Issue(s): Hulk #336, Hulk #337
...hopefully bringing in new readers not only to get a taste of the Grey Hulk ("Yes, he's grey. Don't ask." says the opening splash panel) but also to introduce a significant status quo shake-up in the book.
The lunar cycle is currently favoring Banner, so he's able to prevent the Hulk from trapping him in a cave or on the top of a mountain before sunrise.
But the transformation, in Sparta, Illinois, still gets violent, and someone assumes that the grey giant that is on a rampage is a mutant, and calls X-Factor.
When the transformation is complete, the informant helps Bruce into his apartment. This is so that he can keep tabs on him until X-Factor arrives, but we learn that the guy, Dick Terrance, is actually a nice and sympathetic guy...
...that has a girlfriend with a baby on the way, and he's just trying to earn some money, hoping that X-Factor gives out rewards.
By the time X-Factor arrives, Bruce has slipped out, so the whole sequence is just humanizing an otherwise faceless character, and it's a nice touch.
When X-Factor - actually just Cyclops, Jean, and Iceman - do arrive, they once again bring up their flawed premise, but this time Peter David shows them going forward with a plan to fix it, having them say that instead of saying that they are going around capturing evil mutants, why not just be upfront about the fact that they exist to help mutants?
So that's their pitch when they arrive at Dick's house, but of course Bruce is already gone so it's a moot point, but it would have been nice to see the team trying this in their own book.
Iceman recognizes Bruce Banner wandering the streets, and X-Factor gives chase. By this point it's dusk, so soon they find themselves facing off against a Hulk that they've never seen before.
Hulk sees X-Factor's uniforms and initially assumes that they're part of SHIELD, but they later change into their X-Terminator costumes.
We definitely get the message that this is a new version of the Hulk. The Hulk claims he doesn't even like beans anymore. Say it isn't so!
Meanwhile, Clay Quartermain is told by the shadowy council that's been giving orders...
...that it's time for him to execute Bruce Banner. Rick Jones was able to get word to Bruce, which is why he didn't stick around. But after a fun fight with X-Factor...
...the Hulk winds up captured in the Iceman's (Loki enhanced) ice.
An annoying cameo by a Bob Craig and a Phyllis of the Spartan Printing Company, a division of World Color Press.
Craig seems to have been a real person, and it's why the whole issue takes place in Sparta. I considered that Dick and his girlfriend might have been real life people too, but whereas using them just helped David create more human characters, Bob and Phyllis stick out like a sore thumb in this scene.
X-Factor, not knowing what else to do with a captured Hulk, calls in SHIELD. It had seemed last arc that John LaRoquette was quitting the Hulkbusters, but he's still here. He and Craig Saunders are looking forward to killing the Hulk, but Clay Quartermain is more conflicted.
X-Factor accompany SHIELD back to Gamma Base; they are told that Nick Fury will want to thank them. After an outburst from LaRoquette and Saunders, the team is suspicious, and Iceman looks forward to hearing from Fury (Iceman was the right choice for this, since he worked with Fury a bit in Defenders, unlike the other two X-Terminators).
Iceman's conflicted thoughts keep him from keeping up his ice prison, and the Hulk escapes when they arrive at Gamma Base. It's worth remembering that Bruce Banner's transformations into the Grey Hulk have mostly been a secret to everyone at Gamma, so this is the first time Doc Samson is seeing him, for example.
Jean Grey has a good idea for putting the Hulk down again.
I love Peter David's quippy one-liners. Peter David's humor is one thing coming from Spider-Man, but it takes on a different tone with the brutish Hulk.
The Hulk tells the assembled good guys (X-Factor, Samson, Rick Jones, and the non-obsessed Hulkbusters Armand and Hideko) about the new Gamma Bombs that he learned about from Half-Life recently, and also that he suspects that SHIELD intends to kill him. SHIELD therefore attacks all of them, and they wind up teaming up with the Hulk to fight their way out.
They get some unexpected help from Clay Quartermain, who sets off bombs throughout Gamma Base to help everybody escape, and he goes with them. Samson gets caught in the explosion (but he's of course fine), and when it's all over X-Factor departs, as do Armand and Hideko, who have "developed a fondness" for each other, and have decided to retire from all of this. That leaves Rick, Clay, and Bruce Banner (it's daytime again) on their own.
Meanwhile, we learn that Betty was injured during the Hulk's recent transformation with her, but she's ok. She leaves the hospital with Ramon, leaving a note for Bruce that won't get seen.
So to summarize, Gamma Base is destroyed, Clay Quartermain has disobeyed SHIELD and is on the run, the Hulkbusters have broken up with Hideko and Armand exiting the book, and Betty has officially left Bruce with Ramon. That's a lot to fit in on top of the X-Factor guest appearance, but it's all handled naturally, with everything except Betty's departure being part of the main plot, and all intermingled with a nice set of fight sequences from Todd McFarlane.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: In X-Factor #20, Jean says that the team is heading out to respond to Dick's call in "ten minutes", but this issue has X-Factor in a training session...
...while Skids confirms the info from his call. In any event there seems to be a little overlap since we see the "grey giant's" rampage and Dick calling X-Factor in this issue.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showArmand Martel, Betty Ross, Clay Quartermain, Cyclops, Doc Samson, Hideko Takata, Hulk, Iceman, Jean Grey, Ramon (Betty Ross' boyfriend), Redeemer, Rick Jones, Rock, Skids
This was the issue that began my collecting X-Factor. I was a huge Iceman fan from the Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends cartoon and I managed to get a copy of the Iceman miniseries issue 3 when it came out but that was it. The local drug store got a comics rack and this was on it. How odd that I happened to discover X-Factor in a Hulk issue! :D
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | April 13, 2014 7:54 PM
I'm not a fan of McFarlane's art from his Hulk days; it's a bit rough around the edges. Maybe he was holding back.
I'm finding it hard to get over that the hulk isn't this brooding monosyllabic character. His jokes and one-liners seem more suited to Spider-Man, rather than him. It might take me a while to get used to.
Posted by: jsfan | April 14, 2014 8:51 AM
In my opinion, Todd McFarlane is a terrible penciller, but a top notch inker. His inks are so good that he can cover up the deficiencies of the underlying pencils with it - which is why McFarlane's work usually looks terrible once it's inked by someone other than himself, and why it suddenly took a leap in quality the moment he started doing his own inks.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | April 14, 2014 7:40 PM
Dick Terrance=Terrance Dicks, longtime Dr. Who writer/novelist?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 15, 2014 3:29 PM
I think Peter David is a Who fan so that is likely a reference to Dicks.
This story begins the "road movie" phase of David's run and it's the point where I first began reading the Hulk on a regular basis, staying around well into the Gary Frank era. I loved the interplay between Bruce, Rick, and Clay. I wish it had lasted about a year or so longer than it did.
Posted by: Clutch | April 16, 2014 11:07 AM
When Samson digs himself out of the rubble, he makes some comment like "What a waste." I always thought that was a strange thing to say considering he was the one who started the destruction by pushing over those two pillars.
Speaking of those pillars, having Doc Samson's actions recall the actions of the biblical Samson is probably not a unique idea here. I wonder how many pairs of pillars he might have pushed over in his long comics career. I think I found another instance with an image search some time back, but I'm not finding anything currently with Google.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | April 18, 2014 1:12 PM
I was a kid when these came out and it began the status quo of Bruce, Betty, Rick & Clay on the run, looking for gamma bombs- which I liked a lot. I missed Clay Quartermain and never understood why 'Coulson' couldn't have been Quartermain.
Posted by: George Gordon | April 18, 2014 8:02 PM
Peter David's Hulk run is something I must get around to reading some day. The juxtaposition of a cunning and amoral Hulk and a deeply sympathetic character in Bruce Banner means we can hope the Hulk escapes harm despite being a complete scumbag!
Posted by: Harry | April 19, 2014 3:41 AM
It's worth remembering that PAD came out of sales and that he probably spoke to Bob Craig and Phyllis a lot when he had a day job at Marvel. So he set the issue in Sparta just to put in an inside gag. It works better than it should have(using the paper rolls and press environment for a fight was also done on the TV show as well) and I barely noticed the pacing lag when Bob and Phyllis showed up, but it sticks out here.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | March 17, 2016 5:25 AM
Shouldn't Samson be at par with the Hulk's strength here?
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | July 6, 2017 3:58 AM
Maybe at the beginning but the Grey Hulk gets stronger as he gets madder. Samson doesn't.
Posted by: Michael | July 6, 2017 7:52 AM
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