Immortal Hulk volume 1, “Or Is He Both?”, is out November 21st, and it’s a must-read for fans of both superhero comics and horror.
The series is written by Al Ewing and drawn by Joe Bennett, with inks by Ruy José, colors by Paul Mounts, and letters by Cory Petit.
This is one of the best ongoing series Marvel has going right now, and what makes it work is that it is first and foremost a horror series. Not action or sci-fi, not even superhero, but horror. It returns the Hulk title to its roots, leaning hard into the monster angle, and the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the titular character. The repeated motif of “the night is his time,” meaning Hulk’s, drills home this monster theme, and makes fans fear ol’ Jolly Green for the first time in a long time.
And while Ewing’s scripts are good and scary enough, Bennett’s pencil work elevates the title to a whole other level. The detail in his work, and the way he draws facial expressions (especially Hulk’s) will raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Huge credit to José’s inks and Mounts’ colors as well. Good horror is all about atmosphere, and in comics, that comes down to the shadowing and the coloring. That’s where the tone comes from. Immortal doesn’t feel like your run-of-the-mill Big Two comic. You could have told me that this was an indie horror series, and I would have believed you based on the art. Just looking at it – without reading a word – you can feel the tension.
So without further ado, let’s talk five of the series’ most terrifying moments:
5. Sasquatch Rises
After Walter Langkowski dies on the operating table, his alter ego Sasquatch rises. The transformation is something out of An American Werewolf in London. The panel layout here is brilliantly done, showing the transformation in quick bursts, leading to a tense page turn. What truly makes this scene chilling are two panels that cut to Bruce Banner in the waiting room. While Walter turns, Bruce is saying “It’s night. And the night is his time,” followed by “We need to evacuate the hospital. Now.”
These three pages are a master class in building suspense and delivering a frightening page turn.
4. Dr. Frye Poisons His Son
When Hulk confronts a scientist who’s been toying around with gamma radiation, the scientist reveals his terrible secret. After developing a gamma-powered healing serum, he gave some to his football player son as a precaution. Obviously, this is a terrible idea. As we watch the son die via flashback, gamma ooze flows out of his eyes, nose, and mouth, and it’s sickening. A very different kind of scary compared to our previous example, but effective nonetheless.
3. The Priest’s Story
Issue three of Immortal jumps back and forth between four stories, as a cop, a bartender, a priest, and an old lady each tell a reporter about a Hulk incident from different perspectives. Each section is done by a different artist, and they’re all great. The priest’s story, however, takes the cake. First off, it’s the most tragic and most intense. While the other three are lighter and even humorous at times, the priest’s story is the emotional core of the issue. Second, it’s drawn by Garry Brown, who is a natural horror artist. His work is graphic, edgy, and dark.
2. “What Do YOU Think?”
One page. Six panels. Hulk stands over a terrified young man. Each panel, Hulk gets closer and grows larger as the young man pleads for his life. Again, the page structure is A+ (actually, it’s the same layout as the Sasquatch transformation) and the tension builds with each panel. But perhaps the most chilling aspect of this moment is the smile that slowly grows over Hulk’s face.
1. “She Was Twelve.”
This is the first time in Immortal that we see Hulk in full. First, the lead-up to get to the reveal is great. We see the young man from the previous example hanging out with some gang members before a monster seems to crash through the wall. He runs from the house, gunfire and shouting behind him, and heads for his car. He drops his keys, real horror movie stuff. As he slowly turns around, a shadow casts over him, leading to a page turn, and then BAM. We see a monstrous Hulk in a huge two-page splash, complete with a full moon behind him. That not enough? Turn the page. BAM, another two-page splash, a close up on Hulk’s face (with the full moon still behind him). Ewing cranks up the intensity by having Hulk only state the name and age of a young girl that the man had killed earlier in a robbery. We know why the monster’s come to play, and it’s not going to be pretty.
Anyone who doubts that you can do horror effectively in comics needs to read Immortal Hulk. Ewing, Bennett, and company show how terrifying simple, slow-build tension can be.
Immortal Hulk volume 1, “Or Is He Both?”, is available online and in stores November 21st.