I love horror comics. My fascination with them probably dates back to when I was a kid thumbing through The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe where I discovered that the Marvel Universe wasn't just home to iconic superheroes and villains, it was also a realm of monstrous characters like Dracula and the Ghost Rider. I became an even bigger fan of Marvel style horror in the '90s with the launch of their "Midnight Sons" line of titles. Since then, there have been several promising Marvel horror books, but nothing really caught on.
That all changed in the summer of 2018 when writer Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennett launched Immortal Hulk, a series that took one of Marvel's most iconic characters and played up the horror elements that had been part of the character since his creation. The result was one of my favorite comics from last year and a genuinely creepy tale that makes the most of its setting.
Part of the reason Immortal Hulk has been so successful is the fact that Ewing has been a lifelong fan of Marvel's Jade Giant and had been waiting for a chance to tell a tale with the character. That's clear from the way he brought the Hulk back in the Avengers: No Surrender storyline, and the long-form mystery of Immortal Hulk that sprang from the title character's many deaths and resurrections over the years. Ewing took those continuity elements and an obscure and often overlooked Hulk power, his ability to see ghosts, and used them as the bedrock for a solid tale of mystery and both psychological and supernatural horror.
Making the book even greater is the fact that Ewing didn't have to stretch the nature of the Hulk to make his story work. Horror has always been part of the character. Part of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's inspiration for creating the Hulk were the classic horror stories Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Under Ewing, the Mr. Hyde inspiration has become especially clear. The Immortal Hulk is different from his past counterparts in that he's still green hued and strong as ever, but he's also incredibly smart, cunning and has a vicious streak to him. So, Banner's cycle of death and constant resurrection as the Hulk really does feel like a horrific curse.
Once they found the organic horror at the center of their story, Ewing and his collaborators on Immortal Hulk -- which include the primary art team of penciller Joe Bennett, inker Ruy Jose and colorist Paul Mounts -- took steps to amplify it. The results have been both exciting and chilling. There are shadows in all the right places, and the color palette has been perfect and moody. What I've especially enjoyed, though, is Bennett's character acting and page design. The smile he gives the Hulk is truly unsettling. When the Immortal version of the Jade Juggernaut grins, his wicked streak radiates off the page. You often see that creepy smile peering back at Bruce Banner from the mirror. Perhaps the most chilling use of reflective surfaces comes at the end of the first arc, when the Hulk looks into a car mirror and the reflection he sees back is one of a monster that scares even him; Bruce Banner's hateful father, Brian.