Marvel Comics has been very good to us when it comes to Immortal Hulk one-shots. Jeff Lemire and Mike del Mundo’s incredible Threshing Place was followed up by Declan Shalvey’s Flatline, and both did well to tell a meaningful solo story. This week, Alex Paknadel and Juan Ferreyra join forces with Al Ewing to tell a story set at 9,500 BCE. But wait, the Hulk isn’t that old, is he? Then, in a backup, David Vaughan and Kevin Nowlan tell a tale of horror using an often unused Marvel character. Sounds like a combo made in heaven, or in this case due to the Green Door, hell!
This is a spoiler-free review, save for what has been revealed in the preview already. Al Ewing’s take on Hulk has been inspiring, in large part because it moved away from the character being a science experiment gone wrong and explored an evil that rages behind a Green Door worth exploring. As seen in the preview, the door has existed for many centuries and it takes a new victim in this issue.
The main story by Ewing and Paknadel, scripting by Paknadel, and art by Ferreyra drops readers into a different time and place, making this a unique horror story in the Marvel universe. We’ve seen ancient Avengers thanks to Jason Aaron, but here the story takes place as civilization is still in its infancy. Cruelty and poor leadership exist as people try to survive. Paknadel captures a tribal element thanks to the captioning and due to the ancient setting, one could surmise this evil makes more sense to these people. Gone are the notions that the supernatural exists in the modern-day, which gives this story an intriguing angle. Per Paknadel himself, this is the very first Hulk, which adds a new layer to the character as well.
The horror element is present in a different way here. I won’t spoil it, but while you get the usual gore you come to expect from Immortal Hulk, it’s presented in a way that might turn your stomach. Ferreyra excels in this scene, among others, and there are a truly horrifying element thanks to some paced-out close-ups of eyes. It adds a sense of urgency and impending doom that’s delightful. There really is no other artist like Ferreyra and it shows here.
The main story does suffer a bit from a slow start, taking its time to get to the monster action we know is coming. The goings-on of a lost civilization aren’t that intriguing, though I suppose it adds a layer to the unhealthy leadership.
The second story by Vaughan and Nowlan is great fun, especially if you’re a cinephile. Featuring Scarecrow–as seen in the preview–Bruce Banner just wants to watch a late-night show. This is a story that is about fear, inducing fear, and how it affects us. One might think it’s pure horror, but Vaughan and Nowlan turn the tables at one point and make it a heroic story that only Hulk could see through.
The use of color is also intriguing, with an almost sepia tone like in the golden age of filmmaking, which eventually gets a touch of color at an important plot turning moment. Nowlan does it all here too, colors, pencils, and lettering, and his style is very clean and pleasing. Hulk has a more normal-looking face that gives him a bit more humanity than we’ve seen in recent comics.
Comics like this make me sad that Immortal Hulk is coming to an end. The depth of character and the types of things you can do with this hero feel limitless in the hands of these creators.
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