What started as a one-off ridiculous dirty joke in the Keith Giffen/J.M. DeMatteis/Kevin Maguire Defenders series several years back has been transformed by Greg Pak into a crucial moment in his final arc on The Incredible Hulks. One has to wonder if Pak just wanted to restore the Green Goliath's reputation as a monster in the sack as well as everywhere else.
Pak's Heart of the Monster arc is his swan song after a long and storied run with the character, and he's turned it into a wild and crazy romp through the Hulk's rogues gallery, weighted with the undercurrent of heartbreak and complete confusion about the mindstates of both Bruce Banner and Betty Ross. Especially Betty. Now that we know her direction is heading towards breaking her out of the 'love interest' mold she was created in lo those many decades ago once and for all (what with having her join up with Matt Fraction's Defenders this December), maybe Hulk fans like me can swallow the bitter pill of losing our OTP. If she's going to set a precedent for all these characters like Lois Lane and Mary Jane Watson to step out of that role and forge their own identities in their respective universes rather than be defined by the male hero to whom they've been tethered since their inception, that should probably be encouraged. Let's just hope they all don't have to become She-Hulks to do it. If they do, they should at least get different names, as I can't figure out if "She-Hulk" is an archaic term that's just modifying a male character for a cheap knock-off, or if emphasizing the 'she' part like that and putting it first and foremost is an empowering thing. Feel free to share your thoughts on that, dear readers.
Incredible Hulks #633 brings Umar, sister of the Dread Dormammu of the Dark Dimension to the fore, after Green Genes has dealt with jerks like Arm'cheddon, Wendigo and the Bi-Beast (woo!) in the last couple of issues. As she whisks everybody off to her realm, she also stokes the fire of Betty's jealousy, which is still there despite the fact that she's ditched Bruce for Tyrannus. If anyone is familiar with jealousy, you know it's one of those emotions that rarely makes any kind of logical sense anyway. While back in Giffenland, the Hulk was a completely unsatisfying lover for Umar, that doesn't seem to have dampened her tawdry seduction of him here. Guess she's up for giving him a second chance now that he's worked up to being all Worldbreaker angry, and she's rewarded carnally for that generosity with a three-hour-plus tour of the hulka-hulka-burnin' love.
Pak is quite obviously having a blast in his last hurrah, throwing in nerdy D&D jokes, Conan the Barbarian references and the flying severed heads of Mindless Ones. The Hulk doesn't even form any actual words throughout the entire issue, although it's made up for in spades with plenty of chatter from Amadeus Cho, Rick Jones, Jen Walters, Dr. Sofia DiCosimo, and A.I.M. queen Monica Rappaccini. Oh yeah, Dr. Strange showed up to help out of nowhere, too, to give some more thought to trying to exile the Hulk again as a way to put a button on all this insane chaos exploding all around him. That chaos is expertly rendered in tremendously busy ways by Paul Pelletier, who draws a fantastic Hulk, and packs every panel with immense detail and copious amounts of action that encourages multiple read-throughs to make sure you catch everything.
So far, Heart of the Monster is a massive roller coaster ride moving so fast it borders on the incomprehensible, but Pak's done such a great job as the steward of the big green ship that I'm willing to trust this will all hang together pretty well once it comes to its conclusion. In the meantime, put your hands in the air and scream with disbelief as we go down each new hill of madness.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 8/10