With Hulk #1 launching with Jason Aaron at the helm in October, Incredible Hulks #635 is a conclusion — of Greg Pak’s run on the Hulks comics, the “Heart of the Monster” story arc and Incredible Hulks as a title. It reads as a sort of “final thought” on the nature of both Bruce Banner and the Hulk himself, with the heart of the narrative focusing on the question that is most often central to the Hulk mythos: are Banner and the Hulk truly two separate entities, or are they, in fact, one and the same?
The answer is plain: the Hulk and Bruce Banner are not two separate beings. If anything, the “true” face is the Hulk, the embodiment of the part of human nature that we try to suppress but can’t always succeed in doing so. Bruce is the Hulk, a point Pak hammers home as we see that Bruce doesn’t truly wish to be rid of the Hulk, but wishes to be the Hulk. Furthermore, as the plot of A.I.M. Supreme Scientist Monica Rapaccini and her Wishing Well comes to a close, no one’s true wish appears to be without their “hulk” selves, but rather a blending of the two — the ability to change from “hulk” to human and back again at will, without the loss of either side.
Pak emphasis this in the last page of the “Heart of the Monster” arc, where in response to Betty’s declaration she “wanted Bruce to get what he wanted. Not the Hulk,” and Tyrannus’ admonition that Betty still thinks Hulk and Banner are two different people, Bruce, after just changing back from the Hulk states simply, “Yeah. You got me.” With Bruce Banner, the Hulk is indeed what you “get.” They’re a package deal, and as Pak concludes his run, he not only has the people around Bruce realizing this, but Banner himself admitting it and possibly even beginning to accept it.
The best part of the issue for me came in the coda, “Conclusion — Hulk Out, ” in which Pak further drives home the point of the Hulk as a true part of Bruce by showing a little bit of the Hulk in everyone. The scene opens with a toddler throwing a fit, and as her mother carries her out, her father apologizes to Bruce at the next booth, to which Bruce, with the image of the Hulk looming over him, replies, “We’ve all been there.” From there, we see a montage of people in the diner giving in to their figurative “Hulks” — a man forgoing healthy food for waffles with ice cream and bacon, men cheering on a boxing match, two boys enraptured in a violent video game. Bruce is surrounded by reminders of the darker side of humanity, and how easily we can slip away from impulse control.
It’s here that Amadeus Cho finds Bruce, and as Bruce tries to do what he’s always done and run away to “protect” his family by keeping them from the Hulk, Amadeus Cho tells Bruce what we as readers already know. The Hulk is the hero. “Everybody on the planet,” Amadeus says, “feels the way” Bruce does. We all have monsters inside us, and what makes Bruce the hero he is is that he “deals with it.” He takes that rage that humans feel every day and channels it into something that can not only destroy like it wants to, but also help.
Pak ends his run with something we don’t often see in Hulk comics — a happy ending. Initially, it appears that this happy ending is going to be Bruce driving off with Betty instead of being alone, but the last page has the Hulk and Red She-Hulk on their way into the desert to parts unknown. Pak’s “happy ending” is Bruce Banner finally not being able to walk away an outcast running from his own true nature, but instead being able to both accept the Hulk as himself and find someone to share that part of himself with.
While the Incredible Hulks #635 at times comes off as a bit heavy-handed with its symbolism, it ultimately provides a good wrap-up to the title as well as a jumping off point that makes me ready to see what Jason Aaron will have in store when he re-launches the Hulk next month.