WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Immortal Hulk #23 by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Belardino Brabo, Paul Mounts, Matt Milla and VC's Cory Petit, in stores now.
Marvel's Immortal Hulk continues to push the limits of what Bruce Banner can do with his new, ever-evolving form. He's not the Hulk we're accustomed to. He's way smarter, coming out during night only and, as he blends together elements of Joe Fixit with the Devil Hulk, this Jade Giant is fully intent on destroying Shadow Base and the legacy of hatred left behind by Thaddeus Ross before his death.
However, as he finally gets his hands on Ross' apprentice, General Fortean, he discovers that this new version of the Abomination isn't like anything he's ever fought before. In fact, Banner realizes their brawl isn't going according to plan at all, and the Green Goliath might well be out his depth, facing what's essentially the super-soldier version of the villain.
As Hulk raids the base with a resurrected Rick Jones, Betty Ross/Harpy, Puck, Titania and Absorbing Man, Fortean's crew is taken by surprise. They thought they were untraceable, but as is the case with this Hulk, he somehow finds a path to his enemies on a consistent basis. As the rest of the crew fights off the foot soldiers, Hulk and Fortean square off, ignoring everyone en route to their much-anticipated one-on-one.
Of course, Fortean's powered up big time as he's inside the Abomination husk Rick Jones left behind, uniquely integrated and upgraded, while Hulk, on the other hand, is weakened from a solar emitter blast, as daylight reduces his strength and power. As Hulk tussles with the soldier, Fortean understands at long last just what the behemoth is about and how far disconnected he is from the mild-mannered Banner.
Still, Fortean taunts him, with Hulk understanding this villain's better than Ross, even in his Red Hulk form, as well as Emile Blonsky (the first Abomination). He might have riled up Fortean by telling him he's the bootleg version of these villains, but deep down Hulk knows this isn't the case. It all comes to a head when Fortean uses his projectile vomit, spewing acid that dissolves Hulk's face and his very fabric in yet another gory panel from artist Joe Bennett. It's something writer Al Ewing loves penning, and once more, the result is what makes this book a true horror, scaring the life out of you as you see Hulk's insides and his bare skull.
Hulk, knowing he needs a Hail Mary, begins ripping his own flesh off his body so as to regenerate quickly, but still, you can't help but feel concerned as Fortean constantly seems to have the upper hand. He's the perfect soldier, even in human form, and his Abomination, using this means of vomit, gives us a villain who's leveled up like never before, and knows Banner's alter-ego inside out. He has gotten into Hulk's mind to a depth not even Ross could, not to mention physically. Fortean truly knows every move the antihero will make after years of in-depth study.
As a result, Hulk has no choice but to look to Banner for answers, something this immortal version really doesn't like doing due to his ego. But when facing an adversary like this, apparently insurmountable, you can't blame Hulk because it's all about survival. Only the fittest and strongest will live (or deserve to live, in his eyes) and right now, Banner might be the only answer around. Because when it comes to the ultimate Hulk killer, Fortean's Abomination is as precise, clinical and perfect as they come -- and this has left Hulk scrambling to mount a defense.
The Immortal Hulk #24 goes on sale Oct. 2.