Immortal Hulk: Flatline #1 Review

by Charles Martin on February 17, 2021

Immortal Hulk: Flatline #1 Review
Writer, Artist & Colourist: Declan Shalvey
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

In this one-shot, Bruce Banner has settled into an under-the-radar life as a dishwasher at a ☠️☠️☠️☠️hole diner near Albuquerque, NM. Every morning, he wakes up half-naked in the wilderness, drags himself in to earn a pittance on the lunch shift, and then leaves to await nightfall and "His time."

It's not much of a life -- which is the opening volley of criticism Bruce receives when a mentor from the dawn of the Gamma program finds him.

Noreen Noolan is an important (if previously unmentioned) figure in both Gamma research and Bruce's career. Now she's come to help him, primarily with the cutting verbal barbs that are stock in trade for a well-executed "sassy old broad" character.

She and Bruce talk intently in the diner, with the old woman holding Bruce's attention until nightfall. It's all part of her plan -- she has sharp words for the Hulk as well as his alter ego.

And the Hulk being the Hulk, of course, there's an intensely physical component to the last act.

One-man-band Declan Shalvey is in control of all three of the key creative roles, and his control proves impressive indeed. This issue gets an extra half-helping of pages, but it has about one standard issue's worth of dialogue.

This is not a bad thing! Exercising that full creative control, Mr. Shalvey massages some outstanding wordless sequences into the story. He trusts his art to carry the narrative on its own, and it succeeds wildly.

He also plays impressive tricks with the palette. The colours are a little bit muted, but the most noteworthy segment might be the diner conversation. Mr. Shalvey creates an intense, psychologically-heightened setting by breaking Gamma green down into its component blues and yellows. 

Mr. Shalvey's Hulk is strongly influenced by Joe Bennett's, featuring the same muscularity, raw power, and sheer page-busting size. This creator also takes body horror cues from Mr. Bennett, recreating some of the nastiest physical torments the Immortal Hulk has suffered.

This comic is a visual feast, but it's also packed with thoughtful insight. It presents a razor-sharp picture of the Banner-Hulk relationship that draws out powerful conclusions without leaning on straight-up exposition. 

Flatline could take place at almost any point in the Immortal Hulk story. Its observations and developments are big-picture enough to fit in between any of the existing arcs -- or even between future ones.

And therein lies the tiniest little problem. This one-shot is technically, technically skippable. You could cruise through the main title, pass this over, and miss very little. Its main theme -- that Bruce and the Hulk need to work together -- isn't a revolutionary take on the relationship.

But I would urge you not to skip this if you enjoy the Immortal Hulk! This one-shot examines the key protagonists of the main series with a fresh (and Gamma-powerful!) creative voice. But despite its novelty, it is in complete accord with the work of primary creators Al Ewing and Joe Bennet. This isn't an oddball one-off or a crass money-grab. It's a thoughtful meditation on accurately-crafted portrayals of the Immortal Hulk's key characters.

Immortal Hulk: Flatline delivers a new perspective on Bruce Banner and Devil Hulk. It's a refreshing change and a formidable performance by all-in-one creator Declan Shalvey. But most importantly, its characterization is perfectly harmonized with the main series. This is a fresh point of view, but it is clearly looking at the same characters we see in the Immortal Hulk.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
A pivotal moment in this issue implies the inherently absurd off-page scene of the Immortal Hulk going shopping. I love it.