The 'body-switching comedy' gets a darkly hilarious new twist in Immortal Hulk #40 (opens in new tab). Cut off from the Hulk's systems by the Leader's attacks in Banner's Mindscape, Joe Fixit is left to babysit the Big Guy and deal with the arrival of their new captor, Henry Peter Gyrich, former Thunderbolt and the US Government's newly appointed acting commander of Alpha/Gamma Flight.
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Belardino Brabo, Matt Milla, and Paul Mounts
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
But in the outside world, co-star Jackie McGee is onto the Leader, attempting to piece together his new assault with the help of 'Doc Sasquatch.' That would be Leonard Samson in the body of Walter Langkowski, having used Walter's particular 'Green Door' to return from the Place-Below-All. Not only is it a great use of Al Ewing's already established network system of the Hulk, but a novel exploration and twist of it, shuffling around the established 'order' of Green Doors to mix up the dynamics and character pairings of the title. All topped off with more trademark body horror and nightmarish transformation sequences from Joe Bennett and company making Immortal Hulk #40 a Hulk-sized 'Freaky Friday.'(opens in new tab)
We open on a Gamma Flight meeting. Jackie McGee, having rejoined the team a few issues before, is laying out to the rest of the Flight just why she thinks Rick Jones might have been the cause of the Hulk's latest Gamma outburst. But when Doc Samson makes his return, in a body that isn't his, they start to realize that the very scale of this fight might be beyond their mortal perspectives.
Over in the issue's A-plot, which follows Joe Fixit attempting to reunite the whole web of personalities contained within Bruce Banner, Al Ewing makes this idea explicit. The Hulk's corporeal body is under the thumb of the newly installed Gyrich, but as we now know, no one can control the Hulk's Mindscape. And Gyrich isn't aware of the new organic capabilities of the Hulk, leading to a truly gross and show-stopping 'birth' for Joe's new body, unleashing him again on the world outside of Banner's mind.
Though the scenes afterward are largely a chase sequence contained to a single location, with Joe attempting to evade Gamma Flight on their own station, Al Ewing continues to build out the mythos of Immortal Hulk while mixing up the character dynamics. Having Jackie back provides us a solid audience surrogate character while the return of Joe and Samson to the outside world (albeit in a brand new body, in Samson's case) continue to literally flesh out the in-character capabilities of this new system of the Hulk. Though the actual plots of this issue are a touch more pedestrian than you would expect, the texture and character moments of Immortal Hulk #40 more than makeup for the slightly decompressed nature of the concurrent plots.
But while the plot of Immortal Hulk #40 might be grounded, the visuals of Joe Bennett and the rest of the Immortal Hulk team still keep the title's reputation for Cronenbergian body horror very much intact. The 'water cooler' moment of the issue is bar none Joe Fixit's latest 'birth.' Though the main body of the Hulk is encased in a trap on Alpha Flight Station made for only him, Gyrich and the rest of his captors have no idea what the Hulk can do now.(opens in new tab)
Ewing and Bennett, aided by the keen inks of Ruy Jose and Belardino Brabo and roiling colors of Matt Milla and Paul Mounts, then show him, bursting forth a new Banner-esque body for Joe from the bubbling, gamma slime-filled womb of the Devil Hulk's neutralized form. It is...highly gross as per usual, but displays a new range of visuals and narrative capabilities of the Hulk's new constantly changing form.
We even get another staggeringly unsettling Hulk transformation for Joe as he tosses himself out of the Station's windows to rocket back to earth to track down The Leader. As he falls, the stress of the fall elongates his body in ropy, Gamma-irradiated coils and twisted limbs, crashing him hard back into the planet's atmosphere and then onto the shore in a new, almost emaciated looking Hulk body. A cross between the original Kirby look and a nightmarish Bernie Wrightson inspired monster. Though sometimes hard to look at, Immortal Hulk #40 keeps the title's visual reputation held aloft thanks to the unsettling efforts of its art team.
And so while the main story of Immortal Hulk #40 might seem a bit low scale, the character texture, narrative implications around the Hulk's new system hood, and artwork continue the title's solid run of issues as of this latest arc. And if this issue's cliffhanger is to be heeded, Immortal Hulk is only going to get more revoltin' in the future.
Read our conversation with Al Ewing on Immortal Hulk #40 and what's to come in the series going forward.