrne took over the title for a while, beginning his “let me revamp books that don’t need revamping” phase of his career (Hulk, Wonder Woman, Doom Patrol). Eventually the book was handed over to Bruce Jones who turned the book into a Fugitive meets X-Files-styled romp. It was a critically overrated run, intriguing but without a good enough payoff. Atmosphere can only take you so far, especially when the title character so rarely makes an appearance.

The Hulk is commonly portrayed as a Mr. Hyde to Bruce Banner’s Dr. Jekyll, much like in the movie The Hulk, but Peter David had actually extended this premise to a full blown case of (super-powered) Multiple Personality Disorder (a surprisingly not more widespread phenomena considering the nature of super-heroes and their dual identities). Under Peter David, we return to exploring the fragile psyche that is Bruce Banner, not quite knowing where the Hulk persona begins and Bruce Banner ends.

This was one of the reasons why I always enjoyed the Hulk under Peter David: the complexity of a man struggling against himself, his worst nature, and trying to hold himself together, overcoming the psychological torment of his past.

“Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” Colossians 3:9-10

This battle between the old man and the new man is exactly the type of war waged constantly in the mind of Bruce Banner. Obviously it’s a battle familiar to many of us. It reminds me of another passage, this one from Romans 7:15-24 (in the version of the Bible called The Message):

“What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?”

Therein lies the perpetual dilemma for Bruce Banner. He continues his search for someone or something to make him whole, existing forever at the end of his rope. However, I look forward to seeing where Peter David takes him and the Hulk on their journey.