It’s funny – you read the most recent Ultimates run, and you think that Al Ewing could be one of Marvel’s best writers. Then you read The Immortal Hulk, and you realize that he just may be Marvel’s best writer.
Marvel has made it a point to make better books recently, as evidenced by the creative teams they’ve chosen, and the books they assign those teams to. One of the lesser-heralded books (unless you’re a member of the Ewing Appreciate Club) coming out was The Immortal Hulk, but a dynamic first issue screams for attention through the forest of other titles. Ewing and Joe Bennett create a haunting, pulse-pounding narrative in this first issue that can chill a reader to the bone.
Things start almost with a clichéd narrative gimmick, where we follow a potential thief into a gas station that he plans to rob. One assumes that someone will die in the station, and the thief will go on the run. The creative team leans into your expectations here, but then warp them ever so slightly, delaying the outcome with an ice cold tension – Bennett’s sixth page, only five panels, is so dramatically powerful that it doesn’t require words. It’s simultaneously beautiful and heart-breaking.
This slow burn plays into Ewing’s strengths: he takes the story and gives the reader little pieces that linger in his or her mind as they make their way through the book. Like any great piece of horror, you know what’s coming and it still scares the shit out of you. In one issue Ewing has mastered the Hulk as a horror book, crafting an eerie environment where everyone’s worst fears are realized.
And by god, is it scary; The Hulk he presents is a force of nature, an unstoppable force that metes out its own twisted form of justice. And to make matters worse (which for the reader is SO much better), the art team of Bennett, Ruy José on inks, and Paul Mounts on colors, gives that Hulk monstrous form and an expressive, horrifying face. Seriously, the Hulk is revealed in a two-page splash, and the next page is another two-page splash that sends a jolt of uncomfortable lightning through your body.
José is SO good here, making all the darkness seem like an organic being here. It plays with the frames, giving the lighting that genuine, classic-Hollywood-Monster-flick feeling. What he does with the Hulk’s eyes alone is incredible, and Mounts’ work on colors? They grab the reader’s focus and enhance every scene, creating a dreadful soundtrack in his or her mind.
But back to the original premise – Ewing might be the best Marvel has. He asks some incredible (pardon the pun) questions about the Hulk, and is adding to the Hulk mythos as only a lifelong fan of the character can. He crafted an issue that could be a one-shot and it would still be one of Marvel’s best series of 2018. He really gets the Hulk/Banner dynamic, and he approached the narrative with all the horror he promised.
This book met and exceeded all expectations I had: it was powerful, riveting, and scary as hell. This is a Hulk book that will toy with your fears, and this is a Hulk that allows the worst of Bruce Banner to take center stage. This is a fear machine.