Review by Frank Plowright
When Stan Lee first began messing around with the idea of gamma radiation creating other transformations in addition to the manifestation of repressed rage that was the Hulk, he settled on an expanded intellect. Cleaner Samuel Sterns became the Leader, a vast and malign intelligence. Now that Al Ewing has opened up the possibilities of what the Hulk is and can be, as seen in Hulk is Hulk, the Leader manifested again, his intelligence instinctively understanding the new possibilities and how to manipulate them to his own ends. And that’s what The Keeper of the Door gives us over five twisting, action packed chapters.
This is action-based throughout, and while there’s hardly been a shortfall during Ewing’s run, this battle on three fronts largely controlled by one person is artist Joe Bennett let loose for the entire volume. With the mindscape now under the Leader’s control, rage and uncontrolled smashing suit his agenda, and the resulting distortions squirm from the pages as the power pulsates from them. It culminates in a monstrous miasma of a spread, forms intertwined and while colouring by Paul Mounts ensures we can tell them apart, Bennett’s texturing has already achieved the task.
As we’ve learned by now, texturing of a different kind is Ewing’s speciality, and while it’s likely there’ll be some later revision, he drops a major new revelation as to Bruce Banner’s parentage. He also returns a longstanding love to hate character, here not given much space to strut his authoritarian smugness, and Ewing continues to astound with The Weakest One There Is, which is beautifully set up over the final couple of pages.
If there’s one downside to The Keeper of the Door it’s that any new readers picking it up in isolation won’t have the faintest clue as to what’s going on, and there’s little to help them. Even buying it in hardback combined with Hulk is Hulk as Immortal Hulk Vol. 4, won’t offer much of a clue as so much depends on what was explained earlier in the series.