Bruce Banner just escaped literal hell and he’s in desperate need of comfort. His time in the underworld has given him a new perspective on life, compelling him to reach out to his estranged wife, Betty, and restore their broken relationship. The Immortal Hulk continues to be one of the best comics on stands, with writer Al Ewing masterfully pulling from Bruce Banner’s past to craft fresh plot points that send the man and the monster in new directions. Joined by guest artist Kyle Hotz along with regular colorist Paul Mounts and letterer Cory Petit, Ewing brings back an essential figure from Bruce’s life in next week’s The Immortal Hulk #14, introducing a slew of narrative opportunities as Bruce and Betty reunite.
While in hell, Ewing deepened the mythology of the Hulk by connecting him to folklore of the Qabalah, and cemented Hulk as the bridge between science and magic by revealing gamma radiation as the tie that binds the two forces. But the biggest revelation was an emotional one, with Hulk revealing his love for Bruce and how he showed him affection when no one else in his life would. This is a major shift from the antagonistic position Hulk has taken toward his human host in the past, and one of Ewing’s greatest strengths is his understanding that compassion is an invaluable aspect of storytelling that gives readers a reason to care about characters. That theme of compassion continues in The Immortal Hulk #14, and this exclusive preview offers a major moment of catharsis when Betty greets her despondent husband with a passionate kiss.
Kyle Hotz worked on The Incredible Hulk in the early ’00s, but his horror-infused artwork is an especially good fit for the current take on the character. He makes exceptional use of shadows to create a foreboding atmosphere on the page, and there’s a great moment just before the kiss where it looks like Betty is going to attack Bruce, who casts a zombie-like shadow on the side of her house. The connection between spouses is stunningly captured in Alex Ross’ cover, an image that reinforces how they are each other’s lifelines in devastating circumstances. The nuclear blast imagery on that cover is carried over to the interior artwork, and when Bruce and Betty kiss, Mounts colors the background with an explosion of fiery shades. Moments like this showcase how in sync this entire creative team is, and that tight collaboration is largely responsible for this series’ brilliance.