Writer: Al Ewing
Art: Joe Bennett, Ruy José, Belardino Brabo, Paul Mounts, VC’s Cory Petit, and Alex Ross
Release Date: October 28th, 2020
Many moons ago, an external force infiltrated Bruce Banner’s ”inner network”. The Devil says it’s the Green Scar. The Green Scar says it’s the Devil. So, who’s right? Maybe they’re both right. Or, maybe they’re both wrong? Let’s smash into IMMORTAL HULK #39 by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett to see who is who since only one of them can really be immortal.
Readers, this has got to be the most horrifyingly gruesome and grotesquely unique artistic display from Joe Bennett that this series has had to date. IMMORTAL HULK fans will leave this issue stunned by the sheer magnitude of terror that Bennett delivers to these pages. Sure, Al Ewing’s story is certainly coming together. And, INCREDIBLE HULK fans can truly see his passion for the character, as well as the mythos behind the character. That said, this issue once again proves that it’s Joe Bennett that makes this series one of the best on the market today. Ewing’s story is fascinating and at points makes the reader think almost spiritually. However, If not for Bennett’s shockingly in-depth illustrations, this series would simply be just… good. IMMORTAL HULK #39 shows comic fans just how important an artist is to a comic, as well as the right artist for the right story.
Now, diving deeper into the story, some of the narrative elements were a bit confusing. My wish was that Ewing was a bit more thorough with his explanation. I’m still interested in finding out exactly how Doctor Brian Banner arrived, as well as Sam Sterns. Vague and almost disorganized considerations are made but this reader is just more attracted to something more concrete and easy to follow. I’m also interested in discovering how Brian Banner was able to manipulate the Green Door in the first place. Sure, Sam Sterns makes references to what Dr. Brian Banner did and how he came into this Hellish Place. But more detail would again lend itself to further clarity and in my opinion, add extra power to the narrative. Past issues have hinted at this manifestation. However, a deeper refresher is just what the Doctor may need to order.
For example, readers are now finally seeing the purpose and foundation behind IMMORTAL HULK #25, the 9th Cosmos, Metatron, and the Par%l. Ewing sometimes tells a story a bit scattered and almost jumbled until the pieces come together. Narrative plot points are finally starting to come concurrently now. However, was Brian Banner ever really involved in this story from the beginning, or was it always Sam Sterns? With phrases that add ambiguity to time like “then”, writers open up an avenue for multiple interpretations, which is great to escape through if need be but adds mental gymnastics for confusion’s sake. Nonetheless, even with the layers of spirituality, science, horror, and creativity, Ewing is still spearheading a true masterpiece that HULK fans will no doubt look back at years to come as one of the best runs in recent history.
Additionally, my mind couldn’t help but gravitate towards Christianity while reading this issue. I know that seems odd, especially after reading and looking through this issue of IMMORTAL HULK. However, hear me out. If the One Below All is quite frankly the opposite of the One Above All, and the One Above All is the equivalent of the creator/ big “G” God, then I could only begin to speculate as to what exactly the One Below All is. My conclusion: it’s Sin. Sam Sterns makes assumptions in this issue that the One Below All needs a host. It cannot act on its own. And to those that know even a little about Christianity would understand that the term “Church” comes from the Greek word “Ekklesia” meaning “those that are called out”.
Well, what does this have to do with the story? My thought is that The Green Door is how the One Below All (or as I’m calling it Sin) “calls out” to its people. Plus, Christianity states that you must be “born again” to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, which means “born from above”. To paraphrase the Apostle Paul, flesh gives birth to flesh. To be born under the spirit is something only God can do for you. It’s an action humanity can’t do for itself. My point: it’s the same in this context for the Green Door and the One Below All. To enter the deepest layer of Hell known as the Below Place, you need to be “called” there through the Green Door. This Cosmic Satan cannot act unless it’s through a fleshly vessel just like God acts through the Church today.
Somehow, Bruce Banner tore a hole in reality when that Gamma Bomb went off so many years ago. Nevertheless, it happened and it gave this Cosmic Satan physical access to this reality. Since it’s an entity or a thing, which again I’m calling “Sin”, it’s only access to humanity and this universe was to manifest through emotional cracks in realities… until Bruce blew the doors open with the Gamma Bomb and created the INCREDIBLE HULK. And now, this Cosmic Satan can encompass flesh and navigate our reality to destroy it. This is how I’m seeing the series currently, which could of course be wrong (heck… Provably is). However, without sounding too Biblical, this is where my brain went to make sense of all of this and I hope it helps or at least causes some really great conversation.
My apologies for the ramblings above, but I wanted to share my thoughts as to how I’m viewing the series to this point in hopes to clear up my own, as well as anyone else’s misgivings of the series. Now, that leads me to the biggest flaw of the issue, and frankly the series to date. Sometimes, Ewing makes narrative plot points too vague and abstract to grasp. Periodically, he’s taken a step back and thrown in issues that help to clear up the ambiguity, which I think was his intent with this issue. However, I just left with more nagging questions. On the bright side, Bennett’s art is more than enough to mask so many of the narrative confusions with his vividly frightening, and graphically blood-curdling details and illustrations that will leave you speechless as this issue of IMMORTAL HULK concludes. Regardless of the narrative complications, this issue was still ridiculously entertaining and immensely elevated by Bennett’s artistic chops. Go grab this issue and let me know what you think!