Doctor Strange’s new Defenders line-up may shed a different light on Immortal Hulk’s closing scene between Hulk and on/off again lover Betty Ross.
Warning! Spoilers to Immortal Hulk #48 below!
Doctor Strange may have just broken the Immortal Hulk’s heart in trying to assemble members for the new Defenders. While the Sorcerer Supreme and the Green Goliath have served as members in the past, his recruitment of Betty Ross, Banner’s long-time partner, and current Red Harpy, may have interrupted a serious conversation between her and the Hulk. Although it appeared she left as she has done before, writer Al Ewing hints that Red Harpy’s appearance in the upcoming mini-series may reveal something else entirely.
In the Immortal Hulk, Betty Ross has played an important role in the series ever since she and Bruce Banner reunited months after his resurrection from his death in Civil War II. Although this reunion ended with her accidental death, Betty’s history with the Hulk and gamma radiation caused the former Red She-Hulk to live on as the Red Harpy. She occasionally helped the Hulk in his battles although her feelings about Bruce caused her to rarely be in her human form around him, easily transforming to her Harpy form on a whim. Over time, she got to know and witness other personalities take control of the Hulk including the charming yet unpredictable Joe Fixit. While Samuel Sterns and One Below All have captured Bruce in the Below Place, Joe has taken control of the Hulk in hopes of gathering allies in a plan to rescue him. Following a battle with the Avengers, it would appear Red Harpy and the Hulk are interested in rekindling their former romance.
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In Immortal Hulk #48 by Al Ewing and Joe Bennet, things take a turn when Joe reveals the truth about Bruce’s situation and how he left him there in the Below Place. Disregarding having told Joe some of her personal feelings, Betty transforms out of anger and the Red Harpy admonishes Bruce and all of his personalities for their selfishness. Joe doesn’t have much to say as Betty accuses him and the others of always hiding, trapping her in an endless game of hide and seek. However, Joe shocks Betty by admitting that he loves her, that he always did and he was tired of letting the rules of his persona dictate his feelings when she motivated him to do better. Surprised but not convinced, Betty remains perched on the ledge of their hotel window and asks if he means it. Joe admits that spending more time out, thinking about other people has made him want to be a better person. But his questions of do these things make him a good person in her eyes are left unanswered as the Hulk realizes Betty is gone, having left without saying goodbye.
This would appear that Betty had yet again had enough of Bruce and the Hulk’s machinations, choosing to leave behind the cycle of death and destruction that’d brought so much pain and horror into her life. But writer Al Ewing stated in the issues letter page that while some of the supporting cast would leave as the book neared its conclusion, fans of the Red Harpy could look forward to her appearance in his Defenders series with Javier Rodriguez. ” And reading that issue after this one might shed a different light on this issue’s closing scenes,” Ewing writes, suggesting that Betty’s disappearance could have been from Doctor Strange using his magic to teleport her away instead of her flying the coop.
Betty and Bruce’s relationship has always appeared doomed, moments of happiness ruined by the reality of Bruce’s trauma and duality as the Hulk. Joe Fixit’s vulnerable admission to Betty leaves him hurt, burying his unrequited heartbreak with the resolve to free Bruce from the Below Place. If Betty and Bruce truly ever reunite, Doctor Strange may have some angry questions to answer regarding the timing of his recruitment process.
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