"Red She-Hulk" #61 brings about a change of pace and a diversion of narrative from writer Jeff Parker and the art team of Carlo Pagulayan, Wellington Alves, Val Staples and Clayton Cowles. While the first half of the issue plays out the conflict from "Red She-Hulk" #60 with heavy narration from X-51, following the staples (the ones binding the book, not coloring it) the story shifts gear considerably, pulling the spotlight off of X-51/Aaron Stack and giving Betty Banner/Red She-Hulk a chance to shine.
It's not the smoothest of transitions, but Parker seems to be settling into a balance on this title, reining in the excessive amount of time devoted to X-51 and re-centering the title around Red She-Hulk, giving readers a complete rundown of how she came to be in the situation way back in "Red She-Hulk" #58. More proof of Parker's adjusting can be found in the some of the dialog, which is rather clunky in spots. Specifically everything that comes out of General Fortean's mouth during the battle seems like a throwback to Silver Age comics. Furthermore, X-51 actually calls out the titular character of this book as "Red She-Hulk." Really? There isn't a better name for the character? No, I don't have a suggestion, but "Red She-Hulk" is one of the most awkward things I've said aloud this week.
Parker's recap of the discovery of the Terranometer and its current optimal receiver is the type of story construction I've come to expect and, frankly, enjoy from Parker as he ties seemingly random aspects together to integrate concepts and characters into the Marvel Universe more completely. We're four issues into this Marvel NOW! title, but this issue feels like a fresh start. That said, I am hopeful that Parker will find the time in the future of this series to revisit the Forbidden Forest. Red's flashback adventures there are filled with action and excitement, adding another Savage Land-esque location to the Marvel landscape.
Pagulayan and Alves do a capable job with this book, but as with the story itself, the art really rebounds following the midway point of "Red She-Hulk" #61. A rage-filled Betty cleaving carnivorous plants into bits with her big-ass sword is what I was hoping to find in this series, but didn't quite realize that until right now. The sequence is followed up with Red rasslin' some giant crocodiles and nearly everything else in this comic washes away, like the result of pressing a reset button. Staples' colors erupt from the page in that scene, further celebrating the absurd colorfulness of the world that would include red and green Hulks as its inhabitants.
"Red She-Hulk" #61 is the first issue since the NOW! rebrand that I can fully climb onboard with as being a Red She-Hulk comic. The upside to that is that in the past three months Parker has shown the world he can write a fantastic X-51 book. He has also set up circumstances to play against Red She-Hulk, forcing the character to grow right before readers' eyes.