I don’t know if I’ve ever felt threatened by the Hulk. Yes, he’s a green mountain of muscle, but the jolly green giant has felt distant in his menace as of late. Maybe — as much as I love them — it was the kinda goofy but sweet Amadeus Cho Hulk or the angry-but-still-your-friend Mark Ruffalo Hulk in the Marvel movies that sanitized the Jekyll and Hyde threat of the character. Immortal Hulk, however, isn’t making any quips. This rendition of the character takes Hulk to grounded, psychological horror.
“Man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be,” opens this first issue of The Immortal Hulk, a quote by psychiatrist/psychoanalyst Carl Jung. It sets the tone going forward, one of psychological unease and anxiety.
The issue opens with a mother and daughter getting gas in a gas station, a nervous man outside of the station with a gun, and an inconspicuous grifter (Bruce Banner)– all wearing false personas, publicly presented masks to hide who they really are.
The eventual robbery goes astray and everyone but the thief gets shot and killed. A cop and a reporter are on the case, the cop telling the reporter all victims are dead…until a latter panel when one of the dead bodies turns green.
The Immortal Hulk masterfully creates tension, sparingly showing the Hulk and building dread from other’s perspective — cops, thugs, etc — as opposed to Bruce Banner’s. Words create tension (“It’s the devil! The king of hell is out there!”), building the Hulk into a terrifying phantom before we see him. Away from the Avengers and Marvel Universe at large, we see the Hulk’s effect, physically and psychologically, the magnitude of destruction he can cause just from leaving the coroner’s office.
When Hulk is revealed, he’s not a Hulk you’ve ever seen. He’s not a monster eeking out gibberish; he knows precisely what he’s doing, who he’s hunting. Old Testament Hulk; wrathful, ready to be judge, jury, and executioner. “Collapsed lung, internal bleeding, just about every bone in his body broken,” says the police officer. This Hulk wasn’t just punishing the shooter– he was toying with him. A horrifying take on vigilante justice.
The issue sets up many intriguing threads for next issue: Can Bruce Banner…not die? How much control does the Hulk have? What happens when/if the cops and reporter catch up to Hulk?
Aside from the comic-book-y open threads from the issue, Al Ewing has weaved together a stunning first issue, layered with meaning and metaphor, a writer that truly loves the character and it shows. The core of the character has always been a man at war with himself, but what happens when the unfettered id is unleashed when you’re not present? When the part of you that you repress becomes smarter, stronger, and more deadly? We should all be excited for what horrors await us with this Hulk.
Immortal Hulk #1 is currently available from Marvel Comics.
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Joe Bennett
Coloring by Paul Mounts