Review of The Immortal Hulk, Vol. 2: The Green Door
Following his instincts and suspicions about people mutated by gamma radiation, the Hulk aims at returning to the testing sight where he first manifested. Along the way, however, he’s confronted by The Avengers who put up a fight to try and rescue their friend, Bruce Banner, from himself. The Hulk proves nearly unbeatable, and The Avengers are forced to use a devastating weapon to stop him, but it also obliterates a section of the countryside.
Captured, the Hulk is taken to a governmental blacksite and horrifically experimented upon by Dr. Clive, who is trying to unravel the secrets of the Hulk’s gamma radiation-infused body in order to control and weaponize it. It doesn’t go well for Dr. Clive, and when the Hulk escapes, other gamma-irradiated supervillains are deployed to recapture him, with all of them converging on Los Diablos, the testing ground of the first Gamma bomb and keystone to understanding what these visions of the Green Door mean.
There Are Door, and There Are Windows
This volume not only continues with the horror images and themes from the previous volumes but also ramps them up. On the body horror account, readers are treated to depictions of the following: physically menacing Hulk, dissected Hulk, regenerating Hulk, transforming Hulk, and emaciated Hulk, all of which are visually distinct and utterly gruesome to behold. The realization that Bruce Banner also endures all this makes the terrible things happening to his body doubly horrendous, especially since he is a victim of the Hulk, too. What happens to Absorbing Man alone is shocking (issue 10). As for psychological horror, neither the Hulk nor Banner can entirely trust their own mind and whether or not they are deceiving themselves, and that’s before the full-on addition of the heretofore hinted at supernatural elements that come into play. The Hulk may be immortal, but that doesn’t mean he cannot be used and manipulated by other powerful entities.
The fight against The Avengers is a real showcase. The art is strong and it’s easy to follow the action. It also advances the themes of the series, as it shows how much The Avengers have to come to fear the Hulk. As Thor says to Captain America of the Hulk, “Your mortal world may have produced something very close to a god. Or a Devil, perhaps” (issue 7). Thor points out the Hulk’s physical and mental abilities now far exceed almost anything else they’ve encountered, and he nearly defeats The Avengers only with his raw strength and cunning.
How Many Monsters?
An undercurrent to this volume is the question of what makes a monster. This thematic notion is voiced early in the aftermath of The Avengers fight, when looking at the devastation they’ve helped cause to people and property, Captain America chastises Tony Stark for using the term “Devil Hulk,” by pointing out, “What we did today, it’s not right […] This wasn’t the Devil, Tony. This was a friend in need. And we killed him” (issue 7). The Hulk is treated like a monster, and he is vengeful and destructive, sometimes wantonly so.
His behavior, however, justifies neither his torture in the name of science that Dr. Clive visits on him nor the clear violation of legal and ethical duties that General Fortean engages in with his efforts to capture the Hulk. His manipulation of Carl Creel, aka The Absorbing Man, into letting Dr. Clive experiment on him is like a scene out of George Orwell’s 1984 (issue 9). Readers are invited to seriously consider if these morally compromised men are any better than the Hulk. They treat Bruce Banner and the Hulk as means to an end, namely the creation of gamma-powered super soldiers they can control, ignoring the fact that the Hulk and Banner are not tools to be used. The deontological argument is obvious.
When Is a Door Not a Door?
Jackie and Alpha Flight aren’t given as much to do this volume, which is a bit of a shame since they were so active in the early issues. There’s a bit more prior knowledge of the Hulk required to fully grasp the impact of what’s driving the Hulk to Los Diablos, but it is understandable in the broad strokes with the bits of exposition provided. The final issue takes some absolutely wild turns, and it ends with a cliffhanger that seems unexpected, as even the foreshadowing doesn’t really provide a lot of context as to what the mystery of the Green Door really entails. Nevertheless, The Immortal Hulk remains a top-notch series with unique and well done art that matches the tone and themes of the books.
Ewing, Al. The Immortal Hulk, Vol. 2: The Green Door. Penciler Joe Bennett, Inker Ruy José. Marvel, 2019.
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© 2019 Seth Tomko