Review: Incredible Hulks #628

The bickering of this strained couple comes to a head as the Banners butt heads while trying to save the world.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Incredible Hulks 628

As we all now know, Greg Pak is leaving The Incredible Hulks in August, and the series is going to end with his departure.  The rumor is that he's going to bring back the classic Savage Hulk when he leaves, which means he's only got a few more months to play around with this wealth of new characters that has been created during his tenure, and in Incredible Hulks #628, he's definitely having his fun.

The center of this arc has been the relationship between Bruce Banner and Betty Ross.  Once upon a time, they were happy.  Bruce and Betty were in love and married, and she'd made peace with the Hulk, who had a soft spot for her, too.  Then Betty was poisoned, kept essentially dead in a hyperbaric chamber by her father until she was revived by evil psychotic eggheads who messed with her mind as well as her genetic makeup and turned her into a red-skinned brute while Bruce was hunted by government bastards, tricked into getting himself exiled from the planet by people he was trying to help, thrown into a gladiator world of brutality, married a mystic alien and had two broken kids he didn't know about when he came back to Earth to beat the living hell out of everyone who ever wronged him.  You know, real life.  Stuff happens, people drift apart.

Now that they've found each other again, they need to find each other again.  What was a strange three-way relationship between Betty, Bruce and the Hulk is now a four-way dance with the Red She-Hulk in the mix.  Being a Hulk augments certain personality aspects so much that they might as well be different people from their alter egos, and before any kind of harmony can be rediscovered, they're all going to have to make peace with all these parts of themselves and each other.  Betty was cool with Bruce and Hulk, now Hulk, Bruce AND Betty have to get square with Reshulkie.  Or whatever.  "She-Hulk" is already a fairly awful name, if you look at it objectively.  Throwing a color in front of it makes it even more wonky.  Or maybe it's accentuating the "she" and is empowering.  That's not my call.

Anyway, all that is the subtext that longtime Hulk fans will grok.  The story of this issue is the fact that Hulk and Red She-Hulk, who've been butting heads for the last few issues over Bruce's responsible nature and RSH's need to cut loose and have more fun than she's had in ages, have to team up to get Pandora's Box (the actual Pandora's Box) back from these cybernetic undead religious nuts called the Knights of Rome, who also happen to have captured the two people that Bruce and Betty are using to make each other jealous – museum director Dr. Sofia Di Cosimo and Subterranean overlord/bad guy Tyrannus.  In the process, they work through their issues while fighting a giant mystical bird thing.  Incidentally, NATO Commander Bart Gladwell is a fun character who should show up again in the future, as should anyone who uses the phrase "right the frickfrack now."

To be honest, as good as Pak's work usually is, this resolution to the Banners' marital issues feels a little rushed, maybe a bit too pat, but it remains to be seen what the aftermath is.  The Hulks appear to have worked things out with each other, which leaves Bruce and RSH to strike an accord and Betty to be able to control herself after being drunk on her power for so long.  However, if the beginning of Fear Itself is any indication, these two nutjobs have gotten past the bulk of their animosity and will soon be in the process of figuring out the state of their relationship rather than whether or not there even IS a relationship anymore. 

As a Hulk nerd from way back and a guy prone to bouts of being sappy, I'm perhaps far too heavily invested in how this whole romantical drama turns out.  Here's hoping that overly-rushed feeling doesn't persist, considering that the clock is ticking on Pak's time with the character, but I'll take this moment of happiness for Bruce and Betty, since they're so few and far between for them… and chances are it won't last.