REVIEW: Red She-Hulk #59

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Or – “A Character Who Might Just Earn The Fans Respect Yet…”

Elizabeth “Betty” Ross dates back to the earliest days of the Marvel Universe, appearing in Incredible Hulk #1 back in ’62, but her latest transformation into ruby-hued superhero hasn’t pleased everyone.  While I didn’t care for the stories that introduced her, Betty has had a couple of interesting moment as Red She-Hulk (which I will admit is still a ridiculous name.)  The first issue of her solo run surprised the heck out of me with both it’s ferocity of storytelling and it’s quality, and earned itself a place in my hold list.  Will number 2 (and/or 59) keep up the good work?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

RED SHE-HULK #59
Writer: Jeff Parker
Penciler: Carlo Pagulayan & Wellinton Alves
Colorist: Val Staples
Letter: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously in Red She-Hulk:  Having been present at the accident that created the Hulk and having been transformed into a rampaging engine of destruction herself, Betty Ross (don’t call her Betsy!) has a slight problem with people who try to create super-humans for their own gain.  Thanks to her military connections, Betty has infiltrated a program called “Echelon,” designed to create military applications for super-powers, in her normal identity.  As Red She-Hulk, she engaged the government superheroes in battle, and seemingly killed one.  At the same time, Aaron Stack (known to Kirby fans as Machine Man) has been sent by Captain America to figure out Red She-Hulk’s deal and, if necessary, deal with her…  But what is Betty after?

YOU HAD ME AT MACHINE MAN…

This issue opens where last one left off:  With She-Hulk, a dead government-issue superhuman and a collapsing building.  Machine Man arrives (with a striking new character design of which I whole-heartedly approve) to sort things out, continuing his profiling mission on the Red She-Hulk.  There’s some very smartly written dialogue, and both heroes get to show their stuff (something that’s hard to do with a guest-star who is also your antagonist) as they engage.  Machine Man figures out that Betty isn’t dealing with the standard Hulk-rage, and doesn’t seem to be suffering from the split-personality issues that her ex-husband does.  This is a fun little book from an artistic stand-point, making the fight scene interesting through use of dynamic angles (a downward shot on the scene as R.S.H. leaps away is particularly well-done) and even has a clever moment where Machine Man needs to go incognito and transformed into his nextwave-era Aaron Stack disguise.  I like when continuity is used for good rather than evil.  Betty has a puzzling visit with a young girl who seems to be precognitive, and views a terrible dystopian future where the world ends in fire as she fights with (or perhaps alongside?) the Echelon superhumans.

THAT DID NOT GO AS PLANNED.

Sadly, she quickly finds that her attack during last issue’s training scenario convinced the government honchos that they needed to try and DOUBLE the funding for Echelon, in order to defend the Marvel Universe against threats like Betty, her ex, her father, and her pal Rick.  (And when you look at it like that, one has to think that the government types have a point.)  There’s some fascinating stuff that goes on after that revelation, from her holographic advisor (Nikola Tesla) to her use of what seems to be S.H.I.E.L.D. technology.  All that goes out the window for me, though, when Captain America gets impatient and swoops in to take her down.  While I appreciate what the team is going for, they come across as bullies, as Captain Marvel, Thor and Iron Man engage a non-hulked-out Betty in combat.  Iron Man seems to be hitting on her, while Captain Marvel chides her for not being respectful of the military.  As the issue ends, Red She-Hulk blows out the support structure of a suspension bridge, and bitterly remarks, “Hulk Smash.”

THE BOTTOM LINE: I KIND OF WANTED TO SEE HER PUNCH THE CRAP OUT OF CAPTAIN MARVEL…

Thing is, I really feel like The Avengers are being utter jerks here (which is probably the point), but I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I’m trusting my protagonist’s instincts yet.  Her attack endangers hundreds, maybe THOUSANDS on innocents, and seems somewhat out of character based on her actions in the first half of the book.  Luckily, I DO trust Jeff Parker’s instincts after his previous work, and I’m still interested enough to keep reading this book.  Artistically, it’s pretty awesome (although the new Captain America helmet looks goofy as all hell) and the technological marvels of Machine Man have sold me on a series for him as well, preferably by this creative team.  Red She-Hulk #59 is still above average work, though not as striking as last issue, and continues to strengthen the character past her less-than-impressive origins, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  I’m also waiting to see how long it takes for the Alpha Flight cameo appearances…

Rating: ★★★½☆

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