THIS REVIEW OF ‘THE IMMORTAL HULK’ #8 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Clyde Hall. Science and the supernatural usually cross paths at the cost of one or the other. Explain a fantastic story phenomenon with science, it loses mystique. Make it elusive to (or apart from) the scientific method, and it borders folklore. Give both equal footing while maintaining the horror, and a writer can be justifiably proud of their accomplishment. Al Ewing has earned a right to healthy hubris from the current run of The Immortal Hulk, which not only hearkens back to the character’s original concept, but expands on it in the most wicked, unholy ways. His Hulk gives you the willies.
If we watch paranormal television hoping for a peek at unearthly nightmare creatures and storm chaser programming to witness forces of nature unleashed, The Immortal Hulk #8 satisfies both cravings. The title has been building to a payoff, with ample panel time for the emerald goliath to return to his monster roots; being the Hulk when the sun goes down, a human mockery not only beyond mortal, but also mockingly aware of it. Ewing also includes empirical trappings of the creature’s past, from bountiful gamma rays to those who would unlock and understand its power. Issue #8, “His Hideous Heart”, slams these locomotive forces head-on with chilling impact. In the process, the horrific nature of the Hulk may surpass the Jekyll and Hyde foundation that inspired it.
Last issue, the Avengers incapacitated the Hulk at the behest of Proper Government Authorities and relinquished the behemoth to their care. Since then, nothing. Bruce Banner and his alter-ego might as well have been swallowed by a black hole. Carol Danvers, not content with the bureaucratic stonewalling in lieu of status updates, strategically tugs against the red tape. Meanwhile, the Hulk is meticulously studied by a black op think tank headed by Dr. Clive. But not in any way that’s been attempted before. Clive seeks to test the ‘immortality’ of the creature, as well as establish scientifically The Rules by which the monster and its human host exist. Sadistic vivisections ensue, leading to a terrible fate for one not only bent on abyss-staring box seats, but electron microscopes recording every shadowy crevice.
Ewing’s narrative from the first issue has been daring as a wordsmithing Matt Murdock, fashioning a chiller epic but enveloping elements central to the science fiction/science gone mad Hulk tropes common to the character’s history. Dotting the landscape with Avengers, Walter Langkowski, She-Hulk, the military, while absorbing them into his own distinctive and macabre vision. In #8 he finalizes that alchemical compound, folding in logic and physical nature to serve this heart-of-darkness, fiendish fairy tale.
Dr. Clive is attuned, a conduit of immoral research embracing and intellectualizing Poe over any physics or biology founder. He fully embraces his own twisted tastes, making the grisly grotesquerie he conducts palatable within a fact-finding framework. The quest for knowledge granting a pass to any defilement, any base inhumanity, he can imagine. He’s quite aware of the victimizing effect this detached depravity should visit on the pitiable subject made to endure it. Except in this case, that recipient is a devilish emerald reflection that unnerves its torturer. It’s award-worthy Gothic horror by way of DNA sequencers and cytometers, applied without ethics.
How often does a comic book qualify as a legitimate page-turner? We marinate in weekly comics mineral springs of product, enjoying the soak but normally able to towel off at a moment’s notice and take up our enjoyment later. This issue, once taken hold of, takes hold back and throttles the reader toward the final panel. Ewing and his team don’t even rely on traditional dingy settings or macabre trappings to propel the monster tale they’ve unleashed. Penciller Joe Bennett, inker Ruy José, and colorist Paul Mounts depict modern labs as grottos for the unspeakable, well-lit by overhead fluorescent. Like a horror film where the director floodlights every scene instead of dimming to hide any special effects faux pas, the better for the audience to witness every nuance of their celluloid monstrosity.
They also step across a boundary that most Hulk tellings don’t, especially given the unpredictable might of their creature. For all its rampages and collateral damage, Banner’s dark side is seldom seen willfully creating fatalities. This isn’t that brute, proving that when it’s sufficiently vexed, any superheroic altruism is cast aside with a dismissive, viridescent backhand. As Hulk says, if you’re seeking the science, you’ve come to the wrong guy. If you seek a monster governed by morality, refer to the first answer.
It’s not the Hulk of Hulk-Busters, of raging against the unrelenting fear of normal people, of seeking acceptance in a world wrongly deeming it a destructive fiend, of child-like innocence or of simple unbridled rage. It’s an unfathomable green boogeyman earning every shuddered gasp from humanity assembled. This story brought back childhood memories of early Hulk, imprisoned behind layers of steel while Rick Jones maintained a vigil outside. A misanthrope which promised vengeance and payback while reminding its captor that it never stops. Never tires. And that it’s coming for you.
Written by Al Ewing.
Pencils by Joe Bennett.
Inks by Ruy José.
Colors by Paul Mounts.
Letters by VC’s Cory Petit.
9 out of 10