Bruce Banner stumbles upon the charred remains of a former friend and ally. So begins Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense #1.
Bruce staggers into another dusty town, looking for answers to the question: “who murdered Stephen Strange?” Once he gets there, though, he finds more new questions than answers. The issue is one of two entries in a five-part Defenders event playing out over the next two weeks (the other being Namor: The Best Defense). And if this is any indicator, it will be a great ride.
The title of the story in this issue, The Face Underneath, takes on a central significance throughout the book. Strange’s murderer is presumed to have stolen the Eye of Agamotto, and the amulet’s power to strip away illusions and reveal one’s true self becomes integral to the plot.
The tone of Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense will be familiar to fans of Al Ewing’s other Immortal Hulk issues. It’s a lot lighter on the body horror, but the sense of creeping dread remains strong.
The story has a slower pace, but that actually works in its favor in a way. A sense of unease permeates the entire story, and Ewing does a great job of building tension and mystery. Readers are left guessing until the last page, and even then, we’re anxious to see what happens next.
Simone Di Meo provides artwork for Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense. The result is a sketchy, though tastefully dark style well-suited to the story. Di Meo’s character designs are an unusual look for Marvel books, but I love it.
The creative team also repeatedly cut-in panels from the original six-issue Incredible Hulk run from 1962. On one hand, the call-backs honor the works of late greats like Kirby, Ditko, and of course, Stan Lee (though the latter would have died after this issue was already completed). Beyond that, though, they serve to advance the story, touching on some consistent themes in the character’s legacy.
Dono Sánchez-Almara shows a deft eye for earthy colors in Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense. Ironically, though, the color work really shines in the shadows. The darker tones, alongside Di Meo’s eerie and sinister-looking lines, produce some striking images throughout the book.
With excellent, suspenseful storytelling and artwork, Immortal Hulk: The Best Defense will get you geared up for the next Defenders reunion. I recommend it.