Review of The Immortal Hulk, Volume Three
The Green Door opens, unleashing a boundless Hellscape into which the Hulk, Puck, Absorbing Man, Jackie McGee, and others now find themselves. They travel their diverging pathways toward the lowest point to the One Below All, who is using Gamma radiation as a doorway to enter reality and likely annihilate it. Even as the Hulk battles against this unfathomable foe, other Gamma-afflicted individuals keep returning from the grave, just as Bruce Banner has. Consequently, Reginald Fortean and his operatives conclude these individuals constitute an existential threat and begin enacting more plans to capture as many Gamma-irradiated people as possible.
Hulk in Hell
The bulk of this volume deals with the nearly apocalyptic events of opening the Green Door. The Hulk, doing what he can to control all his dissociative identities, fights against past and present monstrosities thrown at him by the One Below All. Readers unfamiliar with some of these characters and events from the long history of the Hulk’s character will miss the full effect, but there’s enough exposition to keep readers from feeling as though they’re missing too much.
Mixed in with these struggles and horrific images are odd yet appropriate digressions between characters such as the discussion on the nature of anger between McGee and the Hulk, and Puck explaining to the Absorbing Man his theory on Gamma as something that is both scientific and irrational (issues 11, 13). These dialogues underscore the flashbacks regarding Bruce Banner’s childhood, images of a world in chaos, and esoteric musing on the existence of good and evil. These elements all cooperate in a nonlinear fashion to create and maintain the mystical, unsettling mood of the series in the same way the psychological horror and body horror has done previously.
The Breaker of Worlds
The latter parts of the volume deal with Bruce Banner trying to reunite with Betty and his meeting up with Doc Samson when Fortean’s meddling causes everything to go off the rails. These issues provide some background information and analysis. Samson’s introspection makes him wonder why he and other Gamma-powered heroes keep returning to life. He wants there to be a reason or purpose behind why he’s returned when he should be dead, not embracing Nick Fury’s glib rather meta remark about how superheroes don’t often seem to stay dead (issue 15).
On the subject of having a purpose, the Hulk explains how he believes his purpose is to destroy contemporary civilization (issue 15). He claims that humans are weak and have foolishly unleashed powers beyond their understanding or control. In order to rebalance life on the planet, the Hulk believes he has to destroy civilization in order to save it because all other apocalyptic scenarios are utterly hopeless for a human future. This alleged destiny will doubtlessly be the subject of future volumes, and it posits the Hulk as a figure like Shiva who creates through destruction and teaches the path to self-realization by obliterating illusions, such as the Hulk’s theory on humanity’s illusion of control and domination of Earth’s natural forces.
The Immortal Hulk remains an amazing fusion of superhero and horror comics. The art is still wonderfully grotesque and vibrant. The issues dealing with the opening of the Green Door are adequately nightmarish, but it does steal some of the Hulk’s thunder to surround his disfigured body with other abominations as he strives to overcome the One Below All. The story and characters all promise wild and interesting stories for the future, too, even as it looks to cast the Hulk as an antagonistic force against other heroes.
Ewing, Al. The Immortal Hulk, Vol. 3: Hulk in Hell. Penciler Joe Bennett, Inkers Ruy José, Belardino Brabo, and Rafael Fonteriz. Marvel 2019.
© 2019 Seth Tomko