With the future of the comics industry up in the air, Brendan Allen and I are taking the opportunity to introduce each other to comics that the other might not have read. I’m more of a capes, laser guns and swords guy, while Brendan loves dark magic, criminals and things that go bump in the night. This go-round, we’re going to talk about a book that fits squarely at the intersection of our interests!
In 2017 one of Marvel’s seminal heroes was relaunched based around one simple concept; the Hulk can’t die. It wasn’t a new thing, readers had seen the Jade Giant heal and regenerate from incredible injuries that would have been fatal to anyone else (who wasn’t an immortal, short, Canadian mutant, that is). From there The Immortal Hulk, written by Al Ewing and drawn mostly by Joe Bennett and Ruy Jose, has become not only one of the best titles Marvel is currently publishing, but also a gut-wrenching horror story.
Tony Thornley: So Brendan, I sold this to you as a superhero horror story, but I’ve been reading the series continuously for the last three years. Re-reading this arc to talk about it was a trip. I remember at the time this being pretty disturbing but these five issues put a little more emphasis on the superhero side, with some dark and creepy seeping in. What did you think?
Brendan Allen: Zombie Hulk? Are you kidding me? Why didn’t anyone tell me this was a thing?
TT: I told you when we were talking about X-Men that I should have started you with this!
BA: I related to this one much more than the X-Men title. Don’t get me wrong. There was nothing WRONG with the X-Men joint. It’s just, this book… damn. There’s this whole vigilante anti-hero Punisher thing going, with a heavy Jekyll and Hyde vibe. And it actually reminds me a little of the book I threw your way last time around, The Damned.
TT: Yeah, this series starts as a morality play with a strong horror undercurrent, but it has noir elements, it has classic superheroics, and it also plays with childhood trauma.
As great as the story is, without the art, I don’t think it would have landed. Bennett and Jose really make the Hulk creepy- very Mister Hyde-ish like you said before. I really wish this arc got into the body horror of the later issues because man they make it WORK. And Paul Mounts’ colors have this eerie tone to them. Everything seems off, but in a horror way, not a, “he did something wrong,” way.
BA: I really enjoyed the art, for the most part. There was one chapter that kind of broke it up for me. It was just visually jarring, and seemed to really stick out from the standard set by the other four chapters.
TT: Issue three? I admired what Ewing was going for there and having the four additional art teams (in addition to Bennett and Jose, the issue featured Leonardo Romero, Paul Hornschemeier, Marguerite Sauvage, and Garry Brown) really helped sell the meta concept of an unreliable narrator. But the swing in styles really undersold the horror of the story.
BA: Right. I mean, I get what they were trying to do. Different perspectives, different art styles. It reminded me of a story I read my kids called They All Saw A Cat, by Brendan Wetzel. I think it really COULD have worked, but the execution was bizarrely lacking in continuity.
TT: So this is probably my favorite book Marvel is putting out right now. I’ve specifically avoided reviewing it so I can enjoy it strictly as a fan. It doesn’t forget that it’s set in a superhero universe, and some of the stories kinda sorta are superheroic, but in a really unique way. It’s the series that has made anything Ewing does a must-pull for me. What did you think?
BA: I really think this is a book I would pull. This first arc makes me want to take a look at the second. This one definitely leans heavily into the body horror genre, but I’m not really convinced this IS a superhero book. Hulk is an animal in this thing, ripping the baddies apart with his bare hands. My man is technically on the side of justice, but the means are brutal and messy.
TT: For sure! It’s really a top notch comic. So what’s up next?
BA: I almost hate to do this, because of how close this thing hits to home right now, but we’re doing a survival horror book by Clay McLeod Chapman and Oliver Levang called Lazaretto.
Immortal Hulk Volume 1: Or Is He Both?, Marvel Comics, 2018. Written by Al Ewing, line art by Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Leonardo Romero, Paul Hornschemeier, Marguerite Sauvage, and Garry Brown, color art by Ruy Jose, letters by Cory Petit.
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If your local comic store is temporarily closed, not offering safe curbside pick up or mail order, or is out of stock on this title, Marvel has a digital version of Immortal Hulk Volume 1: Or Is He Both? right here for $8.99. Comixology also has a digital copy for $8.99 right here and this book is also included in the Comixology Unlimited subscription service. Physical copies are available at Amazon for $12.99 here, and TFAW has a few copies for $12.79 plus shipping here.