It was hard getting a bead on exactly what was happening with Hulk. Banner was running from a mysterious event, he was transformed into a starship, he was traversing the multiverse… it was a lot. Suddenly, in the middle of that, something emerged, and if it’s what it seems to hint at, I’m invested as hell.
We get our first hint at what happened in El Paso, as the Hulk’s journey through the multiverse continues. It comes from Donny Cates, Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, Frank Martin, Federico Blee, and Cory Petit.
Hulk has been drawn into a new reality from the Bleed. It’s a Gamma irradiated wonderland where he should feel right at home. Unfortunately Thunderbolt Ross has made that impossible. Meanwhile, a dark presence haunts the deepest recesses of Banner’s mind.
Cates hid something in this issue, and while it’s far from subtle, its impact is incredibly sneaky. On the surface, Cates and Ottley are telling a story about the Hulk saving an alternate reality. While it’s not necessarily an old set-up, it’s common enough to have its tropes. And that part of it on the surface level works.
Cates gives the story the proper amount of tension, and an interesting setup. Petit brings his words to life on the page, even making the Hulk’s interior world feel sci-fi just through his lettering design. Ottley and Rathburn make the world familiar enough that we can empathize, but remove the look and design of this Earth just a few degrees from Earth-616 so it clearly feels wrong. Martin and Blee’s colors make it all incredibly unsettling. In other words, it’s a solid set-up for a Hulk story that’s familiar but doing something a little different.
Where the story gets deeper, though, is in the introduction of a mysterious new presence in Banner’s head. This is where I’m suddenly invested and excited about this run. From all appearances, the Hulk has a new alter. Cates makes it an imposing and disturbing presence, but Ottley’s line work is what sells me on it. We’re first introduced to this alter with the after effects of its actions. Then its shadowy, ill-defined presence, surrounded in a fiery red… Then the smile…
It’s a build up with a perfect creative synthesis, from top to bottom. There’s something here, something new and unsettling, and each member of the creative team is responsible for it. This new monster, an abominable Hulk if you will, is terrifying to behold.
And I hope the payoff keeps it that way.
Hulk #3 is available now from Marvel Comics.
The run gets interesting here. With continued great art, the story takes a turn that gets its hooks in and shows a compelling thread that has us invested.