Bruce Banner is dead. But then there’s that other guy… Your Major Spoilers review of The Immortal Hulk #1 awaits!
Writer: Al Ewing
Penciler: Joe Bennett
Inker: Ruy Jose
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: June 6, 2018
Previously in The Immortal Hulk: Bruce Banner was killed by Hawkeye some months ago, leaving the curse of the Hulk buried somewhere in the desert. That didn’t stop the alien Grandmaster from reviving him during one of his periodic attempts to game the entire universe into submission, leaving Bruce Banner once again free to walk the roads of the Marvel Universe. Or, as Ted Cassidy might have it, David Banner is believed to be dead. And he must let the world think that he is dead, until he can find a way to control the raging spirit that dwells within him.
A SHOCKING OPENING
This issue opens with a black page, featuring a quote from Carl Gustav Jung: “Man is, on the whole, less good than he wants himself to be.” It’s the kind of post-Alan Moore touch that could have come across as pretentious, but here, it works to set an ominous and cinematic tone. We cut immediately to a convenience store in the middle of nowhere, with a young girl buying a drink while her mother refuels. The first thing that strikes me is the use of all caps superimposed narration rather than a traditional caption box, which is both clever and serves to throw experienced readers out of their comfort zones. A man enters to rob the place, but things quickly go bad, leaving the girl and several others (including a man who heroically tried to intervene, only to take a bullet in the head for his troubles) dead. The local law enforcement arrives too late to do anything but collect bodies, while the young man escapes with only a few ill-gotten dollars to show for multiple murder. The medical examiner finds the dead John Doe oddly familiar, but can’t quite place him.
Then, when night falls, he starts to change… and to rise.
REALLY SKILLFUL STORYTELLING
As comic readers, we’re constantly bombarded with previews and interviews and such before a comic ever premieres, with stories and beats and entire arcs spelled out for you in advance, which can make the reading less enjoyable. (It’s doubly-hard to avoid that when you work for a site like Major Spoilers, by the way.) I worried that the big-time hype for Immortal Hulk #1 would spoil the reading, but it absolutely does not. The use of the unusual captions, the intensity of the art and the strength of this simple narrative make for an (you should excuse the expression) incredible issue. In some ways, it’s a return to the earliest days of Hulk’s life, but rather than just winding back the clock, Ewing’s story adds a whole new twist to things with the brutal on-panel murder of Bruce Banner. Bennett and Jose’s art ups the ante by giving us a terrible, haunting Hulk with a twisted smile on his face, and the first appearance of the character is, astonishingly, something many Hulk tales are not: It is subtle. And even when he begins ripping apart a biker gang’s hideout to find the shooter, the green goliath is treated as a terrifying force of nature, leading to a character reveal that gave me goosebumps. There’s a fascinating ambiguity to the main character in these pages, clearly allowing us to wonder if The Hulk is really any more of a hero than young Tommy and his itchy trigger finger, and the chilling final panel of Bruce looking in the mirror to see The Hulk leering back at him is just plain frightening.
BOTTOM LINE: THIS ONE IS A WINNER
It’s really hard to take a sixty-year-old character and put an entirely new spin on it while staying true to what has gone before, but this book does it, and does it well. The Immortal Hulk #1 gives us a Hulk that is at once familiar and brand-new, with expressive, well-done art and storytelling that makes the creature truly scary for perhaps the first time in years, earning 5 out of 5 stars overall. There’s a little of the TV Hulk here, a little of the earliest days of the misanthropic gray Hulk, but a lot of entirely new or brilliantly reworked material as well, and it has more excited for Bruce Banner’s story than I have been since I saw the trailers for ‘Thor: Ragnarok.’ This is a really good book, my friends…