By: Jeff Parker (Writer), Carlo Pagulayan, Patrick Olliffe, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose (Artists), Val Staples (Colorist)
The Story: Betty should really know better than to try to harm Man-Thing. Seriously, the dude pretty much is the protector of various other realities.
The Review: This seems to be some kind of habit at some point. As awesome a writer as he is, capable of bringing enough care and development to characters that would never receive any, it seems he’s always the unlucky one that never has enough readership to maintain a book for a proper period of time.
Case in point, Red She-Hulk, who will see its last issue next month, has to make a point for the long-term storyline that had been running since the title and protagonist switch that happened when Betty Ross took a hold of the book. Despite the care he tried to give to this book, it seems that this book never really took off in a way that made it connect to a larger audience. Is it perhaps the lack of marketing, or maybe the sad fact that most female-lead books aren’t as hot sellers as other books in the superhero industry?
While these two reasons are possible, there’s also the fact that there never was a proper focus on our cast of characters in a situation that took full advantage of them. While the duo of Betty Ross and Aaron Stack worked quite well, their adventures never seemed to be focused on their character quirks or their unique history, making them feel a bit inconsequential to the plot going on. Sure, the Terranometer story with Nikola Tesla was pretty interesting, but the argument was never really made as to why it was Betty’s role along with Machine Man that needed to solve that problem.
Still, this issue is a little bit different in that aspect in that it revolves around Betty in a way that is very interesting, as Betty tries to punch the Man-Thing, which brings her to another reality where she became the Hulk instead of Bruce Banner. Here, this plays on the old Banner/Betty relation from the older Incredible Hulk comics, switching their roles and just how things might have turned out if Betty had learned to take control of the Hulk. All the scenes playing with that aspect of her character are actually very well done, delving a bit into just how things would have turned out, while exploring a bit more of her character and her nature. Truly, it’s fascinating stuff and it shows how Jeff Parker gets the Hulk dynamics.
However, as good as those bits are, they aren’t explored enough as it shows that this could have been a whole arc unto itself, yet Jeff Parker only had two issues left to wrap as many things as before, which makes several of the developments happens rather quickly. It’s all a bit rushed, which soon makes the various events a bit too much to follow. Close to every character here are changed or are witnesses to events that change them in a way that are somewhat logical, yet are also thrown around without any deep exploration of what it all entails. I think the only character that is very enjoyable to read here, beside Betty, is Man-Thing who I swear Jeff Parker should write a series about.
Another thing that’s quite enjoyable is the effort the art team brought to the book. While only half of the Pagulayan/Alves team showed up in this issue, we are brought the very decent replacement of Joe Bennett, Patrick Olliffe and Ruy Jose to draw the book with Carlo Pagulayan. As is the case with every artist switch-up, we can see the difference when the actual replacement is seen in the issue, yet to their credits, the change is done seamlessly and works well with Pagulayan style. Their portrayal of technology, hulked-out monsters and the action is close to being pitch-perfect to Pagulayan portrayal of said elements. In some ways, their pages even show better handle of human emotions, albeit Pagulayan draws action scenes and machinery better.
Still, all of it is colored by a single person, Val Staples, who rises up to the challenge. The energy, the beams, the machines and close to everything match up with the kinetic energy of Jeff Parker’s script. He is particularly instrumental in the unification of all those different styles to give the book his artistic flow.
The Conclusion: While several parts are rushed, this issue still delivers with some good concepts, some good art and a better focus on the titular character.
Hugo Robberts Larivière