The Best of Marvel’s Fresh Start #1 – The Immortal Hulk

Still in shock that I like a Hulk book this much. I wrote a little about this comic when it debuted and how I was impressed by Ewing & Bennett’s initial issue, but now that we’re six months into Marvel’s Fresh Start, I can say that this is by far my favorite thing the company is putting out.

Al Ewing really won me over to his storytelling sensibilities with The Ultimates but for some reason I thought that would be more of a one-time thing. He just seemed more attuned to that cosmic grand scale story. But Ewing proved me wrong with The Immortal Hulk.

This Hulk story reminds me of old EC horror comics. Morality tales of humans and being judged by some sort of supernatural being. They never have happy endings and always leave you with a bit of incoming dread. That’s exactly what Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennett accomplish with their first arc in The Immortal Hulk.

Ewing weaves together different morality tales with each issue and somehow moves the ongoing story of the Green Door onward. Is the Hulk an avenging devil? A gamma detective dispensing justice?

I really like Ewing’s strategy of making Banner and Hulk secondary characters in their story. You hear more about them and their impact through other characters. Everyone treats them as larger than life figures so when they make an appearance, they really pop.

Banner in particular seems like a being traumatized by the Hulk; he doesn’t even have a semblance of control anymore and it really makes him seem like a shell of himself. It’s scary as hell to watch him just wander through life knowing he will always be the Hulk’s puppet.

I think a highlight of the series has to be in issue #3 when he tells a Rashomon-style story of one of the Hulk’s latest investigations into gamma and the evil that humanity perpetuates.

Each point of view is done by a different artist and it’s such a great issue to read. Each style fits the point of view so well and you get a real kick out of trying to piece together the actual events. Some people idolize the Hulk even in his extremes. Some demonize him, and others just don’t care.  Even if you haven’t read the previous issues, you could pick up #3 and get an excellent feel for the run.

With the art, Joe Bennett really nails down the Hulk’s look. He is a legit monster. A squared head and just terrifying to look at. He captures the grotesque horror very well and even the pained faces of the tortured humans. I think I’ve seen his art before, but it never captured me. I think it just needed to fit this horror storyline and now I think it’s wonderful.

Even when the story becomes less about these one-and-done stories, the themes of fear, guilt, and morality never disappear. Maybe because we just ended October and I watched thirty-one horror movies, but this series really spoke to me: this is damn fine horror mystery comic. Not a single issue has disappointed.

I can’t recommend it enough. Even if you don’t have an interest in superhero comics, the book stands apart.


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