JUST JOSHING: Immortal Hulk
So in light of a crazy Christmas schedule, a few books coming out, I had to take a break from the column. I’m going to be back in full next week, but I figure I do a review of my favorite comics and creators from 2018.
Favorite Ongoing Series
I’ve been a big fan of Al Ewing since his Jennifer Blood days. His stories then were dark, clever, and Al had shown a good understanding of what and who Jennifer Blood was and took Garth Ennis’ idea and ran it forward.
I checked out Immortal Hulk with a bit of curiosity. To my surprise, it was nothing like anything else I’ve seen on the stands. Hulk was, and still is a monster. He seemed stronger, more impervious, more distinct than anything Banner ever was in the past, and is now a terrifying and fantastic experience every time I open the pages. This book is an old school EC comic style story told in a modern, marvel way. This Hulk is nasty, and different than anything I’ve seen. Every month it’s my favorite book.
Joe Bennett should get as much credit for that as Ewing, as his pencils give Hulk a distinctly twisted look, adding layers of nuance to the Hulk himself as he expresses himself in creative ways, especially the eyes. So much is said in so little. Ruy Jose’ playing of light and shadow definitely sets the tone of the book and Paul Mounts’ colors are dark and terrifying.
An example of how amazing this book is probably my favorite issue. Issue eight of the series. Hulk is in pieces and in little glass jars being studied by a very sociopathic Dr. Clive, who interacts with the pieces of Hulk. Clive is established to be the kind of bastard that you’d anticipate seeing in some r and d government contract lab. You feel a touch sorry for the Hulk as he’s in the clutches of this guy for the majority of the issue.
The last third of the story turned my assumptions on their head. My first clue should have been that Hulk was still alive and conscious while Clive was trying to figure out what made him tick. But it played out so nicely right here, as it turned out Clive was being observed the very devious monster, who then turns the tables in a very terrifying way. As much of a monster Clive was, Hulk really is the monster in the room. Every issue has been a ride like this and I look forward to it every month.
Favorite Limited Series
Tom King and Mitch Gerad created a very intriguing book. This might be the most nuanced book I’ve read in the modern era in a long time. Mister Miracle is trying to balance his life on earth with becoming the new highfather of New Genesis. In spite of the premise, this series is a real examination of Scott Free more than anything involving Mister Miracle.
It turns out Scott has depression, and is possibly responsible for the murder of Lightray and Orion. The first six issues of the series focus on this, and Scott’s ascension to Highfather.
The second half of the series focuses on impending fatherhood, fatherhood, and the arrival of darkseid. Darkseid makes Scott a similar offer to what Darkseid made Highfather with Scott himself. I like that twist and I like the resolution.
Beyond that, the design of the book was very deliberate. I’m not sure who I should give credit to for the idea of the layout, but Mitch deserves a ton of credit for using the same grid style for the entire miniseries. That was an incredible amount of work and kudos for Mitch for putting in the work. This is an incredible series and I recommend you check it out. It’s a great homage to Kirby, and some of King’s and Gerad’s best stuff.
Biggest surprise of the year
Gail Simone is one of the best writers in the biz, that said for me, she’s kind of hit and miss. Her Red Sonja run is among some of the best pulp stuff I’ve ever read and I love her Secret Six stuff. That said, Welcome to Tranquility just didn’t click for me. During the first half of the year I was looking for good Marvel books, I saw that Gail was doing a Domino book. It seemed fun, and I figure, why not?
Gail Simone took a fun character and managed to add lots of layers to her that weren’t there before. The first arc begins with Domino celebrating her birthday and confronting elements from her past. A mutunt named Topaz cuts of Domino’s ties to her luck, and forces Domino (or Neena) and the reader to re-examine who she is. Along the way you get a great story about Neena as a character and you come away from the first arc exceeding any expectations I had.
The big highlight for me in this series was the supporting cast. Outlaw and Diamondback were two characters I grew to care about as the series moved past the first arc as they got more and more of the spotlight. Domino’s world managed to grow and the adventures became a lot more fun as time moved on.
David Baldeon deserves a lot of credit for the fast paced experience. He has a good balance of doing some dark moments with cute ones. Whether Neena is removing body parts off of thugs to dancing with Shang Chi, or drawing stuff from the Mojoverse, Baldeon has incredible diversity and a real sense of fun in his illustrations.
I really feel like even though the series is now over, it feels like Marvel left some money on the table. These two could work on a series like this in forever. I’m sad to see it over. That said, I’m looking forward to Bombshells in March.
2018 was a great year. Lots of good comics came up, Marvel seemed to re up their game, and everything from the big two to the independent scene seems thriving. I’m looking forward to talking about some of this years best books.
Currently on my podcast, I’m interviewing Edwin Downward, and I’m prepping the release of my first book this year, Alice Zero, courtesy of me. Stay tuned for more info.
And with that, the column is back. Next week we talk about a fun series you should be checking out. Until then, keep reading. There are lots of great comics out there.