It may come as a shock, but Immortal Hulk is outselling Batman. That’s a testament to what creators Al Ewing and Joe Bennett have been doing with one of the most compelling, scary, and interesting takes on a character for some time. We talked about it on the AiPT! Comics Podcast, but it’s worth saying again Hulk is back and stronger than ever. It’s partly why Marvel Comics is publishing a Director’s Cut this week, which reprints issue #1 if you missed it the first time. Is this repackaged comic worth the double-dip? Let’s break it down.
So what’s it about?
Read the preview of the first issue.
Why does this matter?
This extra-sized issue contains the first issue, the first issue pencils without color or inks, variant covers, and some interesting “thoughts” by initial series editor Tom Brevoort. All of these give you a bit of insight into the creation of what is undoubtedly the biggest surprise success at Marvel in some time.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
When I first reviewed Immortal Hulk #1 I had no idea the success it would become. I wrote, “This will infuriate fans who want to know the bigger picture,” and I don’t think I could be any more wrong. I was expecting a story that would return Hulk to his previous status quo, but I had no idea what this horror story would become. This is a character who on this journey goes to Hell, fights his ex in monster form, and even meets an angel. It’s an epic ride that shows how far ahead Ewing planned and how shockingly good a horror story utilizing one of the most powerful beings in comic book existence could be.
I do stand by my original statement, which I think is a prevalent truth to the whole series, when I said, “It makes you ponder life and also how its meaning applies to the comic pages that follow. Hulk has always been a story about the dichotomy of the man and the monster, about addiction, self-loathing, and ultimately fear of self. It’s one of the reasons when done well, Hulk can be one of the most satisfying superhero comics because it gets at the core of all of our fears and all of our darkest sides. Ewing opens this book with this thought-provoking stuff only to throw the entire story into disarray as terrible violence occurs and disrupts the characters within.” Revisiting this book again with new information about where it was going, it’s quite clear Bennett and Ewing had a genie in the bottle that hadn’t even begun to enthrall us going forward.
As far as the extras in this director’s cut I was quite pleased. There isn’t a full script, but Bennett’s pencils are incredible and interesting in a new light with the removal of color and ink. There aren’t too many, but there are a few alternate pencils of Hulk’s face looking at us that add a bit of context into the creation process. It’s really quite something to see the level of detail put into the book while also seeing the perspective lines shooting off underneath.
Relegated to two pages in the back of the book are Tom Brevoort’s “thoughts,” as the book puts it. There are some neat thoughts here to be sure, one of which calls up Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing as an inspiration. After this are some “prototypical Hulk series-opening” pages Brevoort outlines. It’s interesting to see how he uses imagery from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and very visual writing to capture what it is we’re in for. Good stuff.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
As far as director’s cuts go I was hoping for a bit more from Ewing himself, but as it stands this is a tight package. There is a letter from Al Ewing, but it’s the same letter printed with the first issue originally. The pencils alone are fantastic to look at and Brevoort’s notes help flesh out what they were thinking before anything was finalized.
Is it good?
Immortal Hulk is quite simply one of the most memorable series to come out of the modern era. Pick this up for a little more insight and a whole lot of fun revisiting the first issue.