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Thursday, March 19, 2020 

Polygon gushes over Al Ewing's run on the Hulk

The pretentious Polygon is fawning over Al Ewing's run on the absurdly titled Immortal Hulk, which has its problems with political allusions the columnist made sure to embrace as this goes along:
In the pages of the ongoing Immortal Hulk, Marvel Comics’ raging green giant is on a mission to destroy the civilization that has ravaged the Earth, and break the current systems so that others may build from the wreckage. The book begins with Bruce Banner and his myriad personalities brooding in rural American towns. Twenty-five issues in, Hulk punches through planets as the “Breaker of Worlds.”

Since 2018, Immortal Hulk, written by Al Ewing with art by Joe Bennett, inker Ruy José, colorist Paul Mounts, and letterer Cory Petit, has been the most consistent, surprising, and satisfying superhero comic released by any major publisher. Together, building off the character’s nearly 60-year history, the creative team has established Hulk as the ultimate hero for a bleak age defined by environmental collapse and institutional corruption.
They've also established him - both as Bruce Banner and as the Hulk - as a supporter for LGBT agendas, and made him sympathetic to anti-white sentiment. I guess that's what Polygon's writer means by consistency and satisfaction. While it's not like the Hulk never took lives in all the years leading up to 2002, after which time I feel Marvel largely collapsed, I find what Ewing's concocted disturbing. And why is the environment such a big deal? I get the feeling they wouldn't consider a current issue like Coronavirus so important by contrast, unless it included Trump-bashing, which could be what they're up to when the writer speaks of corruption.
Since he started writing for Marvel in 2013, Ewing has been publisher’s secret weapon in the writer line-up, taking established concepts in exciting new directions that are still reverent of history. His stories are formally ambitious, but easily accessible, largely because he has so much fun in the telling; his ensembles are full of personality with a sharp sense of humor. Ewing’s five-year run on various Avengers series juggled a massive cast that deftly built on the work of other writers. Whether he’s writing cosmic crime noir with a talking raccoon in Rocket or a Deadpool “Choose Your Own Adventure” story in You Are Deadpool, Ewing creates superhero comics that fully embrace the narrative possibilities of both the genre and medium.

It’s taken a while for Ewing to score a blockbuster hit, but he’s done it with Immortal Hulk thanks to an impeccable combination of high-concept ideas, visceral thrills, deep psychological exploration, and thoughtful collaboration. His scripts bring out the very best in his artists, and Bennett, José, and Mounts take their place as one of the great superhero horror teams with the haunting atmosphere and grotesque gamma transformations they bring to the page.
So, how much does it sell? Because if sales figures are as low as 49,000 copies printed, then that's no blockbuster. But this does confirm what I find troubling about the genre direction they're going in, which was anything but horror in past decades. As for "fun", if he's guiding it in a leftist direction, I'm sure he must be having a ball there.
In the latest arc, Hulk is still making his way to this celestial future, and his current mission targets the forces that are threatening Earth right now like politicians, media outlets, and billionaires that want to uphold a destructive status quo. This puts Hulk in the crosshairs of corporations that don’t want to see their profit margins hit by a growing social movement supporting Hulk and his allies. Roxxon’s CEO, Dario Agger, is especially committed to taking out Team Hulk, using the one-two punch of giant kaiju and media manipulation to sour the public’s opinion. Ewing makes inspired use of comic book history for this Hulk-vs.-Capitalism battle royale, reviving Marvel’s original Hulk, the furry alien Xemnu, to serve as Agger’s mind-warping living weapon. Xemnu has rewritten the world’s collective memory so that he’s the Marvel Universe’s greatest hero, saving the planet again and again as “The Living Hulk”. Xemnu’s influence takes an especially great toll on the already fractured mind of Bruce Banner, and this week’s Immortal Hulk #32 ends with the return of a long-awaited Hulk identity that promises an astounding battle when he goes after Xemnu.
What are the possibilities any and all the politicians, press outlets and billionaires alluded to in the script are right-wing? The negative take on capitalism is a giveaway. The funny thing about how these liberal writers approach corporations - one by the name of Disney which happens to be Marvel's owner for nearly a decade already - they don't do it from a perspective that's critical of leftism. For all we know, some leftists today probably have shifted significantly in favor of corporations, as assaults on fans critical of the poor direction in Star Wars suggests.
With a heavy emphasis on body horror, Immortal Hulk requires an art team that understands how to morph anatomy in abnormal ways while still maintaining weight and texture that grounds these forms in a tangible reality. Bennett, José, and Mounts excel in this regard, with the inker and colorist enriching Bennett’s intensely detailed pencils. The finely hatched linework from José — along with inking pinch-hitters Belardino Brabo, Marc Deering, Rafael Fonteriz, and Cam Smith — and Mounts’ fleshy coloring give the visuals a tactile quality that taps into the same pleasure centers as practical special effects in old horror movies. There are strong John Carpenter vibes when Crusher “The Absorbing Man” Creel’s body splits in half to leave his gory spine suspended in mid-air. The recent addition of kaiju to the world of Immortal Hulk has Ewing paying tribute to cinematic special effects legends with monsters named after Ray Harryhausen and Willis O’Brien.
Ugh. This is just what we need, isn't it? As though it weren't bad enough the Hulk gets dissected into several parts in one of the storylines, which is fawned over next:
Every issue of Immortal Hulk has at least one breathtaking page turn, often used to spotlight a new Hulk ability. When Hulk is cut up into pieces and stored in glass jars by Shadow Base, he snaps his fingers to create a sonic boom that shatters all the jars and sends the pieces flying into each other, where they converge around the body of the mad scientist responsible and swallow him whole. When Shadow Base tries to keep Hulk out of the picture by exposing him to artificial sunlight, Banner’s mobster alter ego, Joe Fix-It, hacks the system and changes the wavelength to gamma beams, supercharging Hulk so much that he grows extra limbs and different heads inspired by previous artists’ interpretation of the character.
Well that's gross. The best Hulk material I read in the past didn't build on horror elements, but rather, fantasy elements, and there were human interest elements as well, handled much better than Ewing does. Peter David's take on the Hulk may have been the last competent run (with the best sense of humor to boot), and it's very sad he later had to spoil everything by sending Betty Banner into death limbo in 1998, all because of personal issues he was going through at the time (and the staff of Bob Harras tried to make things worse), even though that's long since been reversed, one good thing Marvel had the audacity to do. Now, here's where Polygon's writer sugarcoats the racial issues turning up in this run:
This lead-in time allows Bennett to create stunning moments of spectacle, but it’s his expressive storytelling in Immortal Hulk that brings out all of the complexity of Ewing’s story. Rage is Hulk’s forte, but this series greatly benefits from exploring how this emotion manifests in the people around him. For Jackie McGee, a black woman reporter whose home was destroyed by Hulk when she was a child, rage is something she isn’t allowed to feel. “Your anger...it’s indulged. Even respected,” Jackie says while walking through literal Hell with Hulk. “Mine is dismissed—if I’m lucky.” She looks at Bruce Banner with envy, seeing a white, college-educated man who is allowed to unleash all of the destructive fury inside of him and still be protected by establishment figures like the Avengers. She wants to know how she can become like Hulk because she wants that same kind of freedom, and Hulk respects her for being so open about her rage. Later, Joe Fix-It similarly expresses admiration for Jackie when he thinks about her resilience in the face of online commenters, praising how she pisses off puny humans. When she responds that she’s one of those humans, Joe approvingly tells her, “You ain’t puny.”
So this is the message they're conveying? Racial minorities aren't allowed to be angry but whites are? The issue is whether one's anger over a particular subject is valid, not whether your racial background alone qualifies it. What exactly are they insinuating here? That the lady should destroy property and buildings without consequence, regardless of whether the owners were criminals or innocents? It's not right for the Hulk to take out his rages on innocents, no matter their background, so obviously, it wouldn't be for minority members either. And the allusion to online abusers is also pretty cheap, compared to physical criminals. The handling of Betty Ross-Banner doesn't sound much better:
Betty Banner-Ross is one of the most sympathetic characters in Immortal Hulk, a scorned wife who metamorphoses into a deadly harpy because her resurrected husband didn’t call her when he came back from the dead. Her rage stems from this personal wrong, but like Jackie, it’s tied to an institutional wrong committed by a patriarchal society that refuses to acknowledge Betty’s anger at being treated like garbage by every man in her life. Her spotlight issue presents her as a butterfly who breaks free from a spider’s web, now able to express every aspect of herself without concern for other people. Her inner monologue has a short, staccato delivery that gives it the quality of a slam poem, constantly repeating a mantra of self-acceptance: “This is me.”
Sounds like there's quite a bit of man-bashing in this book. Will we next discover Ewing is a male feminist? Here's where the writer fawns over the transgender propaganda:
In Immortal Hulk #32, Dr. Charlene McGowan exhibits a quieter rage that proves to be illuminating in Team Hulk’s current circumstances. When Charlene first realized she was transgender, she spent a lot of time discovering who she truly was, divorced from the story that was told about her and to her by the world. In the wake of Xemnu’s memory manipulation, Charlene senses a familiar feeling. “It can force its own narratives onto me, even into my head,” she says. “And I’ve had enough of that. Who I am belongs to me.” Immortal Hulk #32 features a special thanks to Crystal Frasier, a trans woman game developer who served as a sensitivity consultant working directly with Ewing to develop Charlene’s character. Frasier’s input brings emotional honesty to this scene and continues to highlight how Ewing collaborates with others to make his story as rich as possible.
Oh god, this is simply unbearable by now. As if it weren't bad enough Ewing's doing the white scapegoat act, now he had to pelt the audience with this propaganda agenda to boot. Basically, he worked with an "expert in cultural sensitivity" (or is that a "purse puppy"?), all without any distinctions between ideologies.
Bruce Banner started Immortal Hulk on his own, but he’s gradually surrounded himself with people angry at the current state of the world and desperate for change. These are people who have been discounted and manipulated for their entire lives, and they’re not going to be happy when they find out a corporation hacked their brains using a furry monster. Issue #32 ends with the return of the Green Scar, the aforementioned Hulk that took control of an alien world, putting a new authority in charge with experience spearheading a planet-wide revolution. That promises doom for Xemnu and Roxxon, but Hulk’s longtime enemy, The Leader, is waiting in the wings with a simmering subplot picking up on events from Immortal Hulk #25.
Uh huh. The very change leftist ideologues called for when Obama was POTUS. One built on victimology culture. And I guess the corporations in focus here are all run by whites who serve as stand-ins for rightists, despite there being only so many that are run by leftists, the biggest oxymoron in the beef these overrated scribes have with corporations, which presumably don't include the one that owns Marvel, the Disney corporation. In other words, if Disney's been exploiting and wronging anybody of recent, they'll get a pass.
Hulk is on a rampage more destructive than any before, but the journey Ewing and his artists are on has proved to be surprisingly life-affirming in how it approaches identity, companionship, and embracing your personal destiny by smashing any obstacles that get in the way. As far as this book has come, it still feels like this team still has plenty of fuel to drive stories for years to come.
It's not the Hulk who's on a rampage here. It's the writers whom the columnist is sugarcoating. This is why Marvel's plain run out of gas.

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