Immortal Hulk has ended its historic run, but there’s even more way to enjoy it as Marvel has released Immortal Hulk Vol. 11: Apocrypha. This collection features six one-shots and material from the Immortal Hulk: Time of Monsters one-shot. Running extra long for a trade paperback at 248 pages, this collection features a wide range of stories told using the Immortal Hulk character, some of which even add new context to older stories.
The stories collected here are epic in many ways. Originally published over two years time and spanning two events, one can see how far-reaching the series and concept of the Immortal Hulk was. It’s an epic collection in part because it shows clever storytelling ideas at work by Al Ewing. Save for the final story from Immortal: Hulk Time of Monsters scripted by Alex Paknadel and co-plotted by Ewing as well as reprintings of older stories, Ewing solely writes all of the stories here. It’s an impressive thing to read this book, apart from the main series, and see how far it reached either into the cosmos with Silver Surfer, or into the psyche of Bruce Banner.
This book opens with Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense which ingeniously utilizes classic panels from previous Hulk stories to add context to the current storyline. This issue gives Banner the control of Hulk as he attempts to figure out what happened to a magical character. Ewing and artist Simon Di Meothe use reprinted panels from classic Incredible Hulk scenes, drawing your attention to the history of the Hulk and how different he once was. This character has been through a lot, which adds a layer you may not be thinking of when reading him. Drawing from the past is something that pop-ups again in this collection, which ends up giving the modern story an extra layer to marvel at.
Next up is Defenders: The Best Defense, which opens with a cosmic entity who fuels The Train with entire planets. The entity is sick and Earth is in danger. Enter Hulk (whose story picks up where we left off in the previous issue), Silver Surfer, Namor and Doctor Strange, who all play a part in the story. It’s an epic tale that should be added to any best Defenders story list.
This issue opens with a cosmic entity using what looks like glass blowing equipment to toss planets into what is dubbed The Train. It’s a cosmic force not unlike Galactus that seemingly burns up entire planets so as to fuel itself. Its purpose isn’t clear, but what is clear is that Earth is on course for its next meal. Like a giant cosmic whale, this entity fueling the furnace has a parasite messing with it, who happens to know Silver Surfer. So begins the journey to save Earth, which requires the efforts of all three heroes who had one-shot stories in the last two weeks. It’s a big, Kirby-style cosmic story that’s as wacky as it is intense.
Following that is Absolute Carnage: Immortal Hulk drawn by Filipe Andrade. It’s an incredible look at Bruce Banner, who sits in a literal black box with other voices in his head listening in on his self-reflection and chipping in too. The story serves to show how Venom interacts with the minds inside Hulk, giving a bit of payoff to the transformation of a Venomized Hulk.
If you ever wanted to see the power of storytelling and how it might reshape our thinking, look no further than the next one-shot Immortal Hulk #0. The main story is drawn by Mattia De Iulus, which sets up reprintings that connect to a story by Bill Mantlo, Mike Mignola, Bob Sharen and Jim Novak, and later a story by Peter David, Adam Kubert, Mark Farmer, Dan Brown, and John Workman. The story centers on Hulk’s father, adding new context to his relationship to Bruce and past events. Opening with him wandering into a cemetery, he finds a glowing object from a story originally printed in Incredible Hulk #312. Cutting back to the father in the cemetery, a mysterious man wanders over and we’re soon whisked off to Incredible Hulk #1. It’s a clever way to tie key moments in history while also refreshing readers.
Next up is Immortal She-Hulk #1, which is drawn by Jon Davis-Hunt. Ewing crafts a story here that helps explain the supernatural elements of the Green Door, She-Hulk’s sordid past with death, and even uses Wolverine to smooth out the unfamiliarity of death itself. As it stands, this book takes a look at a character like She-Hulk, who is beginning to understand why she can’t die.
Davis-Hunt’s art is detailed as ever, with a level of realism that has also kept Immortal Hulk at the forefront of quality storytelling. There are multiple moments of extreme detail and quality showing energy dispersal and explosions. Most importantly, the pain, anguish, and confusion She-Hulk goes through are all on full display. Backed up by color artist Marcio Menyz, there’s a heightened realism in the use of color that helps shed a new layer of fear inside you when things get freaky.
King in Black: Immortal Hulk is an incredible work as it’s completely silent. Drawn by Aaron Kuder, this one-shot reminds us of the power of imagery. There are many close-up shots of Hulk thinking or reacting to something and it’s fun to ponder what is going on in his head. There are also incredible horrors to ponder as well as Hulk faces Symbiote threats. That’s interesting because we’re experiencing a childlike Hulk who isn’t quite sure what is going on. It’s a rare example of how Hulk needs help, especially in this issue where many of his alter egos are missing, like Bruce Banner. Enter Joe Fixit, whose help is especially needed in these modern Immortal Hulk times.
Wrapping up the book is Immortal Hulk: Time of Monsters with scripting by Paknadel, and art by Juan Ferreyra. This is a very different story as it drops readers into a different time and place. 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 the evil of the Hulk 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 Immortal Hulk Vol. 11: Apocrypha collection is a dense and rich read. It harbors some impressive looks at Hulk’s history, his powers, and his psyche. Through the power of one-shots, this collection proves a done-in-one story can be impactful and memorable in many different ways.
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