One of the unique ideas from Marvel Comics over the last year was to allow creators to dabble within the confines of Al Ewing’s Immortal Hulk series. Utilizing one-shot stories, Jeff Lemire, Mike del Mundo, Declan Shalvey, Tom Taylor, Jorge Molina, David Vaughan, and Kevin Nowlan explored the character in different times and places. The only story not captured here is Alex Paknadel and Juan Ferreyra’s tale, which may have strayed too far from Hulk’s modern era to fit within the concept of this collection. That said, Immortal Hulk: Great Power is an exceptional read.
Each story takes place during Al Ewing’s run, opens with a quote, and explores the tragic nature of Hulk in his nightmarish state. This collection opens with Taylor and Molina’s tale where Spider-Man accidentally gains the powers of Hulk. It’s nighttime, he’s too close to Bruce, and bad things happen. It features plenty of fun superhero tropes, like Thing fighting Hulk, villains, and a human experience as Peter realizes the hell of being the Hulk. It’s a gorgeous story thanks to Molina’s art and it has a detailed look that suits big-time superhero comics.
Next up is Lemire and del Mundo’s “Threshing Place” opening with a quote from Joel 2:24-25 about, naturally, “the threshing places.” It sets up the story in a way to convey that hard times happen, but God will provide and turn things around with a bounty. Soon, though, we learn a little girl is missing and Bruce Banner realizes some kind of monster situation is afoot. It’s a detective story, more or less, and Bruce is teaming up with the Hulk to resolve it. It’s a nice reminder these two are in fact two personalities in one body and thus have different opinions and tackle problems differently. More importantly, they both care.
All told, this story is the perfect entry point for readers of the classic tale.
The art by Del Mundo is fabulous, especially when it leans into body horror. It’s totally in his style, not too hyper-realistic, and it comes with lots of colors and eye-catching beauty. Hulk himself looks great with an impressive forehead which you can see on the cover and a body that’s dark green and filled with shadow across his bulbous muscles. There are fight scenes too, which play around with the layout to draw your eye well. Overall, the use of color creates a foggy and subtly terrifying look to the book. Backgrounds seem to sit in a haze, creating a mysterious atmosphere throughout the book. When the Immortal Hulk pops up, backgrounds continue to be hazy, but his terrible violence is only heightened in the use of deep color in contrast.
Next up is Declan Shalvey’s tale “Flatline”, which may be the strongest story in the collection. It manages to juggle big action, a clever villain to match Hulk against, an introspective tone, and a visual story that flows perfectly. The story is also meaningful, drawing you into Bruce’s experience throughout and capping off the tale with a touching moment of kindness.
The final story is called “A Little Fire” by David Vaughan and Kevin Nowland, featuring Scarecrow. It’s great fun, especially if you’re a cinephile. Bruce Banner just wants to watch a late-night show, but what unfolds is a story that is about fear, inducing that 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.
Collections like this one make me sad that Immortal Hulk has come 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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