Updated: May 16, 2021
Any Marvel fan worth their salt is all too familiar with the Hulk, and his alter-ego, Bruce Banner. We know the struggle Bruce faces to control his anger, to find a balance between himself and ultimately, curb the smash-tastic tendencies of his greener self.
Ewing challenges this already tenuous balance. Because while Bruce Banner is a mortal man, the Hulk is impervious to harm; making for an unstoppable force. The question is whether this force will still be used for good, or whether the Hulk is too uncontrollable for hero work without Banner around.
The sadistic streak that accompanies Hulk’s quest for justice in this volume makes for some incredibly striking (albeit grotesque) imagery. The combined talents of Ruy José and Joe Bennett portray Hulk in a different light. Rather than a superhero, the reader is introduced to the horrors of his unbridled rage, paired with his impressive strength. The issue cover art by Alex Ross paint excellent portraits of this darker Hulk, with darker color, higher contrast, and exaggerated character expressions.
What’s more, the absence of Banner’s "higher conscience" seems to have let loose a more terrifying side to Hulk. He is no longer concerned about justice; he is determined to make his opponent pay. This, in a couple of instances, motivates Hulk to carry out fates worse than death.
There is a grim theme of reincarnation that is recurrent in the first volume of “Immortal Hulk.” When the sun goes down, Hulk is free to wreak havoc and carry out his self-proclaimed duty on the villains his alter-ego spent the day tracking. Bruce must deal with the next-day consequences, and the pain of dying, yet continues to court death by following baser instincts and tracking down the baddies for Hulk to dispose of.
This war of ethics transforms Hulk from a just Avenger into a rampant vigilante, and begs the question the volume title hints at — Is he a hero? Is he a monster? Or is he both?