Greg Pak's roller coaster ride entitled Heart of the Monster has brought us its penultimate chapter in Incredible Hulks #634, and in it we get the culmination of events Pak has been building up since Planet Hulk lo those years ago. There, the Hulk was dubbed the Worldbreaker. During World War Hulk, the destruction of Earth was narrowly avoided when he reached a level of furious power even he had never wielded before. Now, in the nefarious Dark Dimension of Umar, the Worldbreaker Hulk finally unleashes his full potential. The Hulk actually destroys a world of demons, goblins and Mindless Ones.
In fact, destroying that world over and over again is his own form of wish fulfillment… in that backfiring way that all mystical wishes come true, which has been the basis for the massive amounts of chaos and madness in this storyline. Bruce Banner may have wished to be together with the love of his life Betty Ross forever while being free of the danger of the Hulk, but that seems to have been translated into an endless cycle of savage battles against the Red She-Hulk in a realm where the Hulk's rage poses no threat to innocents – only monsters just like him.
This whole arc has gone in eight million different directions, and it's been so up and down and back and forth that it's hard to gauge how to respond to the fast and furious events, and personally, I don't think I can form a concrete opinion until I see how it ends, and how Betty Ross's stake in this whole thing is going to be handled. I keep having this fear that the Red She-Hulk thing is going to completely change her character into something unrecognizable as who we've come to know and love for all these decades. On one hand, it's completely understandable that stuffing unstable Hulk powers into anyone would radically alter who they are and how they behave, and she's been through enough trauma to justify some significant changes, but we just don't want to lose everything she was in favor of this snarky asshole she's started to become.
However, those fears are quelled somewhat with the massive and amazing splash page layout of Hulk and Red She-Hulk's big fight from Paul Pelletier, who may have been born to draw the Hulk. This montage shows us several moments from Marvel Treasury Edition of The Rampaging Hulk #26, which compiles Incredible Hulk issues 167-170 in a huge giant-sized format. It's the story that first introduced the Bi-Beast, who has played a role in Heart of the Monster, and also focused on a nervous breakdown that Betty Ross had that allowed MODOK to turn her into the gamma-powered Harpy. This is notable because that giant-sized book was the same one I had as a child that really cemented my love of comics – I didn't have many books, but I had that one and I read the hell out of it, over and over again. It's that shared bond with Pak and Pelletier that's allowing me to trust that this is going to end on a satisfying note.
Another clue to that is that we're finally seeing the long-term play from one of Hulk's oldest enemies, Tyrannus. Whether or not his seduction of Betty was part of the plan, we don't know, but he's now seized control of a mega-powered Fin Fang Foom and has escaped to Earth, leaving the Hulk and everyone else in the Dark Dimension to be trapped in that cycle of destruction and reformation, only to be destroyed again. As frustrating as it's been to watch Betty frolick with Tyrannus (there's a difference between 'no inhibitions' and 'no standards' after all), he's really been cast as a smoother operator than he's been in the past, and leveling him up from the petty tyrant he's usually been is a good move.
So Pak's run comes to an end with the next issue. Will it turn out that Betty's wish was to separate Bruce Banner from the Hulk, and that's what will set up Jason Aaron and Marc Silvestri's run starting with the new Incredible Hulk #1? Sounds like a plan, but with how crazy unpredictable Pak's swan song has been, it's better not to venture a guess at all.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 8.7/10