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Incredible Hulk Vol. 2: War Devils
Marvel Comics

Comic Books

‘Incredible Hulk Vol. 2: War Devils’ deepens the Marvel Mythology by examining the corruption of quiet American spaces

There are monsters everywhere, no matter how beautiful or banal.

The current run of The Incredible Hulk, written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and illustrated by Nic Klein, Travel Foreman, and Danny Earls, has slowly been populating the Marvel Universe with fresh horrors even as it plays with classic Marvel concepts.

Its first volume introduced an undead Appalachian cult, worshipping a pre-historic (pre-reality?) demon corpse. Alongside a strong Man-Thing cameo, the Hulk faced a sort of giant grief-feasting crab monster, hungry for the secret guilts of its victims. As Banner traverses the quiet American landscape, the Hulk battles impossible, secret threats that have tarnished the world around them.

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There’s a true sense of the haunted and hunted in America – wide-open, dangerous migrant worker camps just waiting for decimation by monster (or law enforcement), or vast, impossible underground cathedrals beneath cities where no such structure can exist.

Incredible Hulk Vol. 2: War Devils

Marvel Comics

The balance between new horror and classic IP is compelling; in the first arc of the book there is an ancient spirit proud to be the ancient, first hunter of Man, and the Hulk fights this creature alongside a new Ghost Rider. Not the Ghost Rider – not Johnny Blaze, Danny Ketch, Robbie Reyes, or Parker Robbins, who have, along with several others, shared the titular spotlight as Marvel’s primary Spirit of Vengeance protagonist. Just a Ghost Rider, subscribing to the Jason Aaron conceit that there are and have been many such spirits, each with a personal mission on earth. This one, Sal, is here to protect a single child; unlike his peers, he is not a living man turning into a spirit, he is a spirit reconstituting itself in times of danger.

Incredible Hulk Vol. 2: War Devils

Marvel Comics

But the book isn’t just about the proliferation of monstrous evils; it also concerns itself with a sort of corruption in the human condition, a slow bankrupting of human goodness and the American spirit. Hulk/Banner’s young sidekick, Charlie, is the victim of quiet family violence, that corruption of innocence that happens when a community fails to intercede. Her abusive father killed her brother and irreparably disfigured Charlie, and in doing so he warped Charlie’s goodness. She dreamed of being saved by Captain America – a paragon of good – but, now devastated by grief and anger, she finds herself deserving only the monster that is Hulk.

Incredible Hulk Vol. 2: War Devils

Marvel Comics

This quiet corruption is subtly laid in everywhere in The Incredible Hulk, from the migrant workers whose American dream has been ground into a constant struggle for safety and home to the failing religious iconography of the fallen angel Charlie and the Hulk run afoul of in the spiritual hotspot of New Orleans. Just as Hulk and Banner struggle with their interior darknesses, so too do these American spaces. There are monsters everywhere, no matter how beautiful or banal.

That beauty is indelibly, horrifically illustrated. Klein steeps the Texas flatlands in a shaded gloominess, and accentuates them with deep violets lit only by the flames of the Ghost Rider. A tomb is made vast by Earles, then made hazy by time and colorist Matthew Wilson’s blue hues. Every transformation between Banner and Hulk, no matter who the artist, is made grisly as the monster elongates. Flesh stretches as the beast breaks through.

There’s some of Hellboy in The Incredible Hulk, which follows the Hellboy structure: a monster confronting monsters again and again, stepping into their worlds from his own. He faces them with the same blasé, ho-hum attitude that Hellboy might while smashing them.

 

Incredible Hulk Vol. 2: War Devils

Marvel Comics

But it is that interior spiritual concern that separates this monster-of-the-month structure from that of Hellboy’s whimsical adventurism. Johnson and company are speaking to something deeper and more distressing, discovering something subtle and ever-present in the world around us.

Incredible Hulk Vol. 2: War Devils sees the Jade Giant losing touch with his bright, shiny Avengers past. In doing so, he’s coming closer to something much more terrible and much more honest in his character.

Incredible Hulk Vol. 2: War Devils
‘Incredible Hulk Vol. 2: War Devils’ deepens the Marvel Mythology by examining the corruption of quiet American spaces
Incredible Hulk Vol. 2: War Devils
War Devils inserts new, compelling monsters in a corrupted, frightening America.
Reader Rating1 Votes
8.5
Haunting artwork carries a tone as haunted as it is action-packed.
Explores deeper themes with nuance and subtlety.
Balances Banner and Hulk's antagonistic relationship their begrudging care for their sidekick, Charlie.
Finds remarkable settings for each new gruesome entity and tragic story beat.
Spends less time with the beat-em-up monster than fans may crave.
9.5
Great
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