Immortal Hulk #23 Review

by Charles Martin on September 04, 2019

Immortal Hulk #23 Review
Writer: Al Ewing
Penciller: Joe Bennett
Inkers: Ruy José with Belardino Brabo
Colourists: Paul Mounts with Matt Milla
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Let's be clear about what we're going into: Team Hulk plus Gamma Flight just smashed their way into Shadow Base for the Big Showdown with Fortean and all his super-science weapons.

It's a Big Damn Fight issue, cover to cover, no holds barred and no punches pulled.

Heroes getting big chunks blasted out of them? Heroes tearing spines out? Heroes threatening maybe-innocents with Gamma obliteration? 

All this and more! 

And the one fight feature this issue doesn't deliver is a knockout. This is just round one; we'll have to read on to find out how it all ends. Oh, what a nasty briar patch that is to be thrown into!

Joe Bennett and his artistic collaborators do everything in their power to make this fight look spectacular. And their powers cover a lot of spectacles. Gamma monsters unleashed. Horrific anatomical damage. Scrupulous background details that keep Shadow Base and its inhabitants grounded in realism and make the carnage visited on them that much nastier.

This isn't the first issue of the Immortal Hulk to peg the needle on awesome visuals. Every panel is meticulously detailed and enlivened with vibrant colour. This fight hits a lot of visual high points, and every one lives up to its conceptual potential.

The words and ideas that organize it all are as impressive as the visuals. The dialogue is pointed and potent, with plenty of characters indulging in the juiciest of action movie one-liners. 

Puck, in particular, gets an epic one-two-three triumph, clobbering a Shadow Base cyborg with an unforgettably-illustrated move and a back-to-back pair of awesome lines.

That's just one of the issue's many moments of seamless, brilliant alignment between script and art.

To give this collection of moments a larger shape, Jackie McGee steps into the narrator's role again, grounding the Gamma madness with her unique semi-outsider's perspective. She's more than self-aware enough to recognize her loss of journalistic detachment, though. 

All of the carnage being wrought has a nice existential mirror in the horror Jackie experiences because she helped plan this fight. She doesn't have Gamma coursing through her veins, but this time, she has to own part of the responsibility for unleashing it.

If it's another tour-de-force of brutal ideas and horror visuals, why do I hesitate to pull out all 10 of my rating stars? It's because this issue goes over the top very frequently and very far. Where past issues made memorable centrepieces out of single concepts in body horror, this one stacks, oh, about five or six of them up in one serving.

The Immortal Hulk is no stranger to the shocking last-page splash, for example. The one laid on for #23 is a triumph of gut-wrenching "that's supposed to be fatal" anatomical damage. But the concept - and the line accompanying it - shoot so far over the top that they nearly lose their grip on the "awesome" part of the "ridiculously awesome" descriptor that so often applies to this comic. It has me laughing nervously instead of expressing horror or delight (or delighted horror, another staple reaction for this title).

Immortal Hulk #23 serves up a beast of a Round One in this climactic fight issue. It pushes the envelope even more than usual, tap-dancing on the line between moving horror and Grand Guignol gore. Though a few steps go over the edge, the overall dance remains engrossing and, as ever, gorgeously illustrated. We couldn't possibly look away.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
I'm counting the little throwaway moments of body horror toward this issue's total. Like the almost-overlookable fact that the Hulk has three arms for a single panel while he's healing from battle damage.