Writer: Al Ewing
Art: Joe Bennett, Ruy José, Belardino Brabo, Paul Mounts, Cory Petit, and Alex Ross
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: October 13th, 2021
Not many writers get 50 plus issues to tell their story. Nowadays, you’re lucky if you get 24 issues. However, Al Ewing and Joe Bennett get to tell their full story and end exactly how they would like… or did they? Having 50 plus issues of IMMORTAL HULK to play with, one would hope questions get wrapped up. Will we find out who’s been truly behind these “Green Doors”? And, will we discover the true connection to Gamma? Furthermore, why is Gamma supernaturally connected to Hell? And, who is the One Below All? Let’s smash into the IMMORTAL HULK #50 by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett for the last time to see how this dynamic team finally closes this chapter of the HULK.
IMMORTAL HULK GETS BIBLICAL… AGAIN
So, after all this time, readers diving into this showdown between the IMMORTAL HULK and the One Below All will be extremely disappointed. Anyone hoping for a fierce battle royal between Sterns and Banner, or any of the HULKS for that matter, will also be sorely mistaken. What readers get as this series wraps is a hardy, almost religious self-discovery encapsulating the psyche of humanity itself. Sounds pretty heavy, doesn’t it? Well, it was.
Ewing opens with a quote from the King James Version of Revelation 1:18, which felt totally out of place as the issue opened. Why you ask? Well, this series continues to take the Gamma Peeps to the “Below Place” or Hell (if you will). And, this Biblical Passage is referencing Jesus explaining to John that He’s alive and that ultimately Christianity is the only religion with a living Savior containing the abilities for resurrection and life. Therefore, why would that be quoted here with the One Below All or have any relation to Hell? At the time, it just didn’t fit. However, the passage does complement the story as this final issue of IMMORTAL HULK continued to unfold.
Readers will also discover another unique aspect of this culminating issue that this reviewer wishes could have been more of a focus throughout these ladder comics. Fans will discover a family dynamic between the Sterns and Banners that dates back to the early 1900s. The family drama runs deep within these two houses. Yet, as awesome as this discovery was I couldn’t help but wonder why Ewing didn’t incorporate hints of this gradually throughout prior issues? The build-up would have made this moment feel more impactful instead of it being thrust on the readers in this final issue. However, this family feud lends itself well to the Biblical nature of Forgiveness and Mercy sprinkled throughout this closing message. Yet, with the page count leading up to IMMORTAL HULK #50, why wasn’t this addressed until now?
Ewing weaves together another strategic element within this culminating issue of IMMORTAL HULK that is actually a fan favorite for this reviewer. You see, I absolutely love when a writer knits together fiction with history. And throughout the story, readers will observe Sterns and Banner discussing Paul Villard who is actually the real-life person responsible for discovering Gamma Rays. It’s amazing how Ewing takes the time to intertwine fiction and reality showcasing the in-depth research he navigated to bring his story to light. It’s creative and makes this aspect of the issue feel real providing merit to the story.
THE DISPATCH (Spoilers)
HULK says it the best at the end of this issue… why? And truthfully, we really don’t get the answer to that. Why was HULK hurt so much? Why did the Gamma affect him this way? Why is the HULK so broken inside? Why is the HULK always in pain? Just, why? And what we discover is that the One Below All was actually (Spoilers) the One Above All this entire time. Now, as Joe was saying throughout the issue, we don’t care about who. We wanted to know why. However, all we get is a quick M. Night Shyamalan twist that provides more questions than answers.
Realistically, Ewing delivers an answer to all of this with a simple statement. However, let me dive a bit deeper. I think Ewing was trying to take a deep dive into one of the biggest questions that humanity struggles with, which is “why do bad things happen to all of us?” (Notice I didn’t say “happen to good people”) If God is so loving and kind, then why does he let such bad things devastate the world? Ewing’s answer directly from the One Above All is “because you are my child”. Ummm, that’s not going to fly Al. That’s not a why and ironically Joe even calls him out on that very thing in the comic.
Furthermore, Ewing basically gives us his rendition of the Book of Job. Readers see Joe and the childlike HULK stand in front of God as He basically gives the same speech to them as He did to Job. You see, Job’s family, finances, wealth, and health were all taken from him. Ultimately, Job demanded answers and God put him in his place. What we witness as this story comes to a close is the very same thing. God provides the HULKS with answers and ultimately tells them that they get to choose who they want to be. They could be wrath, destruction, vengeance, and judgment. Or, they could be mercy, peace, and understanding.
Now, as much as this is a very touching revelation, my remark is simple this: when did the IMMORTAL HULK’S premise switch from a mysterious, supernatural, horror, thriller to a philosophical epiphany or Biblical Study in life’s meaning and purpose? This was a Marvel horror comic, right? So, I guess what I’m wondering is if this was the actual direction and premise when the IMMORTAL HULK series began because the comic appeared to take a drastic detour from its early roots a long time ago. Granted, does that hinder the score of this specific issue? No. However, the lack of actual answers repurposed in a “meaning of life” package does hamper the overall score of the series as a whole.
Correct me if I’m wrong BUT, if I’m to read this story correctly, the One Below All was in fact the One Above All this entire time. Therefore, according to the narrative laid out, this implies that the One Above All is responsible for the chaos that is the HULK. Now, if this is true, I have a huge problem with that. The One Above All is supposed to be the equivalent of ‘The God’ in Marvel Comics. And if that’s the case, considering the Biblical parallels from Ewing, God is not nor has ever been responsible for evil, sin, death, or destruction.
Since Ewing can quote scripture, how about I take a stab? James 1:13 says, “God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 1 John 1:5 says, “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” Or how about 1 Corinthians 14:33 which says, “God is not the author of confusion”. So, if that is true, He cannot in any way be the author of evil. Some may argue Isaiah 45: 6-7 where it says He “creates calamity”. However, if you read deeper into the passage it’s that God merely allows calamity to happen.
You see, Sin or Evil is neither matter nor spirit. Technically, it was never created. Evil is simply a lack or absence of moral quintessence in a fallen being. And thus, fallen creatures, like the HULK, assume full responsibility for their evil actions. Ewing implies that the One Above All is responsible simply because he wants it to be and that’s just flat out wrong.
MY ANSWER FOR HULK
Lastly, since Ewing’s direction turned Biblical, why don’t I answer the HULK’S question for him. Why was HULK hurt so much? Why did the Gamma affect him this way? Why is the HULK so broken inside? Why is the HULK always in pain? Here’s why: we suffer because it pleases God. Our suffering glorifies the ‘One Above All’. Our pain drives us closer to our creator. Suffering is part of the process of refining, substantiating, enhancing, and solidifying who you are. It’s part of your personal, spiritual growth and it’s part of God’s eternal plan.
When things are going your way, how often do you pray? How often do you rely on or even think about the creator? My guess: very little if at all. However, what’s one of the first things you do when you think you’re about to lose a loved one or get that fatal diagnosis? You immediately pray to the One Above All! Our God is a jealous God who wants our undivided attention. That’s why the first four commandments are all directed towards Him. And ultimately, that’s why we all fall short each and every day. Why? Because we can’t love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. We just can’t. So, we suffer to remind us of who’s in charge, to point us back to God, and to glorify his name. If you don’t believe me, read your Bible.
If you came to IMMORTAL HULK looking for definitive answers, you really won’t find any here. Did the One Below All ever actually exist? I really couldn’t tell you. How did Sam Sterns take control of all the Green Doors? We don’t find out. Will the HULKS be able to continue to access these Green Doors in future series? Again, we don’t know. Ultimately, what began as a horror comic has morphed into a story on spiritual growth. Readers, this HULK run ends with a confident Bruce Banner ready to move on past everything that just happened. Really? After everything that transpired in Ewing’s run, I find it rather difficult to merely move on as if nothing happened. IMMORTAL HULK ends as if readers are supposed to forget about the last 50 issues and the impact they had on the character, which really diminishes the weight of the series.
As a single issue goes, IMMORTAL HULK #50 gives an in-depth look into the grieving questions that really get to the heart of the human psyche. Ewing tries to take a stab at the reason we all suffer through the lens of a character that has probably suffered the most at Marvel Comics. He even dives deep into some ancient Hebrew and Biblical roots to hammer home what he deems as his point in perspective. However, I feel he misses the mark, especially Biblically speaking. Overall, we get the same amazing art by Joe Bennett that has made this one of the best-looking horror comics that we’ve had in quite some time with an engaging premise and thought-provoking narrative. Yet, as a whole, I wonder how we got her from IMMORTAL HULK #1 and why more answers about the actual story weren’t ironed out. As someone who’s read every issue of this run multiple times and has reviewed almost every issue of this series, I find myself struggling to piece it all together especially with the hefty price tag and page count that was accessible. Let me know your thoughts, have a great week, and God Bless!