Immortal Hulk #33 Review

by Charles Martin on March 25, 2020

Immortal Hulk #33 Review
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist (Main Story): Joe Bennett
Inkers (Main Story): Ruy José, Belardino Brabo, Marc Deering & Mark Morales
Colourist (Main Story): Paul Mounts
Artist (Mindscape): Nick Pitarra
Colourist (Mindscape): Michael Garland
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Marvel frequently uses a milestone (like hitting #750 across all the main Hulk titles) to pump up both the page count and the price of an issue. This leads to frustrating value calculus as readers work out whether or not the added expense is justifiable. (I'm still sore about ASM #25's price tag, and I didn't even buy it!)

But the calculation is easy for Immortal Hulk #33. A double dose of one of Marvel's finest for just 1.5 times the usual price? It's an absolute steal!

This issue is also the climax of the Xemnu story arc, and it comes together with nearly equal levels of intellectual satisfaction and visceral shock. I have to tip the scale slightly in shock's favour, though. 

The reason is simple: Joe Bennett and his expert inkers fill a lot of the extra pages with staggering, horrific, wonderful, grotesque double spreads. Ex Bennett semper aliquid novi -- this title is approaching its third year and it seems unlikely that the artist is ever going to run out of ways to shock and amaze his audience.

Shock is also edging out satisfaction on the scripting/plotting side. The Hulk's conflict with Xemnu ends in a reasonable but rather speedy way. In contrast to the ambiguity of prior issues in the arc, in this one, Al Ewing wraps the story up in a simple, smash-y way and then injects nitrous with a mother of a last-minute pivot toward the next arc.

It's a hell of a surprise and I absolutely will not spoil it here.

As you can guess, a "simple, smash-y" resolution means that the Savage Hulk (whom I will always think of as "Len Wein's Hulk") is in the driver's seat for most of this issue. In the lettercol, Al Ewing notes that he's grown more comfortable with crafting the Savage Hulk's dialogue over time. I'd have to say this issue's words support his assertion. There's a demented beauty lurking in the way the Savage Hulk expresses his simplistic "Hulk is Hulk" logic, and it does a fine job fitting this action-heavy capstone onto the arc.

Savage Hulk isn't alone, though! He's guided through a Hulk-gestalt mindscape by Worldbreaker Hulk in a sequence that is just as powerful as the mayhem happening in the real world. 

It certainly helps that Nick Pitarra -- one of the industry's leading lights when it comes to "art that's simultaneously grotesque and compelling" -- is on board to give the mindscape a powerfully distinctive look. His big-armed Hulks and carefully-detailed settings ensure that this more introspective portion of the story is just as visually rich as the wildest of Mr. Bennett's spreads.

Al Ewing's speedy resolution really does not shortchange us at all. The seeds were planted several issues ago, when the first face-to-face scrap between Xemnu and the Hulk made it clear they weren't in the same league, physically. When the Hulk(s) find a way to bring the conflict back to the physical plane, it's entirely reasonable for things to wind up with a quickness.

And the story does not move so swiftly that it overlooks Dario Agger. He earns a richly deserved reward for his role in the Xemnu plot. It's tops for dramatic irony and, of all this arc's developments, it might be my very favourite. (Again, I'm adamant -- and, I hope, effective -- about not spoiling the latest twists.)

I'm running off at the mouth, but I shouldn't end things without a word of praise for the stellar colouring work by Paul Mounts and Michael Garland. Mr. Mounts follows the main story art right over the top with lurid, high-intensity colours, while Mr. Garland brings a mellower, yellow-shaded palette to bear on the mindscape. It looks notably different from the real-world action, but the distinction is not jarring.

Judged solely on the merits of its script, Immortal Hulk #33 might miss the brass ring. It would still, like every issue of this title, be extremely strong -- just less than perfect. It's a good thing for the readers that Al Ewing's solid words are combined with two superb servings of art by Paul Bennett, Nick Pitarra, and their skillful collaborators. The striking visuals give the speedy plot the (little) boost it needs to land dead center in the quality bullseye.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
My piece of spoiler-avoiding advice, for what it's worth: Try not to look at the cover for #34 before you read #33.