The Immortal Hulk #8
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose and Paul Mounts
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Bruce Banner completes his descent into outright body horror this week, as writer Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennett knock it out of the park with The Immortal Hulk #8. With the Not-So-Jolly Green Giant dismembered for scientific study, this creative team will send a chill up your spine in this deeply disturbing tale.
Following his run-in with the Avengers, the Immortal Hulk has found himself quite the predicament - his entire body has been carefully vivisected by the government, his disembodied head floating upside-down in a jar alongside his other sliced-up appendages. Without even giving the Hulk any lines for the bulk of the issue, Ewing winds up his readers by explaining the Hulk’s physiology in graphic detail, from a bifurcated heart beating at night to testing the limits of the Hulk’s regenerative capabilities. In the world of superhero comic books, there’s often an urge to explain the science of everyone’s abilities, but Ewing keeps us on our toes, smartly offering up possibilities but never any clean answers. “We have to know the rules,” says the evil Dr. Clive, likely channeling the readership. “Otherwise how can we break them?”
Ewing’s characterization also works terrifically here, particularly how he fleshes out the villain of the piece. Dr. Clive may look like a skinny nerd, but the sadistic glee he exudes as he thinks about experimenting upon the Hulk shines through every scene. Unlike the usual tendency in comic books, it’s not like we get Clive’s entire backstory - instead, brief phone calls dealing with his bureaucratic backers tell us all we need to know, as first he’s petulant, than raging, threatening the Hulk with ever-escalating forms of horrific torture. Of course, the Hulk’s grinning reaction is enough to throw readers off-balance, and Ewing’s resolution for the story might be the most memorably graphic bit of horror I’ve seen at the Big Two in quite some time.
Much of that comes from Joe Bennett, whose unvarnished style still works wonders with colorist Paul Mounts at building up the sense of unease throughout the issue. Putting the Hulk’s head upside-down actually emphasizes this sense of disorientation - not only does it seem a bit terrifying for our hero, but it also increases the creep factor through Clive’s eyes, as the Hulk’s smile gets wider and wider. When the Hulk does make his inevitable escape, Bennett really outdoes himself, with some takes on the character that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a comic before. Balancing between the malevolence of Clive and the Hulk’s gruesome crescendo, Bennett definitely has set a new bar for himself with this issue.
Al Ewing and Joe Bennett continue to impress with The Immortal Hulk #8, pushing the horror envelope for Bruce Banner’s adventures in a way that will likely linger with you for a good long time. The sheer challenge of the Hulk’s situation feels almost insurmountable, but it’s Ewing and Bennett’s real triumph that they’re able to weave together such a satisfying story while largely sidelining their central character. Self-contained but feeling no less important, The Immortal Hulk might be the scariest comic you’ll read all week.