Writer: Al Ewing, Alex Paknadel, and David Vaughan
Art: Juann Ferreyra, VC’s Cory Petit, Kevin Nowlan, Wil Moss, and Sarah Brunstad
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: May 19th, 2021
Over 10,000 years ago, a glowing, emerald eye falls from the sky to infect the ancient ground as well as the nature of its people. One boy named Tammuz is tasked to bear the penance and, for possibly the first time, open The Green Door accessing the One Below All. Let’s smash into this issue of IMMORTAL HULK: TIME OF MONSTERS #1 by Al Ewing and Alex Paknadel to get a glimpse of the origin of the One Below All’s connection to humanity.
Readers, there is a backup. However, the review is focused on the main story. I do recommend giving this backup by David Vaughn a look. And, if you’re interested in this comic, series, related trades, or any of the others mentioned, simply click on the title/link to snag a copy through Amazon.
SOME HELPFUL BACKGROUND
To really sink your teeth into this issue, let this reviewer give you a quick history lesson about Gilgamesh dating back to around 2100 B.C. According to my understanding, Enkidu became the sidekick to Gilgamesh. However, his role through ancient literature changed drastically. In essence, Enkidu was actually thought to be Gilgamesh’s lover and soul mate, which many will see hints of throughout Ewing’s narrative this week.
Now, who is Gilgamesh? For the most part, he’s a little “g” god… well at least two-thirds of him. Nevertheless, Enkidu was fashioned entirely out of clay… or according to Ewing “an emerald eye” from the sky. Ewing’s genius comes into play throughout the issue as he intertwines ancient lore with his comic reality.
For example, Enkidu is known in ancient texts as being a savage, wild man with extensive strength. Well, who do we know from Marvel Comics that could fit that same description? None other than the IMMORTAL HULK himself. Additionally, towards the end of the story of Gilgamesh, Enkidu and Gilgamesh travel to the Cedar Forrest to take down a demon-ogre named Humbaba. Well, after defeating this demon, Enkidu uses the great Cedar’s to create a massive door for the gods. Again, this is Ewing morphing history into fiction by comparing that Cedar Door to the very same Green Door referenced throughout his entire IMMORTAL HULK run.
Eventually, Enkidu is cursed and descends deeper and deeper into the dark Underworld, which could also be run by the One Below All. My point: Ewing connects The Epic of Gilgamesh with one of the first appearances of a HULK, or at least the gamma and the Green Door. And this reviewer absolutely loves historic fiction. When a writer can take a concept from history and manipulate it by adding fictional layers, they provide so much ingenuity and substance that I always find myself pulled deeper into the narrative. For those familiar with this ancient text and see the parallels with this week’s IMMORTAL HULK: TIME OF MONSTERS, I think you’ll find this a fascinating delight.
Now, knowing what Ewing is trying to do here is incredible. Yet, his narrative license is a bit outreached and has a few holes. For example, this story takes place in 9500 B.C. However, if Gilgamesh was real, it would have taken place no later than 2800 B.C. causing readers with some background to be a bit confused.
Additionally, if the connection is to The Epic of Gilgamesh, the story of Enkidu is connecting with Gilgamesh and not this random tribe, unless the epic is what transpires immediately after making this Enkidu’s birth. Now, this could be true but again readers steeped in knowledge of the great Epic will be a bit perplexed.
Additionally, many argue that Gilgamesh and Enkidu were not just brothers in arms but also lovers. Ewing hints at a romantic relationship between two men in this story but neither is Gilgamesh. Nevertheless, these aren’t huge problems to the story. However, they make me question a bit of the research by Ewing.
Finally, my biggest concern is that the preview dubs this to be the first appearance of a “HULK”. However, I have some problems with that. My first issue is Jason Aaron’s run on the AVENGERS. He has a “Prehistoric” AVENGERS run in which there is a Starbrand HULK. Granted, he’s never specifically called HULK but he’s drawn to resemble him with Gray skin. Plus, the one drawing the issue he debuted was Dale Keown who’s known for his 90s’ work with the INCREDIBLE HULK. So, he was probably tasked with this job for a reason. Heck, Odin even says in that AVENGERS issue with the Prehistoric super team that the Starbrand “just enjoys smashing.”
My point: we have two contradictory origins of a HULK. If Ewing’s is the first appearance of a HULK, even though it’s not stated in the issue (but it is in the solicits), yet Aaron has a HULK in One Million B.C., then the timing is off. Whether it’s 9,500 B.C. (or more accurately to its parallel of Gilgamesh in 2,500 B.C), this is still many fries short of a Happy Meal.
Something just doesn’t add up. So, who’s right? Plus, this story by Aaron recently occurred with his first appearance in 2017 and a follow-up in 2019. Therefore, Ewing should have known of this happening. So, is Enkidu the first HULK or is the Starbrand, Prehistoric HULK the first one? I’m a bit bewildered. However, ironically enough, both versions of these HULK’s either promote or imply homosexual tones from the B.C. characters which I find interesting and from two different writers.
The illustrations by Juann Ferreyra really make this issue of IMMORTAL HULK: TIME OF MONSTERS extremely dark and twisted. The facial expressions of the characters are almost deviant. Furthermore, the detail involved as the gamma rips the main characters’ flesh off the bone or the vivid components surrounding the almost DOOMSDAY-looking HULK was so frightening and powerful.
Furthermore, there is a scene late in the story of a feast that dials this vignette to eleven. Readers, Ferreyra makes this ancient tale come to life in an almost terrifyingly creepy fashion that could possibly provide fans with night terrors. It’s Ferreyra’s art team that truly adds that extra spice to this week’s tale that’s missing in comics today. I highly recommend checking this issue out.
IMMORTAL HULK fans will certainly find this week’s installment fascinating, to say the least. Plus, Ferreyra cascades a twisted tale with even more terrifying and menacing illustrations that really set the unnerving tone of the issue. Furthermore, new readers could technically grab this issue and read it as a stand-alone with very little knowledge of the overall IMMORTAL HULK run.
However, there just appeared to be a few historic and narrative holes within the current Marvel Continuity that just didn’t seem to jive with this reader. They don’t completely ruin the issue. Nevertheless, those invested may find them a bit disjointed and disheartening. Yet, even with those minor cavities, I still found the issue incredibly entertaining and wildly enjoyable. Give IMMORTAL HULK: TIME OF MONSTERS #1 a look, let me know what you think, read up on some Gilgamesh, and God Bless!