WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Immortal Hulk #7 by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Paul Mounts and VC's Cory Petit, out now.
At this point, it is no surprise to anyone who has been following the series that The Immortal Hulk is doing something very different. Of course, much like the duality within the Bruce Banner/Hulk character, it is a series that stands astride its own mythos, with one monstrous foot firmly planted in its classic lore and another taking a giant leap into something new.
Immortal Hulk #7 is the latest issue in the series, which is often credited as being more in-step with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's original vision for the character, and not just in the Hulk's less-childlike, more street tough parlance and monstrous appearance. Veering away from his modern-day superhero arc, Immortal returns the Hulk to his horror-inspired roots, presenting him as a vengeful, unkillable monster activated by the night and armed with a more flexible sense of justice.
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The series thus leans more heavily into the character as a modern-day telling of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This reading has further been exacerbated by the revelation that Hulk is currently haunted by another, more malicious personality in the ghost of Bruce's abusive father, Brian Banner. However, with the unsettling, horror-steeped final page reveal of Immortal Hulk #7, this series may actually be conjuring another classic horror figure entirely: Frankenstein's monster!
The final image shows the Hulk in the custody of the mysterious Shadow Base, a secret government agency that has been pursuing him. He has seemingly been dissected, with his head, limbs and organs stuffed grotesquely into jars. It is the latest, and perhaps greatest, in a long-line of gruesome images and events that have clearly defined the series as a horror book, even as it comes after a fierce battle with the Avengers. It also, perhaps surprisingly, evokes a scene from the original 1931 Frankenstein film, starring Boris Karloff.
In the infamous scene, the hunchback assistant character Fritz sneaks into an anatomy class and mistakenly steals "the abnormal brain of a typical criminal." The hapless theft sets off the film's tragic misadventure, which, at its heart, is also about an undead monster reanimated by science. Of course, while this story separates body parts while Frankenstein brings them together, the comparisons between these two monsters have existed for years.
In fact, when asked about the character's origins in a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone, Stan Lee was even quoted as saying, “I remembered Jekyll and Hyde, and the Frankenstein movie with Boris Karloff, and it always seemed to me that the monster was really the good guy; he didn’t want to hurt anybody, but those idiots kept chasing him up the hill until he had to strike back. So why not get a guy who looks like a monster and really doesn’t want to cause any harm. But he has to in self-defense, because people are always attacking him."
As chilling as the finale of Immortal Hulk #7 is, and as morally ambiguous as the character seems to be, the series continues to point to the titular behemoth as a creature who does not actively want to hurt the innocent, much like Karloff's interpretation and even the original misunderstood monster within Mary Shelley's classic novel. In fact, in his issue-long, cross-state battle with the latest incarnation of The Avengers (a team the character co-founded), the only casualty was the Hulk, himself.
In another interesting parallel, much like the source material written by Shelley, the Immortal Hulk seems to be building to an ultimate conflict between the main character and his father, just as the original Frankenstein's monster was consumed with bringing justice and vengeance to his own creator. It will be perhaps the Jade Giant's most personal battle, and could lead to its own horrific ending. Time will tell how Ewing, Bennett and the entire creative team will flesh out this new Marvel horror show or how much more frank it could possible get.