Immortal Hulk #12 Review

by Charles Martin on January 23, 2019

Immortal Hulk #12 Review
Writer: Al Ewing
Penciller (Main): Joe Bennett
Inker (Main): Ruy José
Artist (Flashbacks): Eric Nguyen
Colourist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Welcome to the calm eye of the storm, the breath between rounds, the last oasis before the deadly desert. Hulk and his friends (Is that even the right word?) push on toward the green flare at the centre of Hell, and what waits for them swims into sharper - but not crystal-clear - focus.

#11 showed us Brian Banner was up there in the flare, and he becomes the core of this issue. Immortal Hulk #12 is a dark meditation on an unhinged father and what drove him to hate the son who needed his love.

This comic deserves a lot of credit for introducing a supernatural element to that relationship without excusing Brian's horrible behaviour. He's still an awful father and he still deserves full blame for wrecking the Banner family.

But he, like his son, has a corrupting connection to the mysterious One Below All and its Green Door. This revelation slots neatly into the other loathsome aspects of Brian's character - one more seed for his hatred of Bruce.

#12 also adds Zoroastrianism, Christian theodicy, and Theosophical mysticism to the Kabbalah references in #11. This arc is turning into a graduate course in religious philosophy. 

I hesitate to speculate on the black & white snapshots which continue to accompany the philosophy. I suspect their full meaning, both individually and collectively, will not be clear until #13.

This issue uses flashbacks to Brian's life as an excuse to include a guest artist. It could have gone better. Given the ugliness of the Banner household, a certain amount of coldness in illustrating it makes sense. What doesn't fit is the stiffness and sterility of the characters and their surroundings. The artificiality of computer rendering is too clear (and not at all welcome) in portraying young Bruce's "better not call them LEGOs" toys.

Visuals for the contemporary Hell scenes are lodged firmly with Joe Bennett. That's something to celebrate, even though the earlier scenes are quiet compared to #11's formidable Hellscapes and corpse-shells and Hulk fights. The final scene makes up for it dramatically and whets my appetite for a truly apocalyptic showdown.

Like many previous issues, this one ends with a jaw-dropping splash page that takes your eyes hostage and provokes shocked, respectful cussing.

The colours cater to the separate demands of each artist rather than seeking unity. The flashbacks get flat, cold colours and the palette for the Hell scenes is more nuanced and organic. The colour intensity rises as the issue progresses. In that final, dreadful scene, the entire world condenses to blinding green and a hint of baleful red.

In terms of characterization, too, this is a quieter issue than the last one. Jackie and the Hulk have a second important conversation, but much faster and simpler than the blockbuster debate that kicked off #11. Puck and Creel put in an appearance that does little beyond confirming their continued existence.

The lion's share of attention belongs to Brian and the Hulk and the continuing drumbeat of philosophy. It takes time to push the dark father-son relationship past general (i.e. cliché) abusiveness and evoke the ineffable supernatural complications. When that job is done, though, it unleashes a head-swelling amount of food for thought. 

Immortal Hulk #11 delivers important, incremental revelations as it approaches the core of this title's new mythology. The One Below All, the Green Door, the Hulk, and Bruce Banner - their final relationships are still to be revealed. This issue is a slight drop down from #11 in terms of characterization, art, and plot development. #12 is a slow chapter in a story that remains an absolute must-read. Though it is not the title's best, it's still a Hell of a ride.

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Charles Martin's picture
Seriously, the scale of those "better not call them LEGOs" toys! I'm frankly jealous.