In the third issue of Donny Cates and Ryan Ottley’s Hulk, Bruce Banner has crashed the makeshift Starship Hulk onto a strange new world in the multiverse, and now he needs answers. Who is the other Banner? What happened to this world? And why is it getting harder to contain his monstrous alter ego?
This issue definitely felt like a step up from the previous installment, which felt mostly like an extended fight sequence without much in the way of storytelling I could latch onto. This issue manages to deliver a bit more of an explanation of the Hulk and Banner’s current predicament in the midst of some truly bonkers action and world-building. The fight against the giant Wolverine inside the “engine room” (a.k.a. Hulk’s subconscious) rages on, becoming even more over-the-top gory than in last issue’s claw-snapping set piece.
Ottley clearly relishes in the kinetic energy afforded by this fight, throwing in speed lines and shocked facial expressions from the gargantuan Logan. The conclusion of this fight is one of the nastier images I’ve seen in a Marvel book, suggesting that Ottley and Cates are determined to outdo themselves in the graphic violence department with every issue. Luckily, the violence reaches a ludicrous “uncanny valley” sort of level, which helps to soften the blow a bit (so to speak) for the reader.
The various bloody sequences also serve to introduce a mysterious new wrinkle to the Hulk mythology. Recent Marvel ads have hinted that the Hulk may be receiving his very own version of Knull in the near future, and it sure seems like we get our first glimpses of him of it here.
Ottley and colorist Frank Martin make this introduction a memorable one, showing us a grinning, horrifying visage that feels just slightly out of step with the waking world. The mix of gray skin and glowing eyes communicate a kind of malevolence that immediately leaves an impression.
Those aren’t the only horrors delivered in this issue, however. As the alternate Bruce Banner describes the fall of his world, Ottley and Martin go all out with stomach-turning creature designs and a horrific spread showing the proliferation of gamma radiation across the globe. This book continues to be filled with huge ideas and the art team is more than up to the task of bringing them to life and embellishing upon them.
While a great chunk of this issue consists of exposition and not a ton of forward momentum (or answers for how/why Banner needed to leave Earth), the little teases of what’s to come — as well as the overall What If…? kinda vibe at play — definitely held my attention. Hopefully Bruce (and the reader) won’t have to wait too much longer to find the answers they seek, as a new/familiar enemy rears their head in a fun final reveal.
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