You may remember the aftermath of World War Hulk, which gave us the Red Hulk. A ridiculous, obnoxious, inconsistent and frustrating Red Hulk who did ludicrous, nonsensical things like punch the Watcher and form "The Offenders," all of which seemed to make it clear that Jeph Loeb had no idea who he was going to name as the character behind "Rulk" until guys like Jeff Parker could show up to try to make some sense of it all – and through the magic of Fall of the Hulks and the awesome sauce that is a Leader/M.O.D.O.K. team-up, the Red Hulk went from general annoyance to "hey, isn't it cool that Thunderbolt Ross has his own ongoing title now? Who'da thunk it?"
Thanks to what's been going on with Betty Ross in the pages of Greg Pak's The Incredible Hulks, we can write off all that early nutjob writing as T-Bolt being completely crazy drunk on the power he was granted by the Intelligentsia, because the same kind of crazy is happening to his daughter, who was mutated into the Red She-Hulk the same way – and was brought back from the dead to do it, too. And, as with any drunk, the problem continually hurts those who love her – namely Bruce Banner, who is desperate to pick up their marital bliss where they left off back in the legendary Peter David run, where they were happy and everything was peachy… and then the late Emil Blonsky decided to kill her. That's gonna leave a mark.
After a detour to the Savage Land to drop off Skaar: Son of Hulk in his own title once again, Pak is focusing now on Miss Ross, the former Mrs. Banner who's been insisting that since she died, she and Bruce are no longer married. She's seemed pretty cheesed off that the Hulk married and had children with Caeira on the planet Sakarr while she was thought dead, and the recent Chaos War insanity brought her face-to-face with unresolved issues with her late first husband Glenn Talbot – not to mention having to watch the Hulk with ANOTHER one of his wives when Jarella was brought back to life for the fight against the Chaos King's forces. After Bruce managed to save millions of children from certain death at the hands of his rogue son Hiro-Kala during the Dark Son arc, she let her walls down and shared a strong, loving and passionate kiss with him, but once the Hulk snapped at her when he was mourning the fact that he had to watch that son die, those walls came right back up and she was back into the red "F You" mode again.
Their love wasn't easy when only one of them was a Hulk. Now they're both Hulks, and Hulks know how to fight. The other stuff, not as much.
Betty's been very erratic about just about everything lately, and she's ditched Bruce and the gang to find her own way. In #626, we find her living the life Bruce used to lead – waking up in strange places with hazy memories of how she got there, then hulking out and beating up soldiers for kicks. Drunk on that power. But although she may have given up on Bruce, he hasn't returned the favor. He and best bud Amadeus Cho have figured out that her powers are really screwing with her – to the point that if she gets "drunk" a few more times, she might never be able to be sober again. The big problem being that she's a happy alcoholic at this point, she pretty much resents everything Bruce tries to do, and she's picked the exact wrong time to run into Tyrannus, a pompous and manipulative douchebag who was one of the Hulk's first-ever enemies. He also happens to be an ex-Roman emperor and an actual head of state – an underground state of Subterranea, but a state none the less.
Cue Bruce donning a James Bond tux (complete with Cho playing M and outfitting him with handy gadgets) to infiltrate a black tie party in an Italian museum, finding Betty a bit drunk (on actual alcohol this time, thus crystallizing that metaphor) getting all schmoozy and flirty with everybody, including the aforementioned douchebag, which isn't good when angry jealousy turns him a familiar shade of green. Snazzily, his tux is made of unstable molecules, so we get a sharp-dressed Hulk out of the deal, which brings to mind the pinstripes and fedoras of those halcyon Mr. Fixit days. Tyrannus is quick on the uptake, however, and swiftly dupes the Hulk (with Betty willingly contributing to the skullduggery) into helping him pull off an artifact heist that promises to be a hell of a lot more trouble for the Jade Giant.
As you might surmise, I'm completely on board with anything Pak does with the Hulk, because he's completely respecting the past while drastically changing the status quo, and that Chaos War arc was full of so much drama, pathos and incredible stuff like the Abomination and a Zom-possessed Stephen Strange riding big winged demon monsters of doom that he's more than sold me on the fact that he knows why comics are awesome, and each new issue makes me lament the fact that he's leaving the title later this year. Right now, he's firing on all cylinders and the Hulk is the best he's been in years.
As far as the art goes, penciler Tom Grummett's interpretation of ol' Green Genes hearkens back a bit to the old Sal Buscema days. It's perfectly serviceable, but I must say I really miss Paul Pelletier, who was doing stunning work during that Chaos War arc that I'm apparently obsessed with. Bringing the Abomination back with such amazing, vivid force like that was one more thing that made me feel better about that all that early Red Hulk malarkey that killed Banner's deadliest enemy off-panel, like an afterthought. What the big names break, guys like Pak and Jeff Parker will fix.
Well done, gentlemen.