The Immortal Hulk #15
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose and Paul Mounts
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Writer Al Ewing’s thoughtfully constructed mythology on trauma continues to build in The Immortal Hulk #15, and while this issue feels a little more expository than some of his previous installments, he and artist Joe Bennett still deliver a doozy of a read. Much of this issue is devoted to continuity maintenance - in this case, explaining the return of gamma-powered psychologist Doc Samson - but it speaks to this creative team’s strengths that even they still provide thrills even as their story pauses to take a breath.
While there has been a lot of deserved praise of Ewing injecting new life (or should I say afterlife?) into Bruce Banner’s alter ego, over the past couple issues he’s worked overtime in resurrecting the Hulk’s supporting cast, both literally and spiritually. Let’s face it - Bruce’s friends and family have suffered a lot even in the best of circumstances, but these characters in particular have been killed, powered, depowered, or otherwise manhandled quite a bit of the last few years, and it’s kind of refreshing that Ewing is able to use his “green door” mythology to provide a clean new start for characters like Samson, Betty Brant, or a surprise cliffhanger at the end of the issue.
This may be in part because while he’s dutifully reassembling these characters to put back in the storytelling toy box, Ewing’s also putting a lot of thought into the psychology behind them, as well. Samson in particular makes a lot of sense as to why we haven’t seen much of him after his resurrection - the idea of a psychologist essentially having an existential crisis is a lot to chew on narratively, as Ewing explores Doc’s sense of responsibility grappling with a total uncertainty of why he’s still alive or what to do with his newfound second chance. And while much has been said about his thoughts on the Hulk’s mental state, Ewing quietly reflects on Bruce’s relationship with his not-so-jolly alter ego - while it does feel a lot more like tell rather than show, there’s a nice political spin to the Hulk’s rage that makes a ton of sense. Given the state of the world right now, maybe he has a point when he says he wants to smash everyone - if only to potentially set things right amongst the wreckage.
While not quite as visceral as the last issue, which ended with the Hulk having half his head blown off, Joe Bennett still feels right at home with these characters, especially getting to flex his muscles with a montage sequence set to Hulk and Samson bounding across the country. Admittedly, the action sequence at the beginning of the book feels obligatory, but that feels just as much a fault of Ewing as it does Bennett, more a sort of marking time before these two characters inevitably put their differences (as minor as they might be) aside. Still, Bennett brings some really subtle but smart touches to the way he uses panel layouts, keeping Samson’s recollections straight and narrow, while the more chaotic scenes are resting on diagonal panels, the whole world seemingly shaken off its axis in the aftermath of Samson’s resurrection or the Hulk’s half-brain-dead rampage. Colorist Paul Mounts adds some somber atmosphere to the story, which is set almost completely at night - while the energy levels are a little lower as a result, the clarity is still sharp, making this book feel readable and full of depth.
While there does feel like there’s a little bit more fat than usual in this latest installment of The Immortal Hulk, there’s still a level of care and craftsmanship to this breather of an issue that not only brings back an important character from Bruce Banner’s history with care, but also gives us further insight into the Hulk’s state of mind. (And given how consistently Ewing has been swinging for the fences this series, it’s telling that even his base hits still bring precision and skill.) Serving as a solid palate cleanser after the intensity of previous issues, The Immortal Hulk’s momentum proves to be as unkillable as its namesake.