Al Ewing and Joe Bennett have taken the Hulk character to new places in more ways than one. It’s an ongoing classic that will soon reach its end with issue #50, and in the latest trade paperback, Hulk himself may be wishing for death. Appropriately titled “The Weakest One There Is”, Hulk has been reduced to a gangly and younger version of himself. He also takes multiple beatings from good guys like the Thing and even the U-Foes! This is the series’ ninth trade paperback, and it stands out as it continues to show how these creators find new ways to tell a Hulk story.
Collecting Immortal Hulk #41-45, this collection opens with Charlene McGowan entering a facility to do what she can to help the Hulk. Meanwhile, Hulk is getting his face beaten in by the Thing who has a bit of a grudge to settle with the green goliath. He’s not-so Hulked out now, though, as he’s been de-powered. While it’d be silly to recommend starting Immortal Hulk here, this book does open with a new reader-friendly issue to catch you up to speed. Thing ends up meeting one of the altars inside Hulk and the reader, along with Thing, gets some empathetic vibes for the character.
This sets up the incredible pounding Hulk gets later in the trade paperback from the U-Foes. You will feel for Hulk, who is reduced to an embarrassing level of punishment, at least for him. This further shows how the U-Foes are unfeeling monsters, and while the Hulk certainly has done terrible things, beating on something so weak and defenseless is depressingly sad.
Joe Fixit ends up being the main player when Hulk isn’t around and it’s interesting to see him take charge. He ends up getting the majority of issue #43 (without antisemitic elements that were there originally) with a Hulk appearance by the end. He’s a loner and a criminal, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy. By the end of the book, Ewing has taken the character a little further in being a kind of father figure to the Hulk. He’s looking out for him anyway. He adds yet another interesting wrinkle to the overall character.
Bennett continues to draw some of the most grotesque imagery ever put to the page for a superhero comic. Standout moments by Bennett include humanizing the Thing, but never wavering from his monstrousness, effectively rendering multiple Hulk heads that seem to dribble into a human head dangling from a shoulder, and a scene where Hulk’s face is peeling away from the musculature underneath. Bennett never lets us forget the terrible monstrosities we see have a living thing writhing in pain underneath.
Bennett is joined by Alex Lins, Rachel Stott, and Adam Gorham on issue #42 with color artist Chris O’Halloran. Lins captures the uncomfortable awe of Leader and the realm he’s within, Gorham captures the hard edge and sorrow in the Gamma Flight members, and Stott captures the anxiety-ridden Jackie McGee.
Immortal Hulk Vol. 9: The Weakest One There Is is yet another example of how this series continues to flesh out the many facets of Hulk and the personas inside him. It also answers the question of what would happen to the Hulk if he was de-powered with a childlike mind in control. One might assume he’d falter and fail, but like many Hulk stories that came before this one, the Hulk never gives in.
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