Issue(s): Hulk #370, Hulk #371
Inside, the Hulk sees the astral form of Dr. Strange battling a pair of claws, and just kind of rudely distracts him.
You can see that Strange is talking in his non-mystical current Roy Thomas dialogue.
Strange gets pulled into the closet and the Hulk jumps in after him.
The Hulk is able to grab Strange, although he's surprised that he can touch him while Strange is in astral form. He throws Strange out of the closet, but then gets caught by the claws when he's trying to get out himself. Luckily Namor is there to pull him out.
Namor is unable to see Dr. Strange's astral form, and Hulk finds that he's no longer able to touch it.
Strange then disappears completely, and as day approaches, Hulk turns into Bruce Banner. Namor notes that Banner is looking a little more muscular than usual.
I get what Peter David is trying to do there, but it's been one of my complaints that Banner has always looked a little too muscular for a nerdy scientist. I've always "explained" it to myself by saying that it's because of exactly what David is implying here, that the Hulk and Banner are much more of the same thing than we realize, but that doesn't work if Namor is noticing something new at this point.
Anyway, Namor and Banner decide to head over to Dr. Strange's house to see what's been going on. Funny bit of meta-dialogue in the panel below. It kind of translates to "you stole my bit, Byrne!" (but i'm not inferring any meanspiritedness about it).
At Strange's house, Sub-Mariner jumps to the wrong conclusion about Rintrah and nearly starts a fight.
Then Dr. Strange comes down. See the confirmation that Strange's dialogue is based on how Roy Thomas is currently writing him. And also note the scar on Bruce's neck.
Bruce says that the darkness in the closet is "strange matter", a theoretical type of material that is more energy efficient and therefore some radical interpretations of it suggest that it has more of a "right" to exist than "real" matter. Strange decides to investigate further, and wants to transform Bruce back into the Hulk so he can help. Bruce tells him that the Hulk is different nowadays, so instead he has Strange set up a conversation between himself and the Hulk.
Before that, though, Namor notes that three of the original Defenders are working together, and says it's a good thing the Silver Surfer isn't around. But he also notes that the idea that the four of them couldn't work together never sat right with him, and Dr. Strange reveals that indeed the whole thing was a "cosmic hoax".
On the astral plane (and/or in their shared mind), Hulk and Banner argue for a bit...
...but then they come across a big door they haven't seen before.
While they debate opening it, the arms of the "strange matter" creature come out from Bruce's back (not from where the scar is), and soon the Hulk is possessed.
In the astral plane, the creature possessing the Hulk explains to Bruce that he's the sorcerer supreme of his own dimension.
He also intriguingly implies that Bruce is insane.
Back in the physical world, Namor keeps the creature busy while Dr. Strange prepares a spell.
Strange then binds the creature with the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak, while Bruce slips out of his prison.
Having to fight on both the physical and mental planes proves to be too much of a distraction, and Bruce is able to get to the door he saw earlier. As Rintrah gets in on the fight in the real world, we see that the door in Bruce's mind opens with a "smash". Now who is it that smashes again?
Whoever it is on the other side of the door, the strange matter creature is afraid enough of it that he flees. And when grey Hulk is restored to his right mind, he doesn't like it either, and helps Bruce close the door again.
In the real world, the grey Hulk starts to say that his "two" enemies are still inside his head.
But he passes out before completing the thought. The next morning, Dr. Strange does some research for Bruce and breaks the news to him that Betty has had a miscarriage. Dr. Strange also notes that the scar on Bruce's back has gotten worse. Bruce isn't interested in that at the moment, and rushes to catch a train to Betty. He finds her living at a monastery.
In issue #370, Doc Samson interviews the family from last arc (with the boy that Bruce worried might have been a victim of child abuse), and notices that they boy is holding a strange toy car. He learns that someone posing as a government agent had previously been asking them questions and gave the kid the car. Doc Samson rushes out after the guy, but gets run over by the full sized version of the car. The car is later seen racing through Delaware.
The 'anti-Defenders edict' is perhaps being too breezily dismissed, but that was such a strange and implausible story, and the result of it wasn't exactly popular, so i can see why Peter David is just brushing it aside. Beyond that, this continues to be an incredibly great series. Nice acknowledgement of the status quos of both Namor and Dr. Strange with lots of humor and great characterization. A great understanding of the past shared histories of these characters. And significant hints regarding Peter David's plans for the upcoming next phase of the Hulk. All that with great Dale Keown art and a fun battle.
Quality Rating: A-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Sub-Mariner is in suit wearing mode but still talking like he's thought to be dead. That would imply, but not necessarily require, that this takes place after Namor #1 but before he bursts into the Roxxon meeting in Namor #3. Clea is not seen at Dr. Strange's house, which again doesn't require anything but suggests that this takes place before Doctor Strange #21-24.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showBetty Ross, Doc Samson, Dr. Strange, Hulk, Imei Chang, Prometheus (Pantheon), Rintrah, Shanzar, Sub-Mariner, Wong
I realize that Defenders 125 was a horrible story and needed to be done away with but I never liked the "cosmic hoax" idea because it means that the Eye of Agomotto was fooled in Defenders 125. The Eye is supposed to see the TRUTH- the more times it gets fooled, the less impressive it gets.
Posted by: Michael | June 4, 2015 7:53 PM
Good point, Michael. I guess you could try and no-prize something about Agamotto enjoying the joke, considering the depiction of him as a cosmic idiot in Roy+Dann Thomas' Satannish vs Mephisto arc? But that doesn't work, because then Strange should start to doubt the Eye. (This is a great story otherwise, it's not one of the main ones I think of from Peter David's run, but I have just enjoyed reading it for the first time in years.) What are other times the Eye has been wrong? I'm sure there must have been times but I can't think of any right now.
Posted by: Jonathan | June 25, 2015 2:58 PM
The wiki page on the Eye says:
Posted by: clyde | June 25, 2015 3:09 PM
I've gone pro and looked it up in the 80s TOHOTMUDE, which i will insist is still canon :) The relevant part says "the Eye can radiate a blinding light of immeasurable mystic force. Under the brilliance of this so-called "all-revealing light," Strange is able to see through disguises, invoke images of the immediate past, and track both corporeal and ethereal beings by their psychic or magical emissions." I was pretty sure the Eye was meant to be infallible, but the "so-called" bit threw me! I guess it depends who called it so. :)
Posted by: Jonathan | June 25, 2015 5:14 PM
That Tribunal story that ruined the Elf with the Gun was lousy but revealing it was all a hoax makes it even worse in my opinion. The original story doesn't really serve any purpose now and could easily be overturned or altered with some creativity but instead we get Peter David's typical style of quick invalidation (which again follows the trend of him seemingly being told by an editor about something, deciding he doesn't want to read it and instead saying it just doesn't count without even ironing out the kinks of that).
And Doctor Strange comes off looking incredibly selfish and nothing else here.
But also at this point the Defenders had basically reunited in all but name plenty of times already. They were all present for the final confrontation with the Beyonder in Secret Wars II and they were all there for the Infinity Gauntlet. I'm sure there's more cases as well...
Posted by: AF | February 24, 2016 1:29 PM
AF, Strange was absent for the final confrontation with the Beyonder and this story came out about a year before the Infinity Guantlet. I can't think of any other occasions before this story. Anybody?
Posted by: Michael | February 24, 2016 10:21 PM
Does the cameo at the beginning of Marvel Fanfare #20-21 count?
Posted by: fnord12 | February 24, 2016 10:35 PM
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