Updated: Aug 1, 2019
This post focuses on Immortal Hulk #1 & #2 from Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Run José, Paul Mounts, Cory Petit, Travis Lanham.
The relationship between Bruce Banner and the Hulk has always been a complicated one. In fact, describing the relationship as complicated may be a drastic understatement. At times, the two have battled for control over Banner’s body, with Banner perceiving the Hulk as a hideous monster while Hulk perceived Banner as a weakling. Alternatively, there have been instances where the two reached a sort of symbiosis, coexisting as one force of nature.
However, there has never been a single state that has persisted for very long. Thus, in 2018, writer Al Ewing began composing a series that descended into the complexities of Hulk and Banner’s bond.
This particular series, acclaimed by fans and critics alike, has been noted for its exploration of Hulk through a terrifying yet captivating lens. So, let us dive into the introductory issues of Immortal Hulk, installments that truly set the stage for the chaos that ensues for our titular characters.
In the Beginning
In Immortal Hulk #1 & #2 readers familiarize themselves with a completely new instance of the Hulk persona, one that emulates death itself. Immortal Hulk #1 opens with the statement, “There are two people in every mirror. There’s the one you can see, and there’s the other one that you don’t want to”. In regard to Bruce Banner himself, this statement recognizes an acceptance on Banner’s end. In the past, he may have expressed a reluctance to acknowledge the fact that the Hulk was a part of him. Now, he knows that there is no escape. The two are tethered to each other, intertwining thoughts and actions. Banner knows the Hulk’s deepest, darkest inclinations, and Hulk knows Banner’s.
Thus, in a way, Banner is already damned. In Immortal Hulk #1’s opening pages, Banner finds himself amidst a robber in the gas station. During the ordeal, he gets shot in the head after he witnesses the robber murder a twelve-year-old girl. Not too long after, Banner resurrects as the Hulk. Thus, it is impossible for Banner to break his tether to Hulk even in death because the Hulk has conquered death. Hulk has tethered Banner to his own personal hell, as though Banner exists in an infinite loop.
The Devil Within
Following this resurrection, Hulk embarks on a rampage, hunting down the young girl’s killer, named Thomas Edward Hill. Once Hulk confronts Thomas, Thomas begs for his life, stating that he has a family and is not truly a bad guy. Thomas claims he just made a mistake, but the Hulk is not so forgiving.
Hulk simply responds with a grin, doubting Thomas’ self-perception. Law enforcement eventually discover Thomas, nearly beaten to death. Some time later, after reverting back to his Banner form, Banner asks himself if he too is a bad person for exacting justice upon someone in such a brutal way, only to see Hulk’s reflection in the mirror in front of him.
Thus, it is worth considering the state of Hulk and Bruce Banner's respective identities. In the context of Immortal Hulk #1, it appears as though Hulk’s continuous victory over death has consumed the mortality of Banner’s identity. Additionally, this immortal Hulk is weathering the tether Banner once maintained to his human self.
Now, as Hulk emulates a new persona, he exemplifies an entity with a conscience that is capable of thoughtful decision-making. Consequently, the conscience of Bruce Banner is slowly being displaced by that of Hulk.
Breaking the Scales
Obviously, death is a primary motif of Immortal Hulk as the series explores the blurred area between the binaries of life and death. The series also explores the ways in which Hulk transcends those binaries and converts death into his own life force.
In Immortal Hulk #2, Banner decides to make a pit stop at a small-town diner to eat a hot meal for the first time in a long time. As he eats, he focuses on the taste and texture of his food, relishing in the experience. Thus, even though Banner’s mortal identity is in flux due to Hulk’s influence, he still tries to maintain the tether to his humanity through experiences he acquires through his senses.
However, it is safe to say that Banner's fixation on his own senses is not enough to overpower the increasing strength of the Hulk within. Additionally, despite Banner's openness to utilizing his senses to experience human pleasures, he resists genuine human contact and communication.
In fact, these moments in which Banner actually enjoys living appear to be rare. Thus, Hulk appears to minimize Banner's human experience, conquering it and entrapping Banner himself.
At this point, Banner is struggling to distinguish himself from the Hulk. It is in simple moments like eating a hot meal that he truly attempts to redefine himself as a human being. Again though, these moments are fleeting, and it is nearly impossible for him to disassociate from the beast within.
The Case of the Green Man
With this, in Immortal Hulk #2, Banner narrates how he had asked a friend, Hawkeye, to fire an arrow through his head. This request stemmed from Banner’s overarching desire to defeat the Hulk, and, thus, himself. He ultimately wanted to see if he was even capable of death. Obviously, Banner, nor Hulk, accomplished that as Hulk has managed to transcend death.
Banner goes on to describe how he can sense the increasing intelligence of the immortal Hulk within, and Banner honestly does not know how exactly to perceive that development. He may feel fear, but, interestingly enough, he predominantly expresses curiosity. It is in Banner's nature to be drawn to the mysteries of the universe as he is a reputable scientist.
Thus, though Banner feels a sense of defeat and terror in regard to his relationship with Hulk and the dominance Hulk currently maintains, Banner seeks understanding and reasoning.
Again though, this specific Hulk persona finds its roots in aspects far beyond science. Though, that is a revelation Banner discovers as he enters the fateful Green Door.
The introductory issues of Immortal Hulk provide readers with an intense and complex vignette of Bruce Banner and the Hulk as they exist individually and as the same entity.
These issues also provide a taste of the concept referred to as The Green Door, a passageway to a perilous place that maintains a strong yet ambiguous connection to the Hulk and the source of his own, seemingly, demonic aspects.
Immortal Hulk is undeniably one of the best comics to run throughout 2018 and 2019, and its first two issues only provide a preview of the brilliance that ensues.
Thus, stay tuned for what lies ahead in the incomporable Immortal Hulk.