THE IMMORTAL HULK BY AL EWING, JOE BENNETT, AND PAUL MOUNTS
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
Al Ewing brings the Hulk back from the dead in THE IMMORTAL HULK #1. Literally. It's the most refreshing Hulk book I've read in years. It reinvigorated my interested in the character. The dark, gothic horror tone of the book is wonderful. Joe Bennett's art is suitably scary-yet-detailed.
98 %
An Incredible Start

THE IMMORTAL HULK #1 is not a super hero book. If you’re looking for the somewhat lighthearted, fun adventures of a dopey green goliath who fights a rogue Army general, read some Hulk back issues. This book, written by Al Ewing, is a horror story. Ewing takes the original concept of the first THE INCREDIBLE HULK series from the early ‘60s — that Bruce Banner turns into this twisted, ugly, hateful version of himself at night — and turns the horror up to 11. The Hulk doesn’t say “Hulk Smash” and bash some tanks. He brutally batters a weak, little man who killed innocent people, and taunts him while doing so. Joe Bennett draws the Hulk as a, well, hulking giant of pure muscle and hatred. He makes the Hulk looks downright frightening. I can’t wait to see where Ewing takes this book.

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A Tragedy in THE IMMORTAL HULK #1

THE IMMORTAL HULK #1 opens with a gruesome murder. A scrawny man walks into a gas station in order to rob it. A 12-year-old girl is there and drops a glass bottle, frightening the gunman. He shoots her, then he shoots the man standing next to her, Bruce Banner. He kills the clerk as well and gets away. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the book and, presumably, the series. It’s not the fun, lighthearted Al Ewing who wrote USAvengers. Much like the Hulk and Bruce Banner, this is a different side of the writer. Readers of AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER will know that Bruce Banner is now apparently immortal. Any time he dies, he eventually rises back to life thanks to the Hulk.

Bruce wakes up on a slab at the coroner’s office and quickly turns into the Hulk. Then, he tracks down the gunman and torments him, before leaving him brutally battered.

IMMORTAL HULK #1
THE IMMORTAL HULK #1 page 24. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

As you can see, this isn’t much of a fun ride. It’s thoroughly depressing throughout the issue. That’s not a bad thing, though. The opening scene is a grim, horrifying scene. It shows how dark this book will be. Also, it serves to make the Hulk into a sort of avenging anti-hero, thus changing his character from what he’s been in recent years.

A New Hulk in THE IMMORTAL HULK #1

This book almost feels like an old-school Vertigo book. It takes an established character and brings them into a darker, more realistic world. The issue also brings the Hulk back to his roots. It brings back the Jekyll and Hyde-type version of the character from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original run. Instead of the Hulk being just a raging, mindless monster, he’s Banner’s colder, more destructive other half. Much like in the original series, he also has at least normal intelligence. He speaks like a normal, albeit somewhat deranged and spiteful, person when he confronts the gunman. In this way, his demeanor is reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster in the original Frankenstein novel, as well as the aforementioned Mr. Hyde.

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I think this is an incredibly refreshing change for the character. After years of the Hulk being a righteously angry monster (in Greg Pak’s run), a madman scientist (in both Jason Aaron and Gerry Duggan’s runs) and a mindless monster (in Mark Waid’s run), he’s back to being cruel yet smart. It reminds me of the beginning of Peter David’s phenomenal run when the Hulk first reverted back to his original grey form and acted like a colossal jerk. However, Ewing changes it up here by making him into a horror movie monster, preying upon weak-willed, cowardly criminals and confronting them in the same way a slasher villain would prey upon a hapless teenager.

Also, the fact that he isn’t the main focus of the issue makes this even stronger. Much like in these horror movies, the less you see of the main monster, the better. It makes you savor their appearances more.

Bennett’s Horrifying Visuals

Bennett gels quite well with Ewing. He truly understands what Ewing’s going for with the gothic horror element of the book. His very realistic, less stylized artwork fits with the down-to-earth plot. Where he really shines, though, is when he draws the Hulk himself. The Hulk hasn’t looked this large and imposing in a while. He really looks like a monster here, not a big, jacked green guy. The best page of the issue is his two-page spread where he focuses on the Hulk’s head in great detail. You can see the menace in the Hulk’s eyes. That human side of him is juxtaposed with his giant, slack-jawed expression, making him look, from the nose down, like a mindless beast.  Combined, they turn the Hulk into a frightening, as well as otherworldly-looking, creature. A pure, unnatural force of rage and vengeance.

IMMORTAL HULK #1
THE IMMORTAL HULK #1 page 23. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Final Thoughts: THE IMMORTAL HULK #1

THE IMMORTAL HULK #1 is an incredible start to the series. It brings out the Hulk’s more frightening tendencies to great effect. I’m really excited to see where Ewing goes with this interpretation of the character. It’s a breath of fresh air for a character who’s been somewhat stale for years. Joe Bennett’s Hulk should prove to be an iconic take on the character. Pick it up if you like horror books, and if you’re also a fan of more mature, Vertigo-like stories.

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