Characters Appearing: Ashcan, Betty Ross, Clay Quartermain, General Hamilton, Hulk, Leader, Ramon (Betty Ross' boyfriend), Rick Jones
Issue(s): Hulk #339
Peter David hits that theme in a couple of ways in this story. The first is by having Clay Quartermain share information from Bruce Banner's SHIELD file with Rick Jones, along with his own theory that the abuse may have essentially created the Hulk.
Rick Jones gloms onto the idea and even expands upon it, suggesting that the Hulk represents not just Banner's anger but all his negative repressed emotions. His armchair psychology earns him another entry in the Rick Jones abuse log.
The other way David brings in the abuse theme is by bringing back Alex Woolcot, the kid with the abusive father from his Spectacular Spider-Man run. In the Spider-Man issues, Woolcot developed powers while messing with his father's experiments, and he was later seemingly killed by SHIELD. I mentioned in the Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #118 entry that Peter David didn't intend for Alex to really die, but editor Christopher Priest cut the final page showing that he survived. Given the published ending in the Spider-Man issue, though, it's a little weird to bring Alex here, as it undercuts the drama of the previous story, and it's not like Peter David uses the character again after this issue.
Nonetheless, here he is. The story opens with his foster father (who is NOT Rick Jones) jokingly shouting child abuse...
...before we see them entering a secret passage.
It turns out that SHILD sharpshooters actually only temporarily disabled Alex, and he has lost his memories and the use of his powers after the SHIELD shooting, and Rick Jones' twin brother is a SHIELD agent that is keeping an eye on the boy at a SHIELD safehouse.
The two characters with repressed memories of child abuse meet when Clay Quartermain takes Rick and the Hulk to the SHIELD safehouse so that they can look up info on the new gamma bombs that they are searching for. And/or information on Betty Banner's location; despite previous protestations, as part of this idea that the Hulk is a manifestation of Bruce Banner, there are a few occasions in this issue where he shows an interest in Betty.
When the Hulk and company encounter the SHIELD agent in the safehouse, the Hulk crushes the agent's gun hand.
While Clay works the computer - getting information on Betty but not the gamma bombs - Alex's memories and powers return, and he confronts the Hulk.
Rick again tries to appeal to the idea that the Hulk is Bruce's repressed side, and it doesn't seem to work (that thought bubble from Clay is the first indication of Hulk's healing factor, which we'll see more clearly next issue)...
...but after a battle that takes them to a carnival funhouse...
...the Hulk comes back having bonded with Alex. However, Alex decides to stay with his "dad".
Later, the Hulk admits that he's dealing with childhood trauma, and also refers to Rick Jones as "Rick" for the first time.
About Betty's location: we see her with Ramon at the beginning of this issue...
...but she soon sneaks out and Clay finds out that she's bought tickets to New Orleans. Ramon continues to befuddle me as a character - he's a walking stereotype whose existence wasn't necessary to Betty's decision to leave Bruce, and in fact weakens it - but i believe this is his last appearance.
We also see the Leader continuing his machinations, and it's confirmed that he was behind Half-Life's attack in Hulk #334 (it's even more clearly stated in the lettercol).
Quality Rating: A-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Bruce, Rick, and Clay have been in Boulder, Colorado for three days looking for Betty at the start of this story. Next issue takes place before Uncanny X-Men #225.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Note that Betty's been sick for a while. this is the first clue she's pregnant,
Posted by: Michael | May 5, 2014 7:57 PM
Excellent issue. The Leader is back and acts cool for the very first time. And the Hulk begins to sound more like Ben Grimm with a lousier attitude. This is still my favorite incarnation of the Hulk to date.
Posted by: Clutch | May 6, 2014 12:55 AM
"Get off my back", OK, and "Get out of my face!", sure, but..."Get off my face"?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 9, 2014 6:05 PM
Also, "butt out!", and both things to Rick Jones. Bruce truly seems to have all sorts of stuff repressed. Not that there's anything wrong with it.
Posted by: Teemu | May 10, 2014 2:26 AM
WOW, McFarland first Spider-Man was here (a small panel) but still
Posted by: ANDRES L | January 27, 2016 12:29 PM
Actually, that was a panel reproduced from PPTSSM #118 by Zeck and McLeod.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | May 8, 2016 1:29 PM
Interesting to see the Hulk's reaction to learning that Alex accidentally killed his abusive father. In hindsight, this could be a early hint that Bruce accidentally killed *his* own father and then repressed the memory of it, something that PAD would reveal years later.
Posted by: Ben Herman | January 9, 2017 11:15 PM
The General first seen here gets the name Hamilton next issue and has another appearance or two in this story arc, still a pawn of the Leader.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | September 30, 2017 3:54 PM
And Hamilton resurfaces in an issue of Darkhold. Thanks Omar. Added a tag for him.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 2, 2017 2:25 PM
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