Review: The Immortal Hulk (Issues 1-21) by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett

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The Hulk has had more status quos than most characters starting at the beginning when Bruce Banner turned into a gray monster at night. Since then he’s turned green (mostly) when triggered by anger. He’s been super intelligent. He’s been mindless. He’s been a gladiator. He’s been a bouncer. He’s been a SHIELD agent. He’s been a John Carter style hero. The beauty of the Hulk is he can be anything.

But has he ever been a horror book? Sure we know the Hulk is a “monster but has his book ever really been a horror title? Not really. There’s been hints of it but only hints. In a universe with literal Dracula as a major threat, Bruce Banner is just another superhero.

In fact in the ultimate mark of how not viewed as horror he is, the great Dread Central ran a review of the (excellent) 2008 film only to face castigating. Their defense was The Incredible Hulk is a kaiju film and a damn good one so yes they reviewed it. I’m with them.

Regardless of what we’ve had, there’s no debate about The Immortal Hulk, the current book by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett. It’s horror. It’s strong horror. It’s at times so hard to read you want to avert your eyes horror. It’s, pardon the pun, incredible horror.

The status quo this time is easily the darkest yet. Bruce Banner can be killed. He gets killed multiple times in the book. But come nightfall, he gets back up, turns green and giant, and the terrifying side of the Hulk known as Devil Hulk is unleashed. He can’t be destroyed. He can’t be stopped. He may literally draw his powers from hell. This is a new take on Hulk.

Or is it? Because while Ewing and Bennett take the character in a darker direction closer to Marvel’s 70s horror books, this honestly draws hard on continuity. Peter David’s multiple Hulk personalities? They’re here. Rick Jones’ time as an Abomination. It’s here. Betty Ross becoming Red She-Hulk and Harpy? Big time here. Jack McGee from the tv show? Now a black woman named Jackie McGee but here. This is a hell of a read for Hulk fans.

That blend between the old and the new is a genius choice because it makes the tonal shift work better. This is a book that takes virtually everybody connected with the Hulk and either literally or metaphorically puts them through Hell. There is so much body horror in this book ranging from the darkest take on Hulking out ever to Betty Ross becoming a monstrous version of the Harpy. It’s a book that accepts the retcon that Banner subconsciously kept Hulk from killing…but Devil Hulk isn’t going along with it. And it’s all palatable because you can tell Ewing & his art team know their history.

The book also understands that strip away all the status quo changes and at its core, the Hulk is the story of a man outrunning his darkest nature. This was something I had thoughts on earlier this week. Bruce Banner is always running. He’s always afraid of himself. Add to his hell that he can’t even die and that’s terrifying. This book wears the skin of a 70s horror book but it bleeds gamma green.

It’s also just a damned great crafted serial. Ewing is of the Kurt Busiek school, continuity heavy and solid as it gets. He routinely writes great story after great story. The art by Bennett is stunning, grotesque yet impossible to ignore. Each issue builds to a brutal cliffhanger the next issue only ramps up.. These are how comics should be.

Jump on now!

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