Despite Carl “Crusher” Creel acknowledging himself that he has “literally… never won a fight” with the Hulk, and always been “pulverized” by Bruce Banner’s alter-ego, the prospect of “The Sinners” storyline once again pitching the Absorbing Man against the Green Goliath must have had the vast majority of this comic’s Hulk-heads foaming at the mouth in anticipation for a re-match; especially when Alex Ross’s awesome-looking cover illustration depicting the two combatants engaged in a brutal fist-fight was released early as part of the book’s pre-publication advertising.
But whilst Al Ewing’s script for Issue Nine of “The Immortal Hulk” certainly delivers upon its promise to include the “greatest [of] enemies” going ‘toe-to-toe’ with one another towards the end of the twenty-page periodical, the lead up to their conflict, as well as its grotesque culmination, probably struck some readers as being somewhat choppy and frankly, rather bizarre. Indeed, at times it is debatably difficult to understand in just which direction the British author is actually taking his “Green Door” narrative with this tome’s mix of a “Videodrome” like secret agent with a gun-transforming hand, a “cute little” gamma-powered hamster called Derek, and a creature which closely resembles the murderous extra-terrestrial in John Carpenter’s 1982 horror film “The Thing”..?
Of course, once “Codename Red Dog” and this publication’s titular character do finally meet in person, courtesy of General Reginald Fortean’s cold-blooded calculations, there are a plethora of pulse-pounding panels for the “2000 A.D.” writer’s audience to enjoy, particularly as Creel has rather unwisely agreed to be injected with the Bannerman Gene-Enhancement package beforehand. Disappointingly however, even Carl’s “Hulk Plug-In”, which rather unnervingly provides the super-villain with an incredible ‘emaciating edge’ over his hated anger-fuelled opponent, doesn’t allow this gripping bout of muscle-bound pugilism to last all that long, and their ‘classic’ confrontation is sadly brought to an apparently all-too fast end within the space of just a few heartbeats.
Perhaps this comic’s biggest frustration though is the persistent intermittent page swapping which takes place between regular artist Joe Bennett and the disconcertingly different Martin Simmons. True, there’s little not to like about Benedito José Nascimento’s dynamic pencilling even during this book’s more sedentary scenes, yet the same probably can’t be said for this tome’s guest illustrator, whose drawing, inks and colours appear somewhat lifelessly wooden and flat when laid out alongside the much more energetic work of his Brazilian counter-part.