It’s not an exaggeration to state that the staff here at ComicBook.com have fallen in love with The Immortal Hulk. The new series that returned Hulk to life with a surprising new status quo has become one of the breakout hits of 2018 and exceeded all expectations. We were prepared to see the jade giant return in “No Surrender,” and exceedingly impressed with the first issue. Things have only improved following that great #1 though, as The Immortal Hulk became a top new pick for summer reading and the definitive title in the ongoing comparisons of Marvel and DC Comics.
If it wasn’t already clear, this series from writer Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennett has received our largest collective recommendation.
That’s also why we’re returning to examine the series yet again, specifically after the shocking events of The Immortal Hulk #7. Each issue continues to surprise and uncover new ground for this classic character, making every moment Marvel fans don’t read a seemingly wasted one. Something that has become clear through the various twists and turns of the series is that it’s not simply a great superhero comic, but a title that clarifies exactly what makes the Marvel Comics brand great in 2018. So even if you’re not normally a superhero reader, here’s the case as to why this is the best Marvel comic you can pick up to learn why that praise is no exaggeration.
*Mild spoilers follow*
Hulk’s status as a foundational Marvel Comics character is no accident. When historians talk about Stan Lee and Jack Kirby crafting much of this universe in only a couple of years (along with the help of other great artists like Steve Ditko and Bill Everett), Hulk is a perfect example of what they are talking about. The tragic origin, conflicted personality, ties to classic literature, and constant angst are all elements that made Marvel Comics the breakout success it was. Hulk is tied to the very DNA of the publisher and is still an important figure in its comics, movies, and cartoons even after 60 years of stories.
The importance of those two names, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, cannot be understated either. Kirby’s dynamic artwork was at its best during the early years of Marvel (i.e. 1962 and 1963) when showcasing the explosive power of the Hulk or wailing emotions of Bruce Banner. The concept allowed for lots of drama and exaggeration that played to this foundational artist’s strengths. Lee’s penchant for sturm und drang along with lots of purple prose was well suited to following the monster across the southwest as well. While Hulk was a hero of few words, Lee was able to chart his course and bring out the classic themes evoked by the story. All of this built the foundation that remained strong for The Immortal Hulk today.
While The Immortal Hulk is constructed on the strong foundations of classic Marvel Comics, it’s not resting on the character’s laurels. Instead, the series is forging ahead and inventing new villains or expanding the nature of gamma radiation with each new issue. Al Ewing is a writer known for his imagination even when working in well-established territory, and this is his best Marvel Comics work to date. Even the most-studied reader is bound to be surprised by some new idea in each issue of the series.
Ewing’s ideas aren’t constructed from whole cloth, however. The rich history of Hulk and the immersive continuity around him provides loads of characters and stories which can be drafted into the inventions of The Immortal Hulk. Ties to Bruce Banner’s childhood and other gamma-infused heroes like Sasquatch have been utilized to develop both a refreshed mythos about the Hulk’s nature and some truly terrifying twists. Ewing’s knowledge of Marvel Comics runs deep and enhances the story in surprising ways.
Both the individual issues that compose The Immortal Hulk and the series as a whole capably stand apart from the ongoing events of the Marvel universe. While there are big events underway, Hulk has returned to his isolated nature and is hunting monsters across the southwest once again. This is familiar to the earliest days of Marvel where heroes all lived in their own stories, even when most shared a single city, thriving apart and only crossing over for an occasionally fun surprise.
That hasn’t stopped The Immortal Hulk from taking full advantage of the many other powerful heroes who populate Marvel Comics though. Sasquatch has played a notable role in the series, connecting it to the evolved Alpha Flight. It’s The Immortal Hulk #7 which reminds readers just how powerful the Hulk really is by tying into the newest iteration of the Avengers, though. The battle in this series was a crossover in classic Marvel fashion, held to a single issue and using the guest stars to the utmost of their abilities. Bennett’s depiction of each member of the team showed off a set of heroes worth following into other books without any requirement that readers do so.
One big way that Marvel Comics shook up the genre at the start of the 1960s was by pulling on a variety of genres that had largely disappeared from American comics. Monsters, tragic twists, and mysteries filled their pages showing just how malleable superhero stories could be. The Immortal Hulk has continued this proud tradition by crafting a series in the vein of classic EC horror tales. Shocking endings with gross-out surprises and ironic twists have made each issue a delight while allowing the series to never be overtly constrained by superhero tropes. It’s possible to revel in an oversized superpowered brawl one month and be wrapped up in a murder mystery the next, as The Immortal Hulk refuses to be defined.
After seven outstanding issues, one thing that is clear about The Immortal Hulk is that it represents the absolute best of what Marvel Comics can achieve in 2018. Ewing and Bennett are flying high and honoring the legacies of greats like Kirby and Lee. They are doing so by building a story that is entirely their own, taking history and weaving it into something new and surprising. Each issue they deliver is a worthy read to itself and the series as a whole never stops delivering different tones and approaches. The Immortal Hulk is superhero comics at their most enjoyable and imaginative, the very height of the “House of Ideas.”