With Immortal Hulk being the critical and commercial success that it is, it’s probably no surprise that Marvel is eager to expand the scope of Al Ewing’s saga through spinoffs and tie-ins. This week’s The Immortal Hulk: Flatline #1 is the latest offshoot of its parent title, giving another distinguished creator a chance to put their unique spin on the concept.
Flatline begins like so many Immortal Hulk stories do. Bruce Banner wakes up in a daze, unsure where he is or how he got there, but absolutely certain that a certain Jade Giant had something to do with it. This consistent aspect of Immortal Hulk almost gives it something of a procedural element, harkening back to the Western-adjacent format of the classic Incredible Hulk TV series from the ’70s. But whereas that version of the Hulk was more of a force for good in the world–moving from town to town and leaving just as quickly–nothing good ever comes from the Immortal Hulk’s involvement. In this case, he is confronted with a face from his past who is intent on saving Bruce from his gamma-irradiated curse, which means destroying the Hulk once and for all. As you may realize, separating one from the other is an impossible task that could only end badly for everyone involved.
This issue is written, drawn, and colored by Declan Shalvey, who first made a name for himself as an artist (notably on Moon Knight) but has recently accrued some writing credits as well. As someone familiar with his work, Flatline very much “feels” like a Shalvey piece, particularly in the visual storytelling. Shalvey’s style is not only instantly recognizable but also feels consistent with what regular Immortal Hulk artist Joe Bennett has established on the flagship title. If you’re a fan of Shalvey’s work, Flatline is probably worth picking up on that basis alone.
I’m less sure how Flatline plays as a standalone tale set in the Immortal Hulk sandbox, so I could see it coming across as redundant for some readers. It feels like Immortal Hulk—both to its benefit and detriment—and I’m not sure if it really adds anything “new” to Ewing’s lore. But in Shalvey’s defense, “essentiality” probably wasn’t a directive given to him by editorial. The sole purpose for Flatline seems to be that of a spotlight for its creator and how they interpret the material, so in that ultimate sense, it succeeds.