Issue(s): Hulk #426
The idea is that when the Hulk gets angry now, he reverts to his Bruce Banner form. This is weird and amusing, but as we'll see, there's actually a really good in-story explanation for it. But first, we get a classic line that is still repeated in the SuperMegaHousehold after Squat Day.
One of Banner's cellmates is Hal Jordan's.
I'm so DC-illiterate, when i first saw that guy (before the "power ring" and "Mr. J", my first guess was that he was a reference to Alfie from Nth Man.
The explanation for this change in the Hulk is given here.
This will get explained a little more clearly in a couple of issues, but the idea makes sense. Now that it's been established that the Hulk's transformation issues were psychological, it seems possible that Banner can subconsciously prevent the Hulk from getting too out of control (e.g., when he's enraged over Betty's life being in danger) by forcing a transformation to human form.
Also, note the "Over The Edge" line. Marvel is currently split into editorial silos, one for the X-characters, one for Spider-Man, etc.. The Hulk is part of the "Marvel Edge" silo, which mostly encompasses the street crime characters but also the Hulk. The line will have a crossover with the Over The Edge name soon, too. So basically, take a drink; they said the title of the series (imprint) out loud.
I also want to note that i really appreciate the tiny panels. Liam Sharp's art lends itself to huge splashes, and that is also of course the trend at this time, so it's really nice when things go in the opposite direction and we actually get some danged content.
The main story in this issue is about Betty fighting for her life, and the character Mercy is used in a kind of symbolic way, similar to how Nightmare or (especially) D'Spayre are often used. I don't really love that sort of thing.
I particularly don't love that the thing that makes Betty decide to fight for her life is that Bruce needs her. It's not that the work that she's doing at the hotline was important to her, or anything really about her as a person. She's a supporting character and love interest, and the main character needs her, so she's not going to die. I mean, to be fair, it's her husband and loving your spouse is a perfectly natural motivation for any character, but this could have been an opportunity to delve more deeply into Betty (we do get a little about her mom's early death).
The other thing that happens in this issue is Nick Fury and SHIELD show up to try to take custody of Bruce. Hulk-In-Bruce goes crazy and jumps out of the plane, but when he lands he's a (serenely calm) Hulk. His transformation back into Hulk coincides with Betty's recovery, and Mercy actually tells Hulk that Betty decided to live because "she loved you more than she did herself" (Hulk says he reciprocates).
Since this is technically a Fall of the Pantheon epilogue, the story ends with Hulk finding a recording from Paris telling him that Paris is running the Pantheon now and that the Hulk should consider him an enemy.
Even when i'm not super-enamored with the plot (e.g. the Mercy stuff) this book is a joy to read, and the Hulk-In-Bruce stuff is a lot of fun.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: As noted in the Considerations for the last arc, an indefinite period of time has passed since last issue. Betty was apparently stabilized but goes into critical status at the start of this issue. So time can pass between issues. In the end, the recording from Paris says that it will keep repeating for "three days" so probably a little less than that is how much time passes.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
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