Immortal Hulk #38 Review

by Charles Martin on October 14, 2020

Immortal Hulk #38 Review
Writer: Al Ewing
Penciller: Joe Bennett
Inkers: Ruy José & Belardino Brabo
Colourist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

This cerebral episode of the Immortal Hulk opens with a flashback to Bruce Banner's youth. We get to watch his father Brian hurl verbal abuse at a three-year-old Bruce for reading too-advanced books (Milton's Paradise Lost in particular).

Meanwhile, in Banner's contemporary mind-scape, the Devil Hulk has been imprisoned in his reptilian form and he is not happy about it. 

And what is our nemesis du jour doing? Well, this issue offers some admirable clarification within its busy structure. The Leader's "core" self, I think, is the one in the Below-Place, who just spent the previous issue taunting Doc Samson. #38 shows that he's using Green Doors to control three other avatars: Rick Jones, gamma-zombie Del Frye, and the Worldbreaker Leader-Hulk running amok in Banner's mind-scape.

Even the supremely egotistical Leader admits this is a lot to handle, and his multi-tasking proves to be his undoing.

This issue is a big win for the nerd-heroes in the supporting cast. The Hulk's various alters are struggling to pull themselves together and oppose the Leader. It is Doc Samson and Dr. McGowan, facing down the Leader's other avatars, that give Banner the opening he needs.

Visually, we get the usual tour-de-force we've come to expect from this art team. Joe Bennett delivers ample servings of body horror -- Rick Jones is just nasty at this point -- as well as richly emotive facial expressions. 

Paul Mounts takes Hulk-green as the center of his palette and then works against it in productive ways, using colour contrasts to render each of the issue's many settings distinctive. Dr. McGowan in Shadow Base is heavily blue, for example, while Samson in the Below-Place is a clashing mote of red.

The art team also does a terrific job with the initial flashback. Bruce as a three-year-old is adorable (coloured in, of course, a green shirt) and Brian is magnificently evil-looking. Mr. Bennett distorts the father's face just enough to make this feel like a subjective memory, which is entirely appropriate.

I can't lie; this is a very complex comic. It leaps rapidly from setting to setting and also from viewpoint to viewpoint. The previous issue put the Leader in the driver's seat; this one keeps his perspective while also showing multiple views of his opposition. 

Because Al Ewing is a hell of a writer, this busy medley works. The narrative dances smoothly from point to point, helped along by Mr. Bennett's instinctive visuals. The plot developments hook smoothly into each other with inevitable logic, pushing the story forwards and sweeping the reader along in an effortless flow. This is comics creation at the very highest level of talent, and it's an absolute joy to read.

Immortal Hulk #38 brings the Leader to the precipice of triumph, but it becomes deeply satisfying by also presenting the seeds of his destruction. The many personalities of the Hulk oppose him, but here, it's even more important that the Hulk has friends to help him out. With powerful art supporting its complex script, this issue is a breathless thrill-ride that delivers a tremendous amount of plot development on the way to the story's climax. 

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
Rick Jones in flesh-worm form is just the stuff of nightmares. Those veins … *shudder*.