Lost in the shuffle of The Hulk’s story is a key element of the struggle Bruce Banner goes through each and every day: the horrible knowledge that an uncontrollable beast rules his body, raging and destroying. The creature comes upon him in his anger, something he must control and suppress, but there is a small piece of him that wants it to happen. That is the horror. The little voice that says “lose control.” What if Banner isn’t strong enough to deny its allure this time? He would turn into something wrong, giving into the hate: an Abomination.
Writer Al Ewing has crafted a horrific story, playing on the worst fears of Banner and humanity in general. Does Banner have a say in what happens in his own head? How does he survive when The Hulk is taken from him? Even worse, what if Banner isn’t the one who comes back when The Hulk leaves? With art by Joe Bennett creating transformation scenes and creatures straight out of HP Lovecraft’s worst nightmares, The Immortal Hulk more than lives up to its reputation as a true horror comic.
It is always difficult to reintroduce or reshape a classic character. Abomination has been Hulk’s foil, showing what a lack of humanity can cause in a gamma-irradiated monster. With the death of Emil Blonsky, a new Abomination had to be created, stacked on the bodies of those who came before and mixed with enough aquatic DNA to create a truly inhuman, Chthulhu-looking creature that lacks even the hope of humanity that Blonsky held. As is said by General Fortean, humanity was the problem. Removing that humanity not only gave the new Abomination free reign to slaughter, it also gave Hulk the freedom he needed to stop it.
The Immortal Hulk combines the best of slow-moving horror with mainstream comics. Creating truly ugly and horrifying versions of beloved characters is risky, but Ewing and Bennett have nailed it here. Readers won’t easily erase the idea of Betty Ross as a literal murderous harpy, nor the dripping, torn apart vision of the new Abomination. If Banner can’t erase the horror, after all, why should we be able to?