Marvel’s New Hulk Series is a Return to The Jade Giant’s Horror Roots (Review)

Warning: contains spoilers for The Incredible Hulk #1!

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Marvel’s new Incredible Hulk title returns the Jade Giant to his horror-based roots. As a character, the Hulk straddles a line between horror and superheroics, and in the new Incredible Hulk series from Marvel, Bruce Banner’s alter ego firmly returns to the latter camp. The book sets up a number of intriguing plot lines and mysteries that will play out in the months to come. These mysteries, combined with the book’s dark tone, make this perhaps the best take on the character since The Immortal Hulk.

The first issue of The Incredible Hulk, part one of “The Age of Monsters,” is written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, drawn by Nic Klein, colored by Matthew Wilson, and lettered by Cory Petit. It opens with a mysterious group excavating ancient ruins. While there, they accidentally set free an ancient entity who exclaims that now that the Green Door is shut, there is no one to stop them. The action then switches to Bruce Banner, on the run once again. Drifting into a small town in Kentucky, he switches to the Hulk, causing death and destruction. Still elsewhere, a young woman named Charlene steals her father’s car, taking it for a joyride she will never forget. These seemingly separate plot lines converge in the backwoods of Kentucky, where the possessed people from earlier in the issue are revealed to be working for the “Mother of Horrors.” She issues a call to the monsters of Earth, telling them they are under her domain–and they must all stop the Hulk, or “the Fractured Son,” as the Mother of Horrors refers to him.

Horror Has Always Been Part Of The Hulk

Mother of Horrors

The horror genre is baked into the Hulk’s gamma-irradiated DNA. His creators, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, were influenced by Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, in which an ordinary scientist turns into a brutish monster thanks to an accident of science. Some of the best takes on the character have leaned into these horror aspects, most notably writer Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennett’s 2018-2021 masterpiece The Immortal Hulk. This title, and its unique take on the character, was a hit with fans and critics; it’s regarded as one of the best Hulk runs in history, right alongside other luminaries such as Peter David. After the conclusion of The Immortal Hulk, the character’s emphasis shifted back toward superhero tones, with more polarizing results.

The Hulk’s New Creative Team Understands His Roots

Hulk Change Body Horror

Now, Marvel’s new Incredible Hulk title firmly shifts the focus back to horror, reaching back into the dark recesses of the character, which makes for an unforgettable first issue. Johnson and Klein understand the body horror aspects of the character; at one point, Banner morphs into the Hulk and the creative team depicts it in all its bloody, gory glory. Likewise, they understand the Hulk is a monster, and they are going to pit him against seemingly every other monster in the Marvel Universe, such as the Moloids or Man-Thing.

The Hulk is a versatile character, able to play in both the horror and superhero sandboxes, which may help explain why he has remained popular with fans for over 60 years, and it is telling that perhaps the two best takes on the Hulk, Peter David’s long tenure as well as the Immortal Hulk, lean into one of these two camps. Now, Marvel’s new Incredible Hulk has returned him to his horror roots–and is one of the best takes on the character in years.

The Incredible Hulk #1 is on sale now from Marvel Comics!

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