When last we left The Incredible Hulks, Greg Pak and Tom Grummett had just started a relatively lighthearted James-Bond riffing story arc that finally began to address just what's wrong with the relationship between Bruce Banner and Betty Ross now that they're both Hulks. However, the alcoholic metaphor he's using to describe Betty's response to her new power promises to not be quite so light of heart when it all shakes out.
In The Incredible Hulks #627, however, the spy thriller motif is still in full swing, and Bruce's sidekick for this adventure, Amadeus Cho, seems to be having the most fun with it. Although it's a headache for our hero to see his (ex?)-wife gallivanting around with an old enemy like Tyrannus after being framed for stealing a dangerous artifact like Pandora's Box, even Bruce is throwing Cho a bone or two by sporting the unstable molecule tux, turning on the sultry with one of Hercules' ex-girlfriends with a daring escape and even dishing out the "Banner, Bruce Banner" line – although he stops short of asking for a martini. Good, responsible hero, that – especially when Betty's causing all these problems by being essentially drunk on her She-Hulkness.
Having not read Pak's earlier Hercules series, antiquity specialist Dr. Sofia Di Cosimo is new to me, but she seems fun enough as a competing new flame for Banner's attention – she did date Herc, of all people, and liked him enough that she created a new system of "mythological energy measurement" based on "hercs," which is entirely too amusing. Whether or not Sofia's subtle resmblance to the depiction of the actual Pandora is intentional or just Grummett not having enough differentiation in the women he draws remains to be seen, but if it's the former, it could make for another interesting plot point. If it's the latter… well, that's probably more me than any fault of Grummett's, truth be told. I think it's just the curly hair thing that made the connection in my brain. I could be completely off-base there. Overall, Grummett's continuing his fun Sal Buscema-esque-throwback stuff with the look of the Hulk and doing solid work all around.
The sudden incursion of the mystical Knights of Rome is an interesting development, too. I'm a big fan of getting to see international heroes instead of the glut of New York-based supertypes through the standard American filter (see my disappointment with Black Panther: Man Without Fear for more on that).
The big question mark is Betty. The long-term Hulk fan in me aches at seeing her so bitchy, antagonistic and derisive towards Bruce after all they'd gone through to get to their happy place, but I have to remind myself that she was murdered with radiation poisoning, and that was only the start the crap she's been through since that happy place. The crux of her problem now is apparently that she hates to be denied anything. It's not as if she actually hates Bruce – it's been illustrated that there's definitely still a core of something between them. She was all for hooking up with Bruce last issue until he put the brakes on to try to warn her about the instability of her power, and now she outright states that the reason she's with Tyrannus right now is that "he never says no." Taking the easy way every time, constantly in search of fun and distraction from common sense and ugly things that she doesn't want to dwell on. That's an alcoholic. There's even a moment where Sofia warns them specifically about opening Pandora's Box (or urn, in this case), and she hesitates, until Tyrannus throws her own words back at her. "Never say no, darling," which once again allows her to cover up honesty with attitude.
That seems to be the core of the Hulk experience that Pak is exploring here. So many times in the past, the Hulk would refuse to do things that made senst to do just because someone he didn't like told him to. "No one tells Hulk what to do," would be his refrain. And now, in Betty's case, it seems to be "no one tells the Red She-Hulk what not to do." That stand-offishness, that streak of rebellion, that spiky, frustrating defiance no matter how detrimental it might be – that is essential to what it means to be a Hulk.
So now, it looks like Bruce Banner is getting a taste of the bad medicine the Hulk has been dishing out to other people for decades, and it's a bitter pill to swallow. But it's making for a really interesting read.