The Immortal Hulk #21 // Review
It’s a trip down memory lane with Banner’s current number one enemy, General Reginald Fortean, in The Immortal Hulk #21, written by Al Ewing, with art by Ryan Bodenheim, and colors by Paul Mounts. Previously, Fortean dug up the body of Banner’s old pal Rick Jones, and grafted the remains of Hulk’s old enemy, the Abomination, onto him. Creating one of the most horrific monsters of all time. When Jones and Hulk finally fought, Banner barely survived the confrontation. Thanks to the intervention of his ex, Betty Ross, now a winged gamma monster called the Harpy. Hulk separated Jones from the Abomination “scaffolding” and fled with his friend. Now, Fortean has made it his mission to retrieve the Abomination’s remains. It won’t be easy, as Gamma Flight has already taken them into custody.
Ewing finally gives the readers some background on Fortean this issue, and it’s about time because he has been a bit of a mystery in this title, so far. While Ewing didn’t create the character (he first appeared in Hulk vol.2 #30.1 in 2011), he certainly hasn’t done much to explain him. Who he is, or where he came from, other than his being a protege of “Thunderbolt” Ross. Seeing him pop up over and over again, trying to take down Banner, and not knowing what his deal is was starting to feel repetitive. However, this issue digs deep into his psyche to show the readers what makes him tick. With the use of flashbacks, Ewing has Fortean narrate crucial moments in his life that shaped him as a person, giving him structure and purpose. This is all exactly what you’ve wanted from this character, but unfortunately, once revealed, Fortean comes off as a little boring. He exists for order, and his mission to bring down the Hulk isn’t even personal, but more born out of a duty that his respected mentor couldn’t carry out. He’s, basically, an extension of a much more complex character, Thunderbolt Ross. Even with the shocking ending to this issue, you might find yourself hoping that Ross could still show up to fight his old nemesis in the final chapters of this story.
The B plot, in which Fortean actually goes to the Gamma Flight base to retrieve the remains of the Abomination, is well-paced. A bit scary in its unfettered violence, plus provides the only real action for this issue. Watching Fortean dismantle some of the strongest people on the planet with relative ease really ratchets up his threat factor. You are reminded that he could be a considerable danger to the Hulk, even if he is just a regular man. Combined with the ending of this issue, you are left on edge waiting for the Hulk and Fortean to finally face off.
Bodenheim does a fine job of filling in for Bennett on art duties this issue, but he seems a little out of place on this title. The brief panels that he draws the Hulk seem a little off, and his Absorbing Man looks much older than he should be. However, his action and storytelling, are clean and crisp, with easy to interpret panels. As substitutes go, Marvel could do much worse, but Bodenheim would probably be more at home on a book like Daredevil, or Moon Knight. Mounts, on colors, does his usual spectacular job, as he is a veteran of this book, and knows it inside out by now.
Even though Ewing slowed down a bit to fill you in on the background of his chief antagonist, this issue still has plenty of excitement to keep your eyes glued to the pages. Hulk may be all but absent, but Ewing’s signature creepy storytelling, and attention to character, are still present, so you won’t want to miss this one.