Last week’s physical comics were a Marvel full house. Three books, all completely different, all very good. Here they are.
Immortal Hulk 6, called ‘Action/Reaction’ continues to build the world of the book out in a throughly enjoyable way. The transition from the one off rural horrors of the early issues looked like it might be difficult but Al Ewing steers the book onto a larger road with the ease and confidence that defines all his work. Ewing throws big ideas at the page almost constantly and every single one of them lands. The idea that Bruce Banner isn’t immortal, he’s died every time he’s killed himself and the Hulk just never lets it stick is one of the most creatively horrible things anyone has ever done with this character Likewise the visual conceit of Bruce no longer having a reflection is chilling. The idea that he sees the Hulk makes his constant battle for control visceral and real. Then there’s Ewing’s masterstroke;
the revelation that it’s not that the Hulk wants out, it’s that the Hulk wants AWAY.
The idea that the Green Door, the place the Hulk arrived through, is connected to an after-life of sorts is another chilling idea grenade thrown into the book. The idea that Bruce’s abusive father can step through that door, and that any Gamma irradiated character is vulnerable in this way is premise-shaking.
And that’s exactly what Ewing does, setting up one of the first times that the Avengers fighting the Hulk has been entirely justified. Captain Marvel is outmaneuvered by the splendidly named General Fortean and has no option but to bring Bruce in, Bruce in turn has no intention of being brought in. Best of all, Ewing addresses one of the key issues with She Hulk here. The character’s mystifying return to her bestial form in Avengers has yet to be explained. Her rage at what Bruce did, and how he abandoned her, is explained and expressed here in a very real way. Shot through with stark, bleak art from guest artist Lee Garbett the book looks amazing too. Paul Mounts’ colors and Garbett’s art in particular combine to give Carol one of the best entrance scenes she’s had in years while VC’s Cory Petit gives everyone a voice. The panel with Jennifer Walters, mid-transformation and her speech patterns flickering between Jen and She-Hulk is especially impressive. This is a great mid-year episode of one of the best iterations of the Hulk in decades. Catch up and get ready for what’s next.
Carol Danvers is having a big week. Over in Maine, and The Life of Captain Marvel 3, her past and her present accelerate towards each other and neither chickens out. Margaret Stohl’s work on the character has always been exemplary but this is something else. Stohl’s script explore the delicacies of being a superhero with a hometown in a manner that’s as pragmatic as it is funny and tense. The closing action sequence here genuinely has a hand-in-mouth moment when you realize how fragile everyone involved in it is for example. She doesn’t let Danvers herself off the hook either. There’s a nicely handled duty vs romance moment that feels untidy and real in a way few do and an ending that the issue sets up but that you still don’t see coming. Stohl also cleverly weaves Carol’s childhood memories together with the present day events that gives both very different meanings by the issue’s end. It’s typically impressive work and the entire book is this good.
Carlos Pacheco and Marguerite Sauvage continue to do great work in the two individual time periods with Rafael Fonteriz and Marcio Menyz backing them up superbly on colors. VC’s Clayton Cowles’
lettering is the subtle connective tissue that rounds the issue out. Another impressive entry in a series that’s flying under a lot of people’s radar and deserves instead to soar.
Finally, West Coast Avengers’ second issue is just as much fun as it’s first and benefits massively from the set up being complete. Kelly Thompson has comic timing (ha!) like very few people working in the field and this book is flat out hilarious. BRODOK’s origin, complete with editorial notes and America’s reaction to being left to babysit are the two standouts but there’s a lot more going on here too.
Most tellingly, there’s a great heart to heart moment between the Hawkeyes where Kate asks Clint flat out if she’s screwing up. These two permanent hard luck cases have made their personal brand crisis, careening out of windows and across landsharks while insisting it’s not as bad as it looks. So this quiet little moment where Kate asks whether it really is as bad as it looks is one of the most touching, genuine things you’ll read in comics this year and shows the book’s dramatic muscles. There are no easy answers, just a group of misfits, not quite a team yet, doing their best. That balance of emotional core and perfectly timed jokes makes this another strong entry in one of Marvel’s best new books to date.
It’s brought home by Setefano Caselli’s warm, expressive art, Triona Farrell’s almost Michael Mann-esque colours (The Hawkeye raid is a beautifully ‘shot’ scene in particular) and VC’s Joe Caramagna winds every joke, every intonation and every aside togetherperfectly. The result is a book that’s charming, genuine and really starting to break stride. Utterly recommended.
Thanks to Crunch comics for the books and I’ll see you next time.