Immortal Hulk #32 Review

by Charles Martin on March 11, 2020

Immortal Hulk #32 Review
Writer: Al Ewing

Main Story Art
Penciller: Joe Bennett
Inkers: Ruy José & Belardino Brabo
Colourist: Paul Mounts

Xemnu Screen Art
Penciller & Colourist: Javier Rodríguez
Inker: Álvaro López

Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

It's time to talk about Xemnu, boys and girls. He's a big, fluffy, adorable, weird throwback to the pre-Silver-Age days.

He's also, as shown in this issue, a terrifying monster with world-destroying psychic abilities. Xemnu is messing with the memories of the entire planet, and now we start to see the impact that meddling has.

From one point of view, I could call Immortal Hulk #32 a "clarification" issue. It clears up a lot of ambiguity and makes sure every reader understands the threat posed by Xemnu. 

This is certainly a satisfying comic from that perspective. And if clarification was all that this issue did, I would slide it into this title's usual slightly-shy-of-perfect rating slot.

But this comic does so much more. 

It's a little bit disjointed, fast-forwarding and rewinding across its revelations. The script cycles through people who know what Xemnu can do, those who are just figuring it out, and those who have no idea. 

This is not an accident or a drawback. What Al Ewing is doing is tangling up the script so that the reader's experience comes into closer alignment with the characters'. 

Reading this comic feels unsettling and disjointed because that's how Xemnu makes the characters feel.

It's another feast for the eyes on the visual front. Joe Bennett is in top form. While this issue is, by volume, mostly conversation, there's also a searing moment of John-Carpenter-esque biomechanical body horror. 

Javier Rodríguez and Álvaro López stick around to add a few more pages. Each one is an allegorical tower of televisions emphasizing the role of the media in Xemnu's in-universe retconning.

Paul Mounts's colours are as bold as ever. I particularly enjoyed the subtle green overtones he throws on Banner in his critical scene.

That colouring is suggestive and it leads me neatly back to the wonders of Al Ewing's script. It's not just the structure and mood that impress; Mr. Ewing's character work is exceptional, too.

This issue introduces a new-to-the-volume Hulk alter. (And I mustn't spoil it but wow, it's big.) But the title's main man, the Devil Hulk, doesn't appear in #32.

Or does he? Pressure your friends to get caught up with the Hulk so you can hash it out in a paranoid late-night conversation!

On the non-gamma-irradiated character front, Mr. Ewing finally goes all-in on Dr. Charlene McGowan's trans identity. She has some innate resistance to Xemnu's memory meddling, and she unpacks it in a superb conversation with Doc Samson.

What Xemnu's doing is forcibly imposing his narrative onto everyone he can reach. Which, as Dr. McGowan points out, is exactly what she's been struggling with all her life. "... and I've had enough of that. Who I am belongs to me."

That's probably Dr. McGowan's greatest line, but not her only great one. On top of all the generally superb storytelling he's done, Al Ewing deserves credit for crafting a transgender character whose history rises up to play a crucial role in the story but does not define the character all the time.

Per the letters page, Crystal Frasier was Mr. Ewing's close reader and consultant on Dr. McGowan, so I would second the author's praise for her assistance. The results are outstanding and, I think, unique.

Immortal Hulk #32 tears off the veil and clarifies how Xemnu is screwing with the world. It looks exquisite, it induces a terrifying, intentional sense of alienation, and it includes some all-time great character work. All this and a long-awaited link to Hulk-history; this number should rightly go down as a full demonstration of just how much potential this title still has to explore. 

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
The vox pop panels reveal that Xemnu has even suborned the heroic legacy of Kamala Khan! Good Lord! *choke*