Immortal Hulk #18 Brings the Slow, Creeping Body Horror

Story by
Art by
Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose
Colors by
Paul Mounts
Letters by
VC's Cory Petit
Cover by
Marvel Comics

Ever since his gruesome resurrection during the events of Avengers: No Surrender, the continuing adventures of Bruce Banner and the Hulk in the Marvel Universe have leaned more into horror than a traditional superhero story. The genre shift has helped define the Jade Giant's current ongoing series, Immortal Hulk, and the trend continues to especially terrifying effect in the latest issue while giving Banner a rare moment to reflect on his current status quo. In doing so, the creative team of Al Ewing and Joe Bennett have effectively balanced John Carpenter-level body horror with rare introspection while teasing the return of a classic Hulk personality.

Picking up from the events of the previous issue, Hulk has destroyed the secret bunker of Shadow Base with Leonard Sampson, leaving the gamma-powered psychiatrist behind unconscious in the rubble. As Banner regains his bears on the way to the nearest city, he discovers the Hulk has been busy since their last transformation all the while being unknowingly stalked by a ravenous, gamma-radiated monster with its own fiendish designs and a hunger that cannot be sated by any hapless victim with the misfortune of crossing paths with it.

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Ewing takes advantage of the rare quiet moment to give Banner a chance to analyze all of the known personalities of the Hulk as he attempts to determine what exactly the Hulk has been up in his absence. Much of the mysteries driving the book have been regarding the whereabouts of most of the series' supporting cast and while those mysteries and investigations certainly continue, Ewing takes the opportunity to stage some introspection that helps define the Hulk's new status quo while referencing classic elements of the long-running Marvel franchise.

Having said that, Ewing and Bennett don't shortchange readers on the expected scares that the title has become known for. There are monstrous reveals of two classic Hulk characters who have each undergone their own respective transformations that give the new sinister version of the Hulk a run for his money in the horror department. And while Banner is occupied with trying to discover what the Hulk has been up to, he unwittingly leaves a bloody trail behind him as he's being stalked through the Nevada desert by a creature that could be straight out of John Carpenter's The Thing.

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Bennett, with inker Ruy Jose and colorist Paul Mounts, continue to deliver the effectively moody visuals throughout the book. Every shadow in the issue can conceal its own sinister threat and even the issue's quieter moments carry an uneasy sense of menace that keeps the readers on their toes. The visuals are vaguely reminiscent of the EC Horror Comics of the '50s, with human characters rendered intentionally as grotesque at times of the monsters but, when the monsters do inevitably show up, all hell breaks loose after pages on creeping tension.

Transitioning from the previous issue, the sudden shift in the latest issue of the Immortal Hulk can be jarring to some but, with Banner going through a similar acclimation to his surroundings as well, this is virtually guaranteed to be a conscious decision by the creative team. The series has long thrived and defined itself by leaning more into horror than most books currently being published by Marvel and this issue is no different though it really excels as it leans into the introspective mythology of the property. And with Hulk now face-to-face with the most terrifying version of a familiar villain he has ever seen, the stakes have certainly been raised for the next issue.

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