The Immortal Hulk #6 // Review
Immortal Hulk #6, written by Al Ewing, with guest art by Lee Garbett and colors by Paul Mounts, begins the fallout from Hulk’s recent run-in with a possessed Walter Langowski, aka Sasquatch, and it looks to be the start of this title’s biggest story yet. Previously, Langowski showed up to help reporter Jackie McGee track down the recently-returned-from-the-dead Bruce Banner, but tragedy struck when Walter was stabbed. Turning into the savage Sasquatch at the hospital, Banner showed up just in time to take him down. However, it was clear that Langowski was under the influence of something (or someone) else. It was revealed that Bruce’s father had returned in spirit form, and managed to secretly transfer to the Hulk when he absorbed Sasquatch’s gamma energy. Now, unbeknownst to Banner, he carries the enemy within himself, and Hulk has no way to of warning him. Also, the government is now very aware of his return, and they want him captured.
Ewing continues to command great knowledge of Hulk’s history, which makes this book a fun read for longtime fans of the character. Between bringing back Hulk’s dad, exploring the friendship between Langowski and Banner, and even using the old Red Hulk antagonist, General Fortean, in a big way this issue, Ewing has established that he knows his main character very well, and he’s as big a fan as anyone could claim to be. His experience makes the book a joy to read, especially with the darker tone he has brought to the title to put his own twist on it.
Ewing also dives deeper into how Banner’s new relationship with the Hulk works this issue. Previously, there had been hints at the new arrangement, but now the readers are told, via Banner, that he’s still figuring it out himself. He claims the Hulk is smarter now, but in a way of using his intellect in the form of natural instinct. “Magical thinking”, he calls it, acknowledging that it’s new. As if that isn’t enough, there is another twist to the old Banner/Hulk dynamic at the end of the issue that will leave the audience wondering what Banner actually is these days. All of these new elements that Ewing has introduced have been amazing, taking something familiar, and distorting it just enough to make it eerily off-kilter and slightly unrecognizable. This is the Banner the fans have always known. He’s not out of character, and Ewing hasn’t changed his personality to suit his needs. He has, instead, expertly built something new from the building blocks that were laid before him, much like Peter David did on his classic run years before.
Guest artist Lee Garbett, while capable at his craft, doesn’t quite bring the skills that Joe Bennett has been on this title. Bennett is a hard act to follow, particularly on the Hulk, and Garbett’s style is so drastically different from his that it comes across as a jarring change between issues. It’s also an especially bad time to have a guest artist, starting a huge story where the Avengers show up to confront Banner face-to-face. One can only assume that Bennett’s schedule just wouldn’t allow him to do the issue, but he is sorely missed. Mounts’ colors also suffer with the change in art. Normally, he is one of the great heroes of this book, but his work does not blend well with Garbett’s, and both of their styles comes across as dark and sketchy at times.
In the end, this was an issue that Ewing used to slow down and let the story catch up to itself. The Hulk didn’t really get a chance to come out and play, but that’s fine, because there’s so much else going on. Up until this point in the book, Banner and the Hulk have been off on their own, laying low, just walking the earth “like Caine in Kung Fu.” Now, the rest of the world is catching up to them. The government and the Avengers are stepping in, and it is clear they have no intentions of leaving the Hulk alone, as he always seems to want. While not exactly a super exciting issue, it’s a tension-builder for the start of something much bigger, and the cliffhanger ending will have you holding your breath for the next issue.