The Immortal Hulk #20 // Review
Banner and Betty are reunited in the most disturbing way possible in The Immortal Hulk #20, written by Al Ewing, with pencils by Joe Bennett, inks by Ruy Jose, Belardino Brabo, and Marc Deering, and colors by Paul Mounts. Previously, General Fortean of the secret military Hulkbuster unit dug up Hulk’s old friend Rick Jones, and grafted the remains of the Abomination onto his body, turning him into a near-mindless, Hulk-seeking missile. When he finally caught up to the Green Goliath, he made short work of him, using a highly corrosive acid from his stomach to melt Hulk down to almost nothing. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Banner’s ex, Betty Ross, now the monstrous Harpy, showed up and ripped out his heart as he begged her for help. Now, Banner confronts his dad in “The Below-Place” as he waits to come back to life, while the Harpy and Abomination rampage on the mortal plane.
Ewing seems to be barreling towards a conclusion of sorts, as he’s giving us answers left and right to the overall mystery of this book: why do people empowered by gamma radiation seem to be unable to die? In a confrontation with his own dead father in The Below-Place, Banner’s dad enlightens him to the true nature of gamma radiation, and even hints at his own mysterious nature. Whether you’re enjoying this new, mystic-filled lore for the Hulk, or not, it seems inevitable that Ewing’s run will leave its mark on the character for years to come.
Ewing also gives the readers a good bit more panel time with Betty, who has been shrouded in mystery, herself, lately. With a new form and an old name, she has made quite an impression with fans the last couple of issues. Gone is the put-upon ex of Banner, replaced by a vengeful, bloodthirsty monster that represents all of the anger and bitter resentment Betty has towards Bruce, and the never-ending misery he has ushered into her life over the years. She has become unpredictable, one minute ripping the Hulk’s heart out (did she know that would actually save him?), and the next, fighting alongside him against the Abomination. With every moment she’s around, more questions pop up about her true nature. Is Betty in control, is her intelligence diminished in her Harpy form, or is the Harpy merely a whole separate personality from Betty, much like the Hulk is to Bruce? Only patience will give the readers their answers, but Ewing sure is having fun teasing the fans with her in the meantime.
As always, this art team is perfection. Seemingly sent from the gods to fulfill their destiny on this book, Bennett, Jose (joined this issue by Brabo and Deering), and Mounts can do no wrong. Bennett’s take on the new Hulk is equal parts familiar, and fresh, while the inks and colors lend to Ewing’s overall horror feel, being creepy in their darkness, just as much as they are when they fill the page with the glow of green.
In the end, if you’ve been enjoying this book (and many people have), then there’s nothing here that will turn you away. It’s more of the same greatness the creative team has been delivering all along. And, if you haven’t been reading this book, you really should be. The first trades are out now, and they do not disappoint, whether you’re a longtime Hulk fan, or looking for a natural entry point to the character.