Writer: Bruce Jones
Artists: Dougie Braithwaite (p), Bill Reinhold (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
As Doc Samson and Betty escape to one of his nearby secret labs, we see Bruce is at Nadia's desert diner preparing to head back out on the road. However, when Doc Samson's Hulk tracking equipment trace Banner to Nadia's place, we see Betty falls victim to the green eyed monster, as she decides to pursue a relationship with Doc Samson. During this exchange we learn that Betty is dying from an inoperable cancer, and that she also possesses increased strength.
The book manages to do a pretty convincing job of selling the idea that this book is populated by damaged personalities, with Banner's reaction to the idea that Betty's back from the dead being the most notable example of how his fugitive life style has forced him to exorcise all personal relationships from his life. We also see Nadia is also far from being the most self reliant of personalities, as she's acts a bit like an ever loyal dog who is desperate for any attention that Banner might extend her way, which doesn't exactly reflect well on the character. Than again her entire purpose in life has essentially vanished after she got her revenge on her ex-husband, so perhaps we're getting a look at her true personality that allowed her to become the wife of a sadistic personality like Emil Blonsky in the first place. The other half of the book is all about developing a potentially dicey situation, as we see Betty reveals that her time back among the living is limited, and as such she decides to make the most of the time she has left by pursuing a relationship between herself and Doc Samson. Now I'm not quite sure if using her impending death as an excuse to pursue a relationship that could potentially destroy one of the few friendships that Banner has left is supposed to reflect all that well on the character, but since Banner isn't exactly cooling his heels waiting for her return, I can see why she wouldn't exactly feel too inclined to play the role of the ever faithful wife.
Dougie Braithwaite turns in a fairly convincing impersonation of Mike Deodato Jr, this book's regular artist, and since I'm a fan of that style it's only natural that I'm rather fond of this issue's adherence to it. There's some lovely pieces of art in this issue, from the double page spread of Betty and Doc Samson's escape from the nuclear blast on the credit page with the specter of the Hulk hovering in the background, to the slugfest between the two later in the issue, where Betty manages to surprise Doc Samson and the readers with her newfound strength. The issue also does a nice job of presenting Banner's loss of control when he refuses to let Nadia place a cross on the grave of his genetic double. I also enjoyed the big reveal shot of Doc Samson's secret lab, and the return from the grave nightmare was also well delivered. A nice looking cover to this issue as well, with its presentation of the raging Hulk being particularly impressive.
Once again Bruce Jones has shifted back to form as the Hulk has vanished from these pages, and we're still mired in the plot devices that I had hoped we had moved past at the end of the previous arc. Now this issue is thankfully devoid of the Secret Conspiracy and their ever convoluted plots to snag a sample of the Hulk's blood, but this issue does introduce yet another mysterious group, with an ever mysterious motive, as we learn they brought Betty back to life to act as their mole inside the Secret Conspiracy. I know this sounds bad but I've reached the point where I rather miss the one-note villainy of a Thunderbolt Ross, whose entire interest in doing battle with the Hulk was to take the creature down, and his standard method of attack was sending an entire army of tanks, or Hulk busting robot suits after our hero. In fact the long, drawn out nature of the Secret Conspiracy plot has soured me on the idea of any group that has concealed their true intent from the readers, as Bruce Jones has shown that he not inclined on providing answers to the questions he's asked until he's run the idea into the ground, and buried it under a host of half-answers, and red herrings. As I mentioned though this issue is largely about developing parallel relationships between the two couples in this issue, and while the slugfest foreplay between Betty and Doc Samson bordered on silly, I did enjoy the situation as it stands on the final page.
Her Flurry Of Punches Said No, But Her Eyes Said Yes:
I came on board with Bruce Jones work quite early in his run, and I found the first year and change of the Secret Conspiracy to be highly engaging with ever mysterious group and its operatives that came back to life even after they taking a bullet to the head. However, as the story continues I became increasingly disillusioned with the idea that the big mystery wasn't really going anywhere all that interesting, and much like the X-Files final season it reached the point where my desire for answers was overpowered by the simple desire for it to be over. That's why I'm a little wary about this arc as Bruce Jones looks to be on the verge of diving into yet another mystery as Betty offers up a story of yet another mysterious group who brought her back to life for their ever mysterious reasons. I also found Doc Samson's inability to accept the concept of cryogenics as a reality a bit silly when Captain America is a walking, talking example that it is possible, and the Marvel Universe is jam packed full of impossible science, like sentient artificial life and time travel.
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