The Immortal Hulk #3: Taking a second look
When I first got my hands on last week’s Immortal Hulk #3, I was disappointed. I only had time to flip through it, and the artwork was an aesthetic hodge-podge. Now, I’ve learned my lesson about styles in comic books—that storytelling is paramount, and that a book can do it for me just fine, even if I don’t love the finishes; but that’s a lesson for the head, and gut reactions aren’t filtered through the brain.
Thankfully, I gave the book another shot. I’ve enjoyed what the creative team has been doing prior, so I figure I should at least see how everything worked together. And lo and behold, I think Immortal Hulk #3 is another very strong installment in this series.
In case you haven’t been following along, Marvel has opted for a “freak of the week” approach to this title. There’s a narrative through-line—carried almost exclusively by Arizona Herald reporter Jacqueline McGee—but each issue has been largely self-contained, dealing with a fresh enemy and conflict each time, and bringing that enemy to justice and that conflict to an end by the final page.
#3 follows suit, but instead of the fairly linear storytelling that Ewing and Bennett have previously given us, we get the facts of this particular case through a number of perspectives, each illustrated by a different artist, with different styles, and even different approaches to the lettering. And what looked like fill-in chaos on that initial flip-through is actually a purposeful, interesting method of telling this particular story. It’s a way to spice up the one-and-done formula without spending extra time on the long-game plot.
Most of the styles work very well, tying into whichever character’s perspective we’re getting. The comfortable, idealistic, old church lady sees the villain as a handsome, smooth, colorful, romantic figure, exisiting in a forgettable, candy-coated world. The old, weathered priest’s aesthetic matches the worn, murky state of his theology by the end of the tale. The sad, ridiculous bartender looks like something from the mind of Mike Judge. All of that works, though there are a few moments where I wish that we could get a naked, terrifying perspective of the Hulk, particularly when he bursts through stained glass as the unsettling answer to the Father’s prayer.
In spite of that small niggle, however, the story is excellent. You would think that the Hulk taking on two gamma-fied enemies in a row would be old, but Ewing keeps finding poetic ways of describing the terror of the big guy, and the artists keep bringing exactly what each script needs. I picked up issue #1 as a curiosity, and was surprised by its sophisticated storytelling. The team’s been surprising me since, with markedly different styles of storytelling that are just as effective. We’re at the point now where how this book tells stories is as exciting as the stories themselves, and that’s a great place to be. If you passed on Hulk last week, right that wrong when you pick up your books tomorrow.