The Hulk, Bruce, and Doc Samson all work together to unravel the mystery of who took Rick Jones’s body. But just as they get closer they find they’ve been played and caught in a trap by their mysterious nemesis.
Whoa. Just.. Whoa.
Every issue of The Immortal Hulk grabs you by the head in a Hulk-sized fist and completely rag dolls you around the room. When they talk about character-defining eras, this will be deep in there. In years to come when comic-shop conversations are comparing what Garth Ennis did for The Punisher, how Geoff Johns rewrote the legacy of Green Lantern, they’ll talk about Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s Immortal Hulk in even more revered terms.
Let’s talk about the layered storytelling. The use of Rick Jones’s biography juxtaposed against Hulk and Doc Samson’s search for the body of deceased Rick, and how the two perfectly sync up. Let’s talk about the way this book sticks like glue to its horror theme and produces for the first time the most genuine, visceral depiction of what it’s like to be in the room when the man becomes the monster. What about the investment Ewing makes to understanding each principal character? Doc Sampson psychoanalyzing both Bruce and Hulk as they search for Rick. Let’s talk about how perfectly Ewing toys with readers’ emotions, playing with tension and thrilling mystery, while writing brutal action to go with it. Hook yourself up to a heart rate monitor while you read this and see if the readings don’t jump all over the place.
Look at Joe Bennett’s art. Go through once you’ve read the book and just focus on the visuals. You will not find a more grotesque and fully realized depiction of the Banner/Hulk transformation than the one Bennett masters here, right down to the terse emotion written all over Banner’s face the moment before the transformation. The distinction he gives to each character’s look and performance equals what Ewing is doing on the writing side of things. The fresh, distinctive look he’s given to the Hulk feels modern and evokes the horror comics and monster bent that this comic shoots for and nails. The sequential storytelling does not betray the rest of the work for a single panel. Nothing from perspective, to expression, to background, is wasted. Even the scant few panels of Bushwhacker — BUSHWHACKER for god’s sake — are sinister, menacing, and ultimately effective.
Ruy Jose, who has paired with Bennett before on their breakthrough Hawkman run, and who is synonymous more with superhero genre, embraces the horror leanings of the book. The inks enhance the realism, fleshing out all the gruesome details. The art team runs absolutely wild with the brilliance of the script.
Paul Mounts on colors parlays his cinematic work on The Ultimates into a perfectly appropriate and equally eye-popping effort on this book. Color is instrumental to conveying mood. In a book that trades on the unsettling and fear as much as it does a gamma irradiated beast smashing things, the color work is every part as equal to the line art.
There’s not even a unit of measurement for how this series continues to improve on each previous issue’s brilliance.
If you’re not reading the Immortal Hulk by now, not even Doc Samson could help you.