Review by James ( @Jamesrgwrites on Twitter)
THE RETURN OF BRUCE BANNER! You know Bruce Banner. He’s quiet, calm, never complains. He’s a man who believes he can use the darkest elements of his personality to do good in the world. If someone were to shoot him in the head… All he’d do is die. But the horror lives deeper. A horror that refuses to die. When night falls something other than the man gets up again. The horror is the Immortal Hulk. COLLECTING: IMMORTAL HULK 1-5, MATERIAL FROM AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER 684
Title: The Immortal Hulk Vol. 1: Or Is He Both? | Author: Al Ewing | Illustrator: Joe Bennett | Publisher: Marvel Comics | Pub Date: 2018-12-04 | Pages: 128 | ISBN13 978-1302912550 | Genre: Science Fiction, Superheroes, Graphic Novel | Language: English | Source: Checked out at local library | Starred Review
The Immortal Hulk, Vol 1 Review
When the Hulk was created for Marvel Comics, many saw the inspirations from the current atomic age of science, where radiation granted everything from the strength and speed of a man-sized spider to the ability to level a city. The Hulk not only personified these destructive abilities, but the relationship with his alter ego, mild-mannered Bruce Banner, created an intriguing Jekyll and Hyde dichotomy that left readers constantly wondering how much of the man fuels the monster and vice versa. Writer Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennett have recently expanded on the Hulk’s duality and leaned heavily into the horror aspect of the Hulk with the storyline introduced in The Immortal Hulk, Vol. 1. Or Is He Both?
People familiar with the Hulk’s history remember that it wasn’t always rage that brought forth the Hulk. The Hulk had also emerged at sunset. Ewing has brought back this trope into the Hulk comics, reminding readers that, “The night is his time.” However, the “his” in question is a much more sinister monster, not purely driven by rage but by something darker from deep within Banner’s psyche. The Hulk drawn by Joe Bennett has the sloping, angular features reminiscent of Kirby’s depiction, but he also draws Hulk with an intelligent and sadistic gleam in his eye, helping create a completely new depiction of the Hulk. Ewing’s Hulk isn’t the Savage Hulk, who often spoke in third person and just wanted to be left alone, or Joe Fixit, the gray, intelligent mob enforcer Hulk. This Hulk is a much more cunning and cruel monster.
After Bruce Banner and an innocent girl are shot dead in a gas station robbery, the Hulk emerges at nighttime to track down those responsible for Banner’s and the girl’s deaths. Much like the TV series with Lou Ferrigno from the ‘80s, Banner wanders the byways of America while the Hulk emerges to administer justice in the form of intimidation and property damage. Ewing’s Hulk diabolically taunts his prey, maximizing the terror they feel before the Hulk finally decides to end the fight, not always killing them but leaving them is such a way that they never forget the Hulk. Not content to just smash, this Hulk also psychologically destroys you before physically breaking you. The Hulk knows how terrifying his presence is and enjoys inflicting that terror on those he fights. There is, of course, something else that is hunting the Hulk besides the government, something that seems supernatural, but it’s also so fun to see Banner and this particular version of Hulk learning to coexist.
The title of this collection fits in with the theme of the stories collected, and with one of the overarching themes of the Hulk throughout his evolution as a superhero. How much of this Hulk is the man Bruce Banner, the scientist who is also basically a good guy despite his tendency to destroy public property? How much is the monster, a creature who revels in the chaos it causes? The collection offers no clear cut answers, just like the Hulk’s other depictions, because half the fun of these comics is not the destination, the definitive character study, but in the continual exploration. When the comic finally ended, I was disappointed with the lack of resolution, but it only makes me want to read Vol. 2 and see more of a man in a dysfunctional relationship with his inner monster.
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Lilyn G is the founder of Sci-Fi & Scary, and leader of the Coolthulhu Crew. She does book and film reviews for both genres the site focuses on. Her tastes run towards creature features, hard science fiction, and lots and lots of action. She also has a soft spot for middle-grade fiction that rears its head frequently.
Though no longer involved with Ladies of Horror Fiction due to other responsibilities and a too-full plate, she was one of the original 4 co-founders.
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