The Hulk and Betty Ross Have Marvel’s Most Radioactive Relationship
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Immortal Hulk #48, by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Belardino Brabo, Paul Mounts and VC’s Cory Petit, on sale now.
Ever since their first appearances, Bruce Banner and Betty Ross have shared a deep romantic connection. No matter which incarnation of the Hulk he’s become, or what transformation Betty has undergone, there has always been a certain chemistry between these two. Immortal Hulk #48 highlights this relationship, as well as its unhealthy nature.
The Hulk and Betty receive the spotlight in this issue, during a reunion between Betty, in her Red Harpy form, and Bruce’s persona of Joe Fixit. The conversation is rather difficult, especially since Joe thinks that Betty sees him as a poor substitute for Bruce. Yet Betty reveals that she has warmer feelings for Joe, especially after the events of 2019’s Immortal Hulk #14, by Al Ewing and Kyle Hotz.
Betty has a point here, since her reunion with Bruce, following his resurrection, was very damaging. Shadow Base, following Bruce, shot Betty in the head, killing her. In the aftermath, Betty returned in her gamma form, as Red Harpy. This incident demonstrates an unhealthy facet of Bruce and Betty’s relationship, as mere proximity results in Betty’s death and subsequent gamma transformation. It’s understandable that Betty resents Bruce for this incident, especially since she notes that Bruce couldn’t stand the sight of her as Red Harpy.
Yet However, accepts Betty this way, forming a complicated love triangle between Joe, Betty and Bruce. Of course, things get even worse when Joe confesses that he left Bruce in the Below-Place, where he was taken by the Leader. Immediately, Betty turns on Joe, realizing that he’s the selfish part of Bruce’s personality. She already has ill will towards this aspect of the Hulk after Joe’s move to Las Vegas in 1988’s Incredible Hulk #347, by Peter David and Jeff Purves. While Joe was enjoying his life as a bodyguard in Las Vegas, Betty thought he was dead. Clearly, the Hulk didn’t consider Betty during this period, which undersdcores some of the major problems in their relationship. No matter which persona maintains control, Bruce cannot maintain a healthy relationship with Betty. During Betty’s discussion with Joe, several scenes highlight many more issues in Bruce and Betty’s relationship.
One scene, for example, shows Bruce and Betty’s wedding in 1986’s Incredible Hulk #319, by John Byrne. Even this happy moment was filled with chaos and disaster. Bruce was only able to marry Betty because he was separated from the Hulk, who went on a mindless rampage in the meantime.
This doesn’t even take into account how Betty’s father, General Ross, showed up at the wedding and shot Bruce’s best friend, Rick Jones. Eventually, Banner and the Hulk had to merge back together, since neither one could live without the other. Marriage to the Hulk later led to several catastrophes, including Betty’s death in 1998’s Incredible Hulk #466, by David and Adam Kubert.
This scene is also highlighted in Immortal Hulk, showing how, by just associating with Bruce, Betty has suffered tremendously. Other scenes show Betty’s different transformations into monsters like Harpy, back in 1973’s Incredible Hulk #168, by Steve Englehart and Herb Trimpe, and Red She-Hulk in 2009’s Hulk #16, by Jeph Loeb and Ian Churchill.
Both of these transformations were massive strains on Betty’s relationship with Bruce, putting them at violent odds with one another. Even when the two joined forces as Hulk and Red She-Hulk in 2010’s Incredible Hulks #612, by Greg Pak and Tom Raney, they remained confrontational due to their history.
As the Green Scar and Red She-Hulk, Bruce and Betty fought more often than they made up, as seen in Immortal Hulk. Of course, the issue flashes back to good times such as Betty and Joe sharing a laugh in 1990’s Incredible Hulk #373, by Peter David and Dale Keown. Yet, as Betty says, these were just moments, which aren’t enough to sustain a healthy relationship for her.
Considering the turbulent history of Bruce Banner and Betty Ross, it’s understandable that Betty left the Hulk at the end of their conversation. It’s possible that the two could reunite at some point, however, since Joe expresses that he wants to become a better person.
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