Doctor Strange is dead.  Now, Bruce Banner is getting involved, whether The Hulk likes it or not.  Your Major Spoilers review of Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense #1 awaits!


Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Simone Di Meo
Colorist: Dono Sanchez-Almara
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: December 5, 2018

Previously in Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense: Stephen Strange is dead. A charred skeleton in an abandoned barn on the edge of a deserted town.  Bruce Banner wants to know why.  And he won’t stop until he has the truth in his hands…

…with or without THE IMMORTAL HULK.


We join Bruce Banner already in progress, walking the highways of America, following a hunch that has led him to the middle of nowhere.  What’s worse, it’s a familiar part of nowhere, a dead zone in New Mexico, where a hunch (which he explicitly knows is actually “The Other Guy”) has drawn him to find the body of Stephen Strange.  The Sorcerer Supreme is somewhat worse for wear though, burned to the bone and left in a remote barn, with the Eye of Agamotto having gone missing.  Following his instincts and/or the psychic/magical hunches of his big green side, Bruce ends up in a nearly abandoned small town, where all the locals have gone missing.  His usual way of finding information won’t work, either, as the local bar is locked and boarded up, leaving him to walk from door to door to find out what’s going on.  This earns him a severe beating, leading him to a confrontation with a man who now believes himself to be the master of the Eye.


Ewing’s work on Immortal Hulk has been remarkable from the beginning, but I worried that taking him into a team-style setting would destroy the delicate balance.  I was, thankfully, wrong.  This issue deals with Defenders history and still keeps Bruce’s new situation creepy and off-putting, and even gives us a rare sighting of The Hulk during the day (something he himself notes is painful and difficult, but which will be necessary if we’re actually going somewhere with a Defenders riff.)  Simone Di Meo doesn’t quite nail the level of distortion and terror that Joe Bennett has been delivering in the main Immortal Hulk title, but this issue is nonetheless terrifying and full of inventive and disturbing visuals.  When Banner calls the Eye Of Truth’s bluff about looking into his soul, there’s a moment of sheer terror on the villain’s face and a wonderfully creepy smile on Bruce that chills me to this very day.


The mystery of what happened to Stephen Strange is opened in these pages, but serves mostly as background for a showcase of Bruce Banner, his resourcefulness and complete lack of sense and fear, but I’m hoping that the subsequent Surfer and Sub-Mariner stories will expand on that.  Even with that plot point getting a bit neglected, Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense #1 sticks the metaphorical landing in both story and art, delivering another nightmarish Hulk tale while setting up a Defenders reunion, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.  Even better, it gives me hope that we might get a weird and creepy Defenders reunion with similarly unnerving takes on Namor, Strange and Radd, the thought of which is truly thrilling.

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A Nice Balance

It's not easy to do horror in a superhero setting, but this issue makes it feel effortless.

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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