As I said last month, this next issue was going to be action-packed for sure. If General Forteam didn’t already have their attention before, now he has their full attention now that this has become personal. They’re motivated by a tortured Rick Jones, motivated by a slain Langkowski, and much more inbetween that this general has done just to see his mission completed. This issue was either going to be a smash and go, or it was going to be the final confrontation to put an end to this game.
Immortal Hulk #23 jumps right into the battle, and I loved how this split into two fronts. You had the action-heavy half who enjoyed this opportunity to let loose, and then you had the other half who had a stronger objective to see through. Starting with the Hulk, you could guess that he would be the one to deal with Fortean. This was exciting because both sides were ready for each other this time. This was the kind of action you were waiting for because not only was there a lot going on, this was a battle that they were actually trying to indulge in. Some things went as expected, other things came as a terrifying surprise. When I say terrifying, I also mean grotesque. For as much as you want to root for team Hulk, this chapter is where we’re supposed to be seeing what truly separates Forteam from Ross and Blonsky. Every opportunity was taken to give us exactly that when taking the fight to Forteam was always going to be easier said than done considering the extensive planning he has already put into getting the edge over stronger Hulks.
It was an issue like this where once again I was happy that we have this art team back, because as a horror book, you don’t want to pull punches with these monster’s brand of violence, including Fortean’s. Just about everything was a thrill visually whether it was the way that some met their ends, the way that they continue to twist and distort the Hulk’s body, and even the way that some of Gamma Flight have adjusted to everything that has been thrown at them. They got serious, which meant seeing a lot more impact and seriousness through the way they fought and carried themselves.
As for Betty, Jackie, and Rick, that was a point of interest for the kind of obstacles they had to face on their end. The Hulk is easy to read when it comes to his intentions, but right now Betty and Rick are wildcards. On one hand Betty is not close to the kind heart she used to be before, and on the other hand Rick was abused in a way that it’s hard to say what he might do confronting the people who messed with him in such a way. How Rick handled himself grabbed my attention most because this was our time to see that he has become something new in the Hulk family. Since separating himself from that Abomination husk, it goes without saying that you weren’t noticing any further transformation from him when he powered up. It shakes things up seeing someone who is simply “gamma powered”. What made this terrifying of course is the way that the art team gave him that lifeless look in his face matched with a radioactive aura. He may have recovered, but he still has that appearance of someone who still has one foot in the grave.
Now what I loved most about this issue is how even with a sea of monsters clashing, Jackie still finds a way to be relevant through her perspective of this battle. It goes without saying that she has been a valued new character for the representation of what someone looks like who has been a survivor of the Hulk and now seeing a new side of that world. Crazy that she continues to put herself in the middle of this madness, but you appreciate that at the end of the day she has something to offer rather than being a damsel. That offering of course being the humanity that some of them may lack in their decision-making. The human element in a monster story doesn’t always work, but in the case of Jackie, it makes a big difference for that person to be just as capable on their own.
Immortal Hulk #23 so far is everything you could have wanted from these two forces clashing. It has all come down to this moment, and even now this creative team has not failed to throw surprises at us. When playing for keeps like this? You can bet that a couple of things will turn your stomach to make the point that this isn’t your average hero versus villain scenario.