A nightmare in green – The Immortal Hulk Issue 1
The Immortal Hulk issue 1
Story by Al Ewing, pencils by Joe Bennett, inks by Ruy Jose, colors by Paul Mounts, cover by Alex Ross
I haven’t read a Hulk comic for many, many years. And oh boy, I picked a great comic to revisit the world of big green. Al Ewing and Joe Bennett have created something that harks back to the classic Hulk and brings in a very dark horror element to make this the incredible debut I was hoping it would be.
I sure used to love the Hulk. In fact, the first Marvel comic I bought regularly was a Marvel UK weekly reprinting of early Hulk tales in the 80s. I started regularly reading US Hulk with Bill Mantlo’s run, followed by John Bryne, and I loved, absolutely loved the whole Peter David run. But in the past couple decades… nothing. And the more I heard of what was going on in Hulk world, the less likely I was to read them. I know the comics might have been good, but there’s one Hulk. He was grey. Then he was green. Then he was grey for a bit. Then he was green again. But importantly, he was THE Hulk. Singular.
The Hulk I first discovered was an incredible thing, and something of a horrific one, a modern-day Hyde to Bruce Banner’s Jeckyll. And it’s that Hulk that I see in the first issue of Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s The Immortal Hulk.
Now, not having read a Hulk comic for decades, and having only a rudimentary knowledge of the sort of things that have gone on with the character in that time, I was worried that I’d be lost here. But no, not a bit of it.
Ewing very cleverly just drops in what we need to know in subtle moments; with snippets of dialogue, or, in the case of the Hulk and/or Bruce Banner being dead or alive… a magazine cover in the gas station the early scenes are set in.
From the off, we know just what’s going to happen here. Or at least we think we do.
Joe Bennet’s first page, a perfect splash shows a young kid with a gun pulling up to gas station. We see a 12-year-old girl going inside to get herself a soda, and inside, there’s a mystery man with a baseball cap.
Yes, he’s Bruce Banner, and yes, the kid with the gun comes inside and holds up the place.
And then it all goes differently. Horribly differently.
In the past, Banner would have saved the day by transforming before the gun fires. But, that’s the past.
Today, we’re in the midst of a different world. And it’s a world of daily horror.
The horror is right there; the little girl drops her soda, surprising the nervous kid with the gun. The inevitability of it all is just brutal. Just having a nervy kid, desperate for cash, with access to a gun was always going to end this way, another statistic to add to the 33,000 deaths from guns in the USA every year.
And from what I’ve read from Al Ewing in the run-up to the release of The Immortal Hulk, that’s just what he was going for. He’s writing the Immortal Hulk as a horror tale. And there’s nothing more horrific in the world right now than the wave of unchecked gun violence we have to read about week in and week out.
But, where the Immortal Hulk opened just as I imagined it would, the fall-out from the tragic gun death is anything but what I expected. Bruce steps up sure, and even though he’s too late this time to save the girl, I was expecting him to change and deal with the kid. Oh no, not in the Immortal Hulk. (Remember what I said about not knowing anything about the Hulk and Banner in the last few years?)
Just as befits a horror comic, Ewing and Bennett don’t deliver us the Hulk until the finale, when he tracks down the kid shooter to a group of Hells Angel types. And credit to Ewing, in a few pages we get a small backstory for the kid with the gun. It doesn’t excuse him at all, but it does point out that the senseless deaths only happened because weak people in bad situations can get hold of guns far too easily.
When they do deliver us the Hulk, it’s perfectly done. Bennet’s use of scale is perfect for the reveal, his Hulk is truly brutal, monumental. The body language, the look, it’s not the Hulk you’ve seen before. This is something primal, something nasty.
And then there’s the eyes.
Those are terrifying eyes. And we see them a lot, as the Hulk tracks down the kid shooter, and each time it’s just as terrifying as they are there. There’s something of the steely, unblinking look of a psychopath in those eyes. It’s perfect.
And that goes for this first issue of the Immortal Hulk as well. It really is the perfect opener to the series. Reintroducing the Hulk could have been done in so many ways, but Ewing and Bennett have crafted something that both harks back to the classic character and adds an extra layer of horror. An excellent opening issue and thoroughly recommended.