Immortal Hulk #20 & #21: What are You, Bruce Banner of Earth?

Immortal Hulk #20

Joe Bennett (artist), Al Ewing (writer), Ruy José, Belardino Brabo, & Mark Deering (inkers), Paul Mounts (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer)|
Marvel Comics
July 3, 2019

Immortal Hulk #21

Ryan Bodenheim (artist), Al Ewing (writer),Paul Mounts (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer)|
Marvel Comics
July 17, 2019

Immortal Hulk #20 and #21 are two very different stories, showcasing the strength of this book from two different angles. While issue #20 advances the plot and blows the cosmic scope of this book open wider, issue #21 focuses on the backstory of General Fortean, giving greater depth to the story so far.

Cover to Immortal Hulk 21, by Alex Ross.

In issue #20, Bruce Banner approaches the end of days. This issue has two storylines running concurrently: Bruce awaiting final judgment, and the unfolding saga of the Hulk and Harpy’s flight from both Gamma Flight and Shadow Base’s pursuits. Issue #21, however, is a bottle issue, giving readers the full backstory of General Fortean, protégé to General “Thunderbolt” Ross who has made hunting down the Hulk his life’s mission. In this issue, the main plot of Immortal Hulk is set to the side for just a moment to explore Fortean’s motivations and past more fully, putting his actions in the present in this issue into context. At the end of the issue, readers have a much fuller, much deeper understanding of the man behind the military figure, complicating and motivating Banner’s adversary. With this issue, Fortean doesn’t become a likeable character, but he becomes an explicable one.

Panel From Immortal Hulk #21, pg. 14. Art by Ryan Bodenheim and Paul Mounts.

In issue #20 Joe Bennett’s art continues to shine, and in issue #21 we welcome Ryan Bodenheim as a guest artist. Along with regular colorist Mounts, Bodenheim delivers a solid character issue that doesn’t feel like just a filler issue or a bottle issue existing only to give a regular artist a break, but instead a necessary, vibrant chapter of the ongoing Immortal Hulk story. Mounts ongoing color work helps tie the two issues with their two different artists together, but regardless, Bodenheim’s pencils and inks are bold and clear, rendering each character completely uniquely.

One of the consistently strongest elements this book is the way Ewing scripts the ending of each issue. With #20, Ewing continues in this vein with a last page reveal of an issue title which redefines this issue’s ‘end of days’ plot. The juxtaposition between Bruce and the Hulk, as one goes to hell and the other is called on by heaven, is stronger than ever in this issue, while remains as engaging as it has been out since the very first issue. Bruce Banner and the Devil Hulk remain sides of the same man, and yet, in the grander, cosmic scheme of the Marvel universe, it appears they are judged as two entirely separate beings.

The advent of Metatron and Immortal Hulk #20 opens up a new side of the conversation Al Ewing has been having in Immortal Hulk. That is: what is the other side of this mystical world of Gamma that Ewing has been exploring? What is the counterpart to the Green Door, and the hell it leads to? Again and again, Immortal Hulk has asked what and who the Hulk truly is, what kind of monster he might actually be, and if maybe he truly is of Hell. But with this issue, Banner is thrown into a new context, the divine.

Panel from Immortal Hulk #20, art by Joe Bennet, et al.

The series is approaching Immortal Hulk #25, which promises in its solicit that “The heat death of our universe has come and gone. The Hulk is finally dead. Now, billions of years later, the Ninth Cosmos cowers…before the BREAKER OF WORLDS.” The cosmic scope of this book is growing increasingly wide, as the world of Gamma keeps expanding. At this point in the run, it’s clear that Ewing, Bennet, and their collaborators have this story tightly in hand and that they are building to something momentous. With every issue of Immortal Hulk, I get more excited to see just where they take Bruce Banner, and the entire Hulk mythos, and have no doubt that it will still blow my expectations out of the water.

Emma Snape

Emma Snape

Emma is an Ohio native who has worked in film production and education, and writes about comics on the side. She loves thinking about the role of visuals in narrative storytelling, both in film and comics, reading comics set in cities she's lived in, and telling people to read X-Force (1991).