By: Greg Pak (writer), Paul Pelletier (penciller), Danny Miki (inker), Morry Hollowell with Jesús Aburtou (colorists), Jake Thomas (assistant editor), Mark Paniccia (editor)

The Story: Heart of the Monster, Part Two: OK. AIM scientist party-crashes on Red She-Hulk/Tyrannus lovefest to turn fountain of youth into a wishing well. Some dumb wishes get made, bringing back to life a cool half-dozen of the Hulk’s foes, plus some random monsters and additional sub-wishes, and some more sub-wishes….

What’s Good: I started buying Hulk again because I was interested in seeing what Pak had been doing with it for a while, but more importantly, because of Pelletier’s art. Pelletier, Miki and the colorists really have a good thing going on. The art is detailed and textured, no matter who or what Pelletier is looking at. Fin Fang Foom has deep, shadowed ridges and the monster teeth are cracked and irregular. Rick Jones’ face (such as it is) is expressive and the weapons are shiny and new-looking. Wendigo and Bi-Beast figured heavily in this issue and the art team depicted them in lavish rage, while Umar (I didn’t even realize she was a Hulk foe!) and Amadeus have more subtle characterizations of their moods. And of course, the Hulk was big and blocky and green and all muscle, slapping it down with all comers and creatively outsmarting (in his limited way) the dumbest of his enemies. All in all, a visually satisfying issue.

On the writing, Pak’s tongue-in-cheek tone, mixing enemy and friend in quick-moving banter, while stirring in deadly danger, made for a fun ride. The wishing well and the complexity of the wishing structure that Cho figures out was intriguing, fitting cheek-by-jowl with funnny, Hulkish cunning involving Wendigo’s tail. I liked all the characters involved, even the villains, and no one seemed to be taking any great pains to take themselves too seriously, which was my signal to take it easy. Why did I like them? Well, they all wanted something that was obvious and important to them. The Hulk is heart-broken. She-Hulk, Cho and Rick are his buddy musketeers and Betty is his lost love. Poignant. Painful. Heart-warming. At the same time, on the villains’ side, we have some villains, who, at every turn, have seen their efforts stymied by this gamma-irradiated monstrosity. Of course they want a bit of payback, or to rebuild what they lost. What reader can’t buy into that? Pak has taken some very bizarre people (I’m talking about all of them), and made them sympathetic with some very clear, simple desires and obstacles.

What’s Not So Good: I loved the art. However, there were so many people in this issue, fighting in so many different permutations, that sometimes the close-up shots, while they gave me beautifully textured draftsmanship, made fuzzy what was going on. Is it a huge flaw? No. No doubt the gamma-irradiated fans that follow the Hulk more closely will be more conversant with all the details than I and will need less context in the art. That’s cool. I’ll get there.

Conclusion: This was a very enjoyable issue. I would even recommend it for readers who don’t normally follow the Hulk.

Grade: B

-DS Arsenault

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