Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artist: Nic Klein
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Cover Artist: Nic Klein
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Bruce Banner has been through much these last few years. He’s been taken through the Green Door and shown the horrific origins of Gamma Radiation, showing just how deep the well of Monsters in the world really goes. He even tried to go to outer space and explore while imprisoning the Hulk against his will in their mind. But now that they’re back on Earth, things are not looking up for Bruce as the Hulk is angrier than ever, worse a new threat is emerging on the horizon. See what this new Age of Monsters will bring for the Green Goliath in The Incredible Hulk #1!
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This book has me hooked. If nothing else, this comic surprised me in all the right ways and has me excited for more from this run already. This is what a first issue should do, tell a story while setting the stage for future issues and getting readers wanting more from the creators. Hopefully, I’m not alone when I say that this issue was great and shows how this new run has a lot of promise. Fair warning, there will be some SPOILERS throughout the review, but I’ll keep it to a minimum, and this review will be a bit long. So, let’s get into it.
The comic starts off with showing how the new antagonists enter the story and it’s both ominous and exciting as they enter in a classic horror story fashion as young explorers enter a tomb they probably shouldn’t and are affected by strange and powerful entities with terrifying designs for the world. Now they’re loose in the world, but they have a target, and it’s the Hulk. Speaking of which, after the new villains’ brief introduction, the comic provides a classic entrance to Bruce and the Hulk. Baggy clothes, unkempt hair, and entering a lone diner on the beat and road where things seem fine until someone triggers his transformation into the Hulk. But this time things are different.
It’s the Hulk who triggered it on his own, and he’s so mad after what Bruce put him through in Donny Cates’ Hulk run that he wants to take over their body. Permanently. The aura and tone of the Hulk is treated in a classic Jekyll and Hyde way, but it’s more serious than ever before as the Hulk truly feels like more of a Monster than he has in recent years, and that’s by design. Phillip Kennedy Johnson reveals in a letter at the end of the comic that he views the Hulk is a Monster and intends to portray himself as such. And it’s working.
Before I tackle the writing and story, let’s talk about the art. Nic Klein really shows his stuff here in this issue. From the cover to the new villains’ debut, Bruce’s design, the Hulk’s debut, and even the info page, it all looks great. There’s a dark, brooding, and macabre tone in the visual design of the characters, there’s a grittiness to everything too. The art also conveys great emotional reactions pretty well, able to show a range of emotions on characters’ faces clearly while saving the best reactions for the more angry and violent moments. On top of that, Klein’s art really goes well with the Monsters and action in the comic, which is shown off best with the Hulk himself. My only concern is whether or not Nic Klein will actually stick around past the first story arc, or will he leave like with the current Thor series and other artists will hop in. Hopefully, Nic Klein is here to stay for most of this series.
Now, I can talk about how great the story, pacing, and character dialogue are. But the real takeaway here is what PK Johnson is doing with the story. He’s not dumping or retconning everything that’s happened before in the previous two Hulk runs, both Al Ewing & Joe Bennet’s Immortal Hulk series and Donny Cate’s Hulk run. Instead he’s building a new story while embracing what came before to help catapult this one. We’ve got the Green Door, the One Below All, the whole Smashtronaut thing, they’re all mentioned here. Even Betty shows back up for a hot minute. The real question is how will PK Johnson handle it all and make them fit into the story. I doubt he’ll keep readers in the dark on their significance and will explain them at a relevant point in the story.
So, what is this new story? It centers on a group of new villains or “Monsters” led by one simply called “The Eldest” and they all serve a mysterious new entity called “the Mother of Horrors” who is apparently the enemy of The One Below All. The Eldest intends to kickstart this new Age of Monsters, which will draw in some familiar Marvel Comics Monsters into the fray, and to make it happen they need to take down the Hulk. Clearly, the Hulk’s in for a fight, there’s great setup here as the story gets right into establishing who’s the main villain, what they want, and how they’re dragging Bruce and the Hulk into it.
The only negative criticism I have for this issue is the sub plot with what appears to be a new sidekick character called Charlene, but to be honest it’s not all that compelling (not bad either, just okay) and feels more like a distraction to what’s happening with Hulk and what the Eldest is doing. Hopefully Charlene ends up bringing something to the table with Bruce and Hulk since it’s clear this series will be going down a dark direction and she’s far from ready to see what awaits them.
The Incredible Hulk #1 delivers at being a great first issue of a new Hulk run. From beginning to end, readers get their first glimpse into what Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Nic Klein have in store for Hulk fans in this series, and it looks great. There’s horror, tension, and a little bit of action here and there with solid body horror, dark storytelling, and cool monster designs. It helps that Johnson isn’t dumping all the big lore additions from Immortal Hulk or brushing over what happened in Donny Cate’s Hulk run to tell his story, quite the opposite. He includes them as pieces of the pie in this new “Age of Monsters” story that feels like the best of all worlds for Hulk fans. Overall, this issue is a great jumping-on point for new and hardcore Hulk fans alike.