If there’s one thing that can be said for Immortal Hulk, it’s that it finds ways of continually topping itself. From the get-go, the story was the promise of something familiar with something different. The marriage of the Bill Bixby Incredible Hulk show’s tone and hard-traveling hero, with the idea of a dead Bruce Banner morphing at night into a Hulk who just can’t die. This issue starts to converge some of those seemingly loose threads in the initial issues and it gets even more frightening in this issue.
This issue picks up with last issue after the Hulk drained Walter Langowski (aka Sasquatch) of his gamma radiation after a murderous rampage, but also picked up the hitchhiker in his head: Brian Banner aka Bruce’s father. Ewing’s work so far has been slowly shifting the Hulk and Banner from the science hero action that defined both of Greg Pak’s runs on Hulk to a more overtly supernatural state. That occult-esque narrative hits full gear this issue with Bruce Banner finally allowing the magical thinking and unreality that’s propelled this run to take over his interactions with the Hulk in order to take on a threat that’s decidedly unscientific in The One Below All. Ewing as always manages to paint an intricate picture of the motivations of his players. Bruce Banner’s portrayal as always rocks a reliable line between beleaguered and creepy, but now leaning on more esoteric methods to solve his problems.
While the early issues did a great deal to keep Bruce away from familiar settings or characters, Ewing starts to let the familiar creep in. But like the Hulk himself, it’s all bent wrong or different. Ewing’s penchant for tugging on various threads of Marvel continuity comes to the fore here and helps with selling that incorrect shape. From the Avengers, to Alpha Flight, and it especially applies to the most tangible antagonist the Hulk has had so far: Shadow Base. One of the most reliable Hulk antagonists has been Thunderbolt Ross. But with his Hulk days come and gone (as well as being in Captain America), his days as a Hulk villain are a bit of a question mark. Enter General Fortean from way back in Jeff Parker’s Red Hulk run. That idea of doubles takes further shape with Ross’s protege filling his spot and taking a dive into being even more of a monster than his mentor was.
While Joe Bennett doesn’t draw this issue, Lee Garbett (late of the wonderful Loki: Agent of Asgard and Skyward) takes over and kicks things up a notch. While the issue is action-free compared to last month’s smackdown, the issue doesn’t lose any of the intimidating tone that’s pervaded the run. In particular, Garbett’s acting carries a great deal of intensity that an action scene isn’t always going to match. Paul Mounts’s coloring also adds a great deal of creep factor with the lighting and atmosphere for the comic. At this point, if you’re not reading Immortal Hulk, you’d best jump on. This run is going to be one for the ages, and it’s best to get on while it’s still early days.
5 Shadow Bases out of 5