There are a lot of comics out there but some stand out head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This,” we want to spotlight those series we think need to be on your pull list. This week, we look at the most recent and one of the darkest chapters in Bruce Banner’s life: Marvel comics’s “The Immortal Hulk.”
Who’s This By?
Al Ewing is an English writer with a resume filled with British imports like “Judge Dredd” and “Doctor Who,” but he is also a rock star at Marvel Comics. He has worked on books like “The Incredible Hulks,” “The New Avengers,” “Rocket,” “Original Sin,” and many, many more. With his experience on many of the intertwining Marvel books in the last few years and with Hulk himself, as well as a good portion of the Hulk family, he is familiar with the the key character histories leading to this new chapter. His writing on “Immortal Hulk” is intriguing, clever and takes the titular character in new and really unexpected directions.
Joe Bennett’s illustrations are wonderfully detailed. With a career spanning nearly 600 issues, the bulk of which are among The Big Two and jumping onto titles at Dark Horse and Valiant as well. If you don’t know him by name, you have certainly seen his art. He’s worked on “Batman,” “Incredible Hulk,” “X-Men,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “X-O Manowar,” and “Birds of Prey.” The list goes on and on. Name a character or a book and he has probably lent his stellar work to it. He has a way of taking long established characters, keeping their classic or most well-known design, and can still give it a modern look. He is a perfect choice for a timeless character like The Hulk.
What’s This All About?
The end of “Civil War II” saw SPOILERS Hawkeye shoot and kill Bruce Banner with a gamma-enriched adamantium arrowhead. This plan, set in motion by Banner, was a precaution against him ever turning back into the Big Guy again after being seemingly cured by Amadeus Cho. With Banner dead and buried for the last two years, the world truly believed that the Hulk was gone forever. But of course some things can never die. Bruce may have died a human death, but the Hulk was having none of it. One night, a supposed Hulk sighting sees rumors and stories quickly spread among the public and the media. With no documentation or reliable eye-witnesses, these rumors remain exactly that. Ewing takes the Hulk back to his more horror-centric roots in this creepy and violent series.
So, Why Should I Read This?
Although this series is coming at the end of a long history of “The Incredible Hulk” and other Marvel titles, this can be a great jumping-on point for new readers. Even fans with the most basic knowledge of the characters and knowing what happened at the end of “Civil War II” is enough information to get even the most casual reader caught up. “The Immortal Hulk” is not only a great ‘superhero’ series, but it is also a fantastic horror story. This is a version of the Hulk most fans have never seen. He is scary, brutally violent and down-right mean. He refused to die and literally dragged himself and Banner from the grave to continue wreaking havoc. He has little to no sympathy for anyone he sees as an enemy or a villain and is quite possibly the most difficult iteration of ‘The Other Guy’ to sympathize with in a long time. This is a dark vigilante tale with a Hulk that is just as intelligent as Banner.
Diving right back into the classic Jekyll & Hyde motif, but with a twist, “Immortal Hulk” sees the transformations happening under other circumstances beside Bruce becoming stressed or angry. He can literally kill himself to spark the change and the Hulk can take over at night. This brings about a nod to werewolf and even vampire stories. Mixing into the terror are plenty of other Marvel Universe characters with inclusion of teams like the current Alpha Flight and The New Avengers. It’s great to see so many other heroes having to deal with the Hulk’s path of destruction and coming to grips with the realization that Banner is alive. It is refreshing to see the inhabitants of this world be genuinely surprised and disturbed that one of their own was brought back to life. You would think every one of them would be used to that by now, but this is so unprecedented that it comes as quite a shock to everyone involved. This is hands down the best Hulk book in quite some time. It is also the first Hulk series to really have the reader question why, or even if, they are rooting for him. If you are looking to move away from the more cuddly film version of the Hulk, this is about as opposite as a characterization as you can get. You may be shocked by how violent and unforgiving the Hulk is now, but this disturbing action tale is exactly what we needed to refresh the character. I, for one, am gladly looking to what’s next. Bonus: Alex Ross’s gorgeous covers for every issue have been a real collector’s treat.Continued below
How Can You Read It?
This is an easy book to catch up on. As of today there are only seven issues out and it conveniently requires no additional reading other than this article, unless you feel the urge to research some more of the grand scheme of things. For readers that stick to the trade paperbacks, “The Immortal Hulk” vol. 1: Or Is He Both? comes out this December. It will collect issues #1-5 as well as some material from Avengers: No Surrender #684 that fleshes out more of the story. “The Immortal Hulk” is available anywhere comic books are sold.