When Al Ewing and Joe Bennett ended their incredible Immortal Hulk run in October, Bruce Banner was beginning to form a new relationship with the Hulk, which became all the more complicated when he lost his immortality. Now, Banner's anxiety about his mortality seems destined to take him and the Hulk to some strange places in Donny Cates and Ryan Ottley's exciting, new series. Hulk #1 is a great start to the new series.
In the first few pages of Hulk #1, Doctor Strange asks "What if [Hulk] exists to protect us from Banner?" This new approach to the classic character is emblematic of the entire issue, which reveals that Bruce Banner seems to have finally learned to control the big green monster inside him. Bruce uses a complex combination of magic, science, and sheer willpower to control the Hulk's body like a "starship." The exact nature of Banner's plans remains mysterious, but he appears to be willing to do anything to achieve his goals including going toe-to-toe with Iron Man.
Donny Cates's Hulk acknowledges Al Ewing and Joe Bennett's iconic run, but he is determined to take the character in a brand new direction. Hulk #1 throws readers into a version of the Marvel Universe where Hulk's fellow heroes are as anxious about Banner's future as fans are. Dr. Strange's trepidation about the situation delivers a significant amount of information while propelling the action immediately forward. The "starship" metaphor that Cates uses to explain Banner's new relationship with his monstrous subconscious is effective, but a bit silly. The image of Bruce Banner sitting like a captain at the helm of a Star Trek-esque ship comes across as silly and overwrought rather than intimidating.
Ryan Ottley is more than capable of adding a sense of gravity to even the most ridiculous concepts. He manages to make the convoluted nature of Banner's subconscious feel almost natural -- even at its most absurd. But Ottley's work really shines when Hulk is smashing things. Hulk's brutal battle with an army of hulk-buster Iron Man suits is exciting and alarming. The sheer volume of debris that flies off of Stark's suits after every punch helps to hammer home just how powerful the green monster is. And, by focusing on the aftermath of Hulk's hits, Ottley reinforces the idea that this new version of the Hulk is someone to fear. The contrast between Banner's clean, orderly subconscious and the chaotic violence of the outside world is a jarring reversal of what readers have come to assume about Hulk's inner life. Frank Martin's colors help to underscore this contrast and to clarify the chaos of the action.
In some ways, Hulk #1 picks up where Immortal Hulk #50 left off. But at its core, this first issue introduces a new Hulk. The issue's ending raises several new questions about Banner's intentions and seems to promise a trip to some unexplored corners of the Marvel Universe. Cates and Ottley are both at the top of their game in this action-packed comic -- a pitch-perfect start for the new series.
Keep Reading: Marvel's Death of Doctor Strange: Avengers #1 Comic Review
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