The Incredible Hulks #612
Writers: Greg Pak & Scott Reed
Artists: Tom Raney, Scott Hanna, Brian Ching & Victor Olazaba
Colorists: John Rauch & Jorge Maese
Letterers: Simon Bowland
Production: Irene Lee
Assistant Editor: Jordan D. White
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
A thankfully (mostly) SPOILER-FREE review follows.
When thinking of families of super heroes, it's impossible to avoid thinking of Marvel's standard-bearer, the Fantastic Four. Well, get ready for a new comics family, but this isn't the Fantastic Four--and Bruce Banner and Betty Ross sure aren't Reed and Sue Richards!
In "Earth," the first story of the new, plural status quo of the book formerly known as The Incredible Hulk, writer Greg Pak wisely has the newly-crowned "Hulk family" take a step back from the pandemonium of the past several months' issues by letting them relax at a picnic by the beach. However, since this is a "Hulk" book, the situation doesn't remain serene for long, and it's largely due to the 800-lb. gorilla in the room that everyone's been wondering about (or is that the 650-lb. scarlet-skinned woman?): the status of the relationship between Bruce and Betty, who's just returned from death and been turned into the Red She-Hulk.
If anyone's unclear about it, this issue's character-driven elements should clear it up: Greg Pak gets Bruce Banner and his family of misfits. Bruce is the emotionally-stunted scientist who doesn't know how to approach Betty's return, while Betty is emotionally scarred from the very nature of her historical relationship with Bruce, as well as what happened while she was "dead." Their encounter here really resonates for longtime readers. It has real dramatic weight, and I'm anxious to see how their relationship unfolds from this point forward.
The rest of the main cast--Jennifer Walters, Lyra, Rick Jones as A-Bomb, Korg, and Skaar--all get some small character moments, but the stage this time is clearly devoted to Bruce/Hulk and Betty/Red She-Hulk. Skaar and the Hulk share a smile-inducing moment amid the action, and I can tell, it's going to be a treat seeing these two share "screen time" in issues to come. All in all, the saga of the Hulks is starting out to be a saga about a very human family, even if their forms are monstrous.
Thankfully, the artwork for this issue's lighthearted romp is every bit as strong as Greg Pak's script, with Tom Raney and Scott Hanna turning in their usual, reliable work. I've always enjoyed Raney's slightly quirky style, going back to his days on Warlock & The Infinity Watch and he performs just as capably here with every member of the Hulk family. Barry Kitson may be replacing him next month for the remainder of "Dark Son," but he definitely pulls his weight.
Off-Earth, in the second chapter of the "Dark Son" story, "K'ai," writer Pak and Scott Reed shed additional light on the origins of the Hulk's other son, Skaar's twin brother, Hiro-Kala. Immediately apparent when compared to previous chapters is the striking new art style, this time by former Star Wars and Top Cow artist Brian Ching. It's very powerful, and moves the story along beautifully. The story largely serves as a recap to everything Hiro-Kala has been through to this point. It's well done and sets up the remainder of the arc the way it should. It'll be interesting to see how and when the two sides meet, and what the Hulk thinks of K'ai being in this universe now.
The Incredible Hulks #612 is an apt beginning to the next bold era of Hulk comics, showing a clear introduction to the cast, and preparing everyone for the conflicts upcoming in this arc. It's a testament to the ability of writer Greg Pak that the title can shift so easily from being about the lead character as a loner in a world where no one understands him, to being about the importance of a family of such beings. I'll be eagerly awaiting the next episode in just two short weeks. Highly Recommended.
The Incredible Hulks #612 is on sale Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at comic shops everywhere. Call 1-800-COMIC-BOOK to find a retailer near you.