Best Shots Reviews: IMMORTAL HULK #25, BATMAN/SUPERMAN #3

DC October 2019 solicitations
Credit: DC
Credit: Marvel Comics

Immortal Hulk #25
Written by Al Ewing
Art by German Garcia, Chris O’Halloran, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose and Paul Mounts
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Al Ewing and company set the Immortal Hulk up for an audacious endgame in #25. Following through on his apocalyptic cliffhanger from the previous issue, Ewing transports us to the end of all reality, following a sort of posthuman being who explores the new “broken” universe.

Teaming up with guest artists German Garcia and Chris O’Halloran, the trio throw us deep into a universe devoid of light and life - one that has been ruined completely by the omnipotent and all-powerful Hulk. But even at the end of all things, the Hulk cannot escape his past or his pain, leading to more of the title’s trademark body horror and deep, dark philosophical pining. Poetically written and rendered with a vast, space opera energy, Immortal Hulk #25 is another unconventional winner for one of Marvel’s best current ongoings.

When we last left the Devil Hulk, he had literally eaten the Sentience of the Cosmos, imbuing his immortal, horrifying form with the Power Cosmic. Now with Immortal Hulk #25, writer Al Ewing follows through with that devastating turn by transporting us further into the future, Ewing reveals that the whole of the cosmos has fallen to the “Breaker of Worlds.” He does so by filtering the horror through a new lifeform, a sort of chromatic psychic being who is tasked with exploring the wastes and reporting her findings back to a central hive-mind; one of the last remaining planets not destroyed by the Green.

But as Immortal Hulk has taught us, the Hulk, much like Thanos, is inevitable. After being entrusted with a new “Abomination,” one that can hopefully warn the past of the terror of the Cosmic Hulk, our audience surrogate alien and her stronghold is soon beset by the raging green terror, one who can break stars and planets with his bare hands. Though much of this issue could comfortably be called “set-up,” Ewing and the guest art team make it some of the most audacious and ambitious set-up I’ve ever seen. Ewing seems completely unconcerned with accessibility, aside from a few scant touchstones to the Hulk’s new cosmic rage and bits and bobs of worldbuilding in regards to our extraterrestrial.

Working in tandem with Ewing’s new high science fiction tone, regular guest artists German Garcia and Chris O’Halloran adapt well to the end of all reality, rendering the deep black nothingness of the backgrounds and the strange new posthuman lifeforms and their technology with engaging chromatic choices. Choices like the alien’s mode of communication, which uses flower-like appendages that attach to one another to transmit thoughts and the last planet’s beautiful, expansive crystalline construction look ripped right from Roger Dean’s daydreams.

But the terror of the “Cosmic Hulk” is the real draw of Immortal Hulk #25, and True Believers, trust me when I say, it is an awe-inspiring sight. Now graced with eye-catching concentric Kirby circles (much akin to the designs of the Ancient Celestials), the alien’s planet is quickly smashed under the awesome might of the Cosmic Hulk in splashy, emerald fire.

But the creative team don’t stop there. In an attempt to contact the Hulk, the alien connects it’s mind to the Hulk’s, to ask why he ended all reality. But what she finds the “horror beneath all” visually represented by some Marvel-by-way-of-Hieronymus Bosch as the team renders thousands and thousands of “hollowed” souls taken by the Hulk. They then double down on the hellish imagery, shifting to a second double-page splash of the title’s version of Hell, dominated in the foreground by a roiling mass of green, screaming flesh indicative of the “One Below All” whose “Weapon is Hate.” It is truly off-putting stuff, but I defy anyone to try and tear their eyes away from it.

With a horrifying audacity in its script and doubly horrifying surrealist quality in its artwork, Immortal Hulk #25 delivers yet another monster issue for the lauded series, one that takes an unexpected yet tonally sound track heading into the title’s final act. Though we still don’t have much of an idea of why exactly the Devil/Cosmic Hulk ended reality, the finality of this issue drapes a heavy dread across the already unsettling series. Heaven save us from the Immortal Hulk.

Credit: DC

Batman/Superman #3
Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by David Marquez and Alejandro Sanchez
Lettering by John J. Hill
Published by DC
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Superman goes undercover while Batman squares off against one of his most steadfast allies in Batman/Superman #3, a briskly paced and beautifully illustrated actioner that swiftly skips over any contrivances that might appear in the plotting. Writer Joshua Williamson has crafted some fun scenarios for the World’s Finest Duo to explore, but it’s artist David Marquez who really elevates this series to a higher potential.

The Batman Who Laughs has been quietly infecting pillars of the DC Universe, leading Superman to make a dangerous gamble for answers - namely, infecting himself with Joker toxin to see if he can get answers from the evil multidimensional Dark Knight. It’s a fun idea that Williamson has explored, even if John J. Hill’s lettering between Batman and Superman’s narratives feels so similar it’s easy to trip over the two - that said, if I had any complaint, it’s that Williamson pulls the ripcord on the idea almost as soon as he’s introduced it, in favor of some fun pyrotechnics between Batman and Superman. On the one hand, I understand the instinct to keep the pedal to the metal, and Williamson does keep the pacing moving fast and furious as we speed along from one action sequence to the next. But on the other hand, there’s a ton of tension that would come from Superman struggling as an “undercover Joker,” and one can’t help but feel like that potential was quickly cast aside for the next shiny thing.

But to Williamson’s credit, at least the next shiny thing is undeniably fun. In the span of 20 pages, he’s actually thrown together three strong action sequences, and watching Batman and Superman stand off against a Jokerized Jim Gordon and the mechanized “Rookie” Batman armor is a great nod to Scott Snyder’s Batman run. The action is well-paced and exciting - more on that in a minute, but it’s clear Williamson knows Marquez can deliver on anything he throws at him - and there’s just enough character connection between Batman, Gordon and Superman that this feels more than just action figures slamming against one another. While I’d argue that a later sequence involving the Rookie armor feels more like a contrivance than anything else, at least this overly convenient plot point occurs at the end of the issue.

Like I said before, however, Marquez crushes on this book. His is a style that feels unlike anything else in the DC bullpen - in particular, an image of Superman protecting Batman from a hail of razor-sharp Batarangs feels iconic in a way that evokes the best of Jim Lee and Steve McNiven. Marquez has a confidence with these characters that I’ve only seen in artists like Doug Mahnke or Patrick Gleason - watching Batman leap to inject Superman with a Kryptonite syringe or to ram a GCPD cruiser just looks incredible. That said, I do feel like Marquez’s inks feel a little on the dry side, compared to some of his more lush inkwork on a book like Defenders - it’s something that saps just a tiny bit of energy from the proceedings, and occasionally makes Alejandro Sanchez’s colors feel a little on the muddy side.

Regardless of hiccups, Batman/Superman #3’s immense production values help carry it to the top of this week’s reading pile. Williamson ambitiously stuffs this issue to the brim with plot and action sequences, which thankfully Marquez is more than capable of delivering upon. While the momentum of this issue falters a bit as it swerves into "Year of the Villain" territory, there’s more than enough positives to consider this team-up book a worthwhile addition to your pull list.

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