I’ve been singing praises to the Immortal Hulk since it first released and I’ll be the first to admit I’m shocked I love this series as much as I do. Hulk has never intrigued me like the other heroes always seeming to be simplistic and rather boring. Throughout the age of Marvel Comics the character has shifted in purpose and character from raging monster to the misunderstood brute, to super smart and in control. The latest iteration from Al Ewing and Joe Bennett is a combination of all of these things, but altogether new too. It’s a series I can’t recommend enough for anyone looking to buy a gift for a horror fan, or a fan who wants to think a bit about human psychology.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The return of Bruce Banner. You know Bruce Banner. He’s quiet, calm, never complains. He’s a man who believes he can use the darkest elements of his personality to do good in the world. If someone were to shoot him in the head… All he’d do is die. But the horror lives deeper. A horror that refuses to die.
Why does this matter?
Hulk is one of the latest heroes to be dead for a long while and then make a return. This return is a lot different than most, with the character not being welcome back with open arms either, with other heroes or even with the identity crisis raging with himself. It’s a series that utilizes the most horrific elements of Hulk and tells a nightmare story.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Each chapter of this series opens with a quote on a black background. It’s a moment that allows readers to think about what they are about to read. It also adds a bit of gravity to the situation and allows readers to open their mind to the story. It’s a smart move that keeps your interest up while we attempt to understand how Bruce Banner is alive and why the Hulk comes out only at night. This is a road trip story of sorts with Hulk jumping around backwater towns enacting justice not because he’s trying to fight the bad guys, but because he keeps finding himself in situations where he must. As the story unfolds we begin to understand how this version of the Hulk is a bit different from the past which gives the story arc a sense of mystery.
This story is part of Marvel’s “fresh start” of soft reboots although this book has a much more robust reboot feel. Hulk was literally revived from death as we see in the Avengers 684 which is collected here. Something is not right about Hulk and there’s a new internal problem for Bruce to resolve. One has to ask what a person does after getting their wish to die fulfilled only to be awake again. The quotes Al Ewing opens each issue with relation to this, but go further too making the narrative have an introspective feel that matches well with the action and body horror within.
Speaking of body horror, Joe Bennett’s pencils are positively disturbing as you read this book. Hulk looks as if he was carved out of stone with hard angles making up the face into a horrific sort of thing you can’t look away from. Later in this trade paperback Hulk goes up against Sasquatch which is laid out in a clear to follow action sequence that is impressive in how large and powerful they look.
It can’t be perfect can it?
A portion of this story focuses on Langkowski and his role in Bruce’s life. It’s most likely set up due to his further appearances in the story, but in one section it can run on too long with little to no appearances of the Hulk.
Is it good?
A good judge of a comic or novel is how badly you’d like to see it visualized in movie form. This story arc and the continued story thereafter is a tale I’d love to see made into a film. It’s a Hulk story that is self-contained and small, further making the beast that is the Hulk larger than life and formidable. It’s an impressive arc that will go down as one of Hulk’s greatest.