Wherever the Hulk goes, chaos follows. And in chaos, accurate information is a hard thing to obtain. The promotional material for Immortal Hulk #3 describes it as an analysis of the Roshomon effect, as four different witnesses convey four different stories through their own biased prisms. Is it good?
Well, we know something happened. A green guy, who wasn’t the Hulk, was holed up in a church. There were hostages (or people, at least), and he may have had laser hands, and he may have looked like pixelated newspaper, or maybe like a demon. Or James Dean.
Then the Hulk busted in! Hero? Monster? The devil himself? All in the eye of the beholder! Or “beer-holder,” as it were. That poor bartender.
And poor Walter. His “other guy” has been acting up too, lately. Is Bruce Banner the only one who can help him, whatever role he takes?
Immortal Hulk #3 explores an important issue and helps to bring the unreliability of eyewitness testimony to an audience that might not ordinarily think about those things. A cop, an elderly woman, a bartender and a priest (please, no jokes) all see the same event (from slightly different angles) and come away with different impressions of the people involved. Well, not so much the bartender — he’s more or less comic relief.
In what’s surely a calculated move by writer Al Ewing, the four different accounts reveal more about the people telling them than they do the actual event. It’s an ambitious attempt, matched by an intro with something you don’t see much of in comics anymore — an overture to literature.
But this isn’t just a standalone, psychological case study — Immortal Hulk #3 moves the series narrative along in identifiable ways. There’s the continuing story of why these sightings aren’t being confirmed, and maybe a story beginning about why “Hotshot” did what he did. Interestingly, the four accounts converge more toward the end of the issue, where there’s indisputable evidence that a a very bad thing happened.
Of course a story like this required multiple artists, and some fit better than others. Leonardo Romero draws the cop’s Silver Age flashback to a heroic Hulk in an appropriately upbeat way, and the colors of Paul Mounts are faded enough to evoke the feeling of worn newspaper strips. Marguerite Sauvage’s pencils and colors on the old lady’s story are unsurprisingly exquisite, providing the feeling of a burdened romance.
The bartender’s story, done completely by Paul Hornschemeier (even the lettering), is the greatest single outlier, and while the style definitely fits the tone of the tale, it clashes enough with the rest of the book that it still feels out of place. Garry Brown handles the priest’s story, with Mounts on colors again, and in trying to be grim and grainy, the art comes off more rushed.
Weirdly enough, the framing panels by Joe Bennett feel the most out of place, and Cory Petit does his best to employ different lettering styles, but using the same “modern” one in the cop’s tale as in the framing story inhibits the immersion a bit.
Immortal Hulk #3 is an ambitious issue that mostly succeeds in what it sets out to do. The sheer audacity by Ewing and his collaborators to put this kind of work and structural thought into a single issue is staggeringly admirable. An important topic is examined and the overall narrative is advanced, with minor artistic shortcomings in the too jarring transitions between pencillers and some missed lettering opportunities.
Overall, it’s another example of why Immortal Hulk is a special kind of superhero book, one that the discerning reader deserves, and that itself deserves to be recognized.