Incredible Hulk (2023) #1 Review

“There’s monsters down here.”

Incredible Hulk #1 by writer Philip Kennedy Johnson (Alien, Action Comics), artist Nic Klein (Thor, Deadpool), Matthew Wilson (colors), and Cory Petit (letters) is a relaunch and a return to the horror sensibilities of Al Ewing’s Immortal Hulk (2018-2020). After a brief but enjoyable “Starship Hulk” stint, we find Bruce Banner back on the run across the wilds of America from the beast within. Hulk is upset and wants complete control after the abuse Banner put him through during the previous story. In a nutshell, Banner sectioned the Hulk off to a small part of his mind where he used the Hulk’s rage to power an elaborate starship (yes, it’s wild and out there, but totally fun comics with top-notch artwork).

Now, the Hulk is pissed. Which is really all you need to know, so if you haven’t read the Hulk ever or you missed the previous couple runs, you’ll be fine with what is presented here. It’s a pretty clean break.

The big worry I had going into this was it would just feel like a retread of Immortal Hulk. However,  Klein and Johnson do a great job of reminding me of Immortal Hulk, but also convincing me that they are here to do their own thing with that concept, and perhaps pushing it even further. For example, there’s a scene in a tiny diner with some truly terrifying body horror transformations reminiscent of Immortal Hulk. I’m very interested to see where the new characters that are introduced here go. Not only the villain, but the young girl, who I was instantly invested in because I remember being a young person looking up to the Hulk.

The first page of this comic does an excellent job of setting the stage. It opens on a black panel that gives way to a team entering a dark tomb, and like the characters here, I was not expecting what they found. What follows is a great page turn moment that continues to build tension through the next page until the next turn that explodes into a double-page spread that is truly terrifying and graphic. The body horror here is truly terrifying and Klein’s motion and rhythm here is so fluid and captivating. This is going to be a breakout book for him. The scene ends and you turn the page into a fabulous title page. I gasped when I first saw it.

My favorite bit of the comic is how deep it lowers you into Banner’s mind. This comes from the expert level scene building that Johnson and Klein display here. And everything builds, including the colors, until Banner transforms into Hulk across one double page spread in a satisfying explosion of green.

The transformation page is extraordinary. It’s done so well that time seems to stop and I take in the page as slowly as I can. The moment is well earned and doesn’t feel like a necessary piece of a Hulk comic, but instead a culmination of the issue. Every single page, every single panel, has led to this. The best part is knowing that the team pulls this off in issue 1, so what is the book going to be like in 10-12 issues when they are even more in-sync?

INCREDIBLE, like the title of the book.

I truly love this character and I think he’s in excellent hands here. I’m sure many will appreciate the return to a vibe similar to Immortal Hulk, but I appreciate the return of the word “Incredible” in the title. It says a lot, combined with the message from PKJ at the end of the book. I’m in and ready for wherever they take this.

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