Immortal Hulk #14 // Review
A funeral for an enemy, a reunion with an old flame, the return of a long lost friend, and more. The Immortal Hulk #14, written by Al Ewing, with guest artist Kyle Hotz, and colors by Paul Mounts. Previously, Hulk took a trip to Hell, where he and Banner have split apart and deeply traumatized. Now, they’re back, hunted by the government, and hiding out with Banner’s on-again, off-again love, Betty. Can these two crazy kids set things aside and rekindle their romance for one another? It’s not looking likely, kids.
This issue focuses mostly on Betty, as she attends her father’s funeral, and examines her feelings for Bruce, and it is some of Ewing’s most exceptional work. Typically, an essential ingredient in Hulk’s supporting cast, she and Bruce (and even Hulk) have a complicated history. Sometimes, they’re in love, sometimes they hate each other, and sometimes they’re dead. Either way, when they inevitably reunite, there is bound to be fireworks. Ewing has, so far, kept Betty out of his story, but there is no doubt he has been slowly building to her arrival in this book. Turning a microscope on her inner workings, we see how she feels about her sometimes-villainous father, and the conflicting feelings she has for her sometimes-monstrous husband. Having been a “Hulk,” herself, she can relate to Bruce and his struggles, but he has probably hurt her as many times as she has been helped, and there are no easy decisions for her when it comes to him. Ewing, much like everything else to do with Hulk/Banner, really gets this relationship. It’s abusive and toxic, and Betty and Bruce shouldn’t even attempt to be together ever again, but there is also an undeniable love that always brings them back to each other. It’s one of the most complicated relationships in the history of comics, and Ewing nails it effortlessly.
The rest of the issue is full of shocking twists and surprises galore, so it’s nearly impossible to discuss its goings-on, but suffice to say, Ewing has been on a long, winding road towards bringing back a lot of the “classic” elements of the Hulk since he started his run on this book. Essentially, he began with the far-out concept of Banner/Hulk being unable to die, topped off with a healthy dose of horror. It felt different and fresh, but somehow still had echoes of familiarity. Over time, however, Ewing started to add in more and more of the old school elements that longtime fans love: Hulk being hunted by government forces, being forced to fight superheroes, never being left alone, the tragic relationship with his father, and now the return of Betty. While still heavy on horror, this book now feels like a blend of Peter David’s Hulk and Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, and it couldn’t be more enjoyable.
Guest artist, Hotz, steps in this issue, but the visual side of the story doesn’t miss a beat. His darker, grittier style matches Betty’s experience and feelings perfectly, and while Joe Bennett (the book’s usual artist) is always missed when he steps out, Hotz fills in seamlessly. Mounts, the ideal Hulk colorist behind every artist on this book, doesn’t quite jibe as well with Hotz as he does with Bennett, but he still provides a creepy palette to match the story, and he continues to be an MVP on this title.
Overall, if you’re a Hulk fan that’s been wondering where Betty has been the last few years, this is the issue you’ve been waiting on. Ewing is pulling all of the classic elements of this title back into place, and it seems like he’s just getting started. The Immortal Hulk is a flawless book, and it only gets better as it goes.