Hulk Annual 2023 is published by Marvel Comics, written by David Pepose, art by Caio Majado, colors by Edgar Delgado, and letters by Cory Petit. A film crew set out to make a documentary on the Hulk, but finding him could lead to disaster.
The concept for this annual is fascinating and something I’ve rarely seen in comics, if ever. It’s a found footage story, looking through a lens as a small group starts their hunt for Bruce Banner. It’s a brilliant take on the horror genre that Hulk comics have fallen into in recent years. The early parts of the comic are riffs on the classic concept of interviewing locals and the research part of the story, before heading after the beast they are hunting.
The way Pepose executes Hulk Annual 2023 pushes it into a new version of terror. Being the bystander and seeing the Hulk from a different perspective absolutely makes it more horrifying. That utter force of nature and the devastation around him all is sometimes minimised when you know what he is really like. As the issue gets ramped up, there are flashes of violence and chaos, giving small sneak peeks of what is to come. But they don’t prepare you for the violence and horror that unfolds later. There’s a sudden escalation that doesn’t stop or let up for the rest of the issue. There’s more confusion with the jumpy nature of the “clips.”
The cast and the script for this issue are fascinating. The characters of the main story are new, invented purely for this issue. There are four of them, and it could be difficult to remember their names once finished with the issue. But what does work brilliantly is the documentary-making character stereotypes that are tweaked by Pepose. From the overly dramatic producer who just wants the perfect shot over anything else, to the nervous cameraman, these personality traits don’t really find their footing until deep into the book. But when they do they are paramount to giving the annual a panic-stricken finale. The Hulk is terrifically written. What is surprising is that this isn’t even the cunning, horrifying Hulk that Al Ewing wrote. This is just a pure, simple Hulk, but through this lens it’s just as catastrophic and traumatising as any form. There are also other established Marvel characters included which are the perfect kind of creepy.
The art is not only brilliant because of the style, but also because of the creative direction and thought that had to have occurred. Because in this issue, the characters have to be looking at the “camera” and the whole book has to play out like a film. Much of this is done through panel layouts and effects, but there are so many other ways in which the mediums are blended by Majado. There are times when the fourth wall isn’t broken, such as when the characters are running or talking to each other. But it is never long before we’re reminded of the POV element, and that’s when the comic is at its most intense. The creepiness of some of the situations is crafted beautifully. There are times when the action happens far away, tiny, and down the other end of a tunnel. But it’s instantly terrifying because you know that the danger could come closer. Then there are times when things are obscured, or not in the “shot” properly. Whilst there is cinematic quality, the art is still undeniably suited to a comic. This allows for creativity in making freaky faces and some brilliant fights.
The colours are terrific and are used as part of the storytelling. At one stage, the camera goes to night vision, and the page shifts to that luminescent green. Green represents a lot of danger in general within this annual because it means the characters aren’t very far away from the Hulk. The lettering is interesting, as all of the word balloons have been altered to represent the fact that the whole issue is a recording. But the readability has not been affected in the slightest.
Hulk Annual 2023 is such an ambitious idea, taking an incredibly specific genre of horror film and adapting it to a comic seems like an impossible take, and yet it is achieved superbly. There is probably not a character that fits the style more, and he is taken to uncharted and terrifying territory. The Hulk may be the good guy in the end but it doesn’t look like that when he’s next to innocent people causing mayhem. Even attempting the found footage format deserves high praise, but landing it and making it one of the scariest and most interesting comics of the year so far warrants even more.
Hulk Annual 2023 is available where comics are sold.
Hulk Annual 2023 #1
Hulk Annual 2023 is such an ambitious idea, taking an incredibly specific genre of horror film and adapting it to a comic seems like an impossible take, and yet it is achieved superbly.
William is a screenwriter with a love of comics and movies. Once referred to Wuthering Heights as “the one with the Rabbits.”