Issue(s): Hulk #397, Hulk #398, Hulk #399, Hulk #400
Pretty brutal, what the Hulk does here.
The U-Foes are actually trying to get to Agamemnon. It turns out that the U-Foes have been hired by the Leader, who wants an audience with the Pantheon leader.
I liked this scene, where the Leader notes that there are just too many people piling on the Hulk.
The Hulk nonetheless takes some serious damage during the fight.
And there are enough villains to keep the rest of the Pantheon busy.
But the big moment is when Vector goes full power on the Hulk, flaying off his flesh. The Hulk nonetheless manages to reach him and knock him out.
We've known that the Hulk is basically a walking pile of radioactive cancer cells, and so he has a near instantaneous healing factor. This scene almost seems ridiculous unless you recall when Wolverine said in Hulk #340 that the Hulk's skin was never impenetrable; it just heals instantaneously.
Still, Agamemnon ends the fight at that point, so we don't know if the Hulk really could have continued to fight after this. I guess it depends on how angry he was.
The Hulk is extremely pissed to find that Agamemnon has made an agreement with the Leader.
Meanwhile, Rick Jones has lunch with the woman claiming to be his mom, but she drugs him and locks him in a basement with the corpses of her previous "sons".
Betty and Marlo later show up at Jacqueline's house looking for Rick, and Jacqueline stabs Marlo when she gets close to discovering him.
Betty manages to knock Jacqueline out with a fire poker, but Marlo is dead. I should note that when it's all over, Jacqueline still maintains that she's Rick's mother (a claim she doesn't make about the other corpses), but Rick will refuse to do a test to confirm it, because he really doesn't want to know.
Dale Keown leaves the book after issue #398. Jan Duursema does a decent Dale Keown for issues #399-400, especially on #400 when Mark Farmer inks her. Chris Bachalo, also inked by Farmer, draws the second half of issue #400 (it's a double-sized anniversary issue). Duursema will remain on the book until issue #403 when Gary Frank becomes the regular artist.
Issue #398 has Rick Jones going around to various superheroes trying to get them to raise Marlo from the dead.
Rick couldn't find the Hulk because he's returned to the site of the original gamma bomb explosion, where he's sulking after his disagreement with Agamemnon. Meanwhile, the Leader has Marlo's corpse removed from the morgue, and he contacts Rick. The Leader's current gamma energy was taken from Rick while Rick was a Hulk, so they actually share a psychic bond.
So Rick's current despondence is bothering the Leader, and he wants to do something about it. Namely, bring Marlo back to life.
The Leader thinks he can do it thanks to the healing powers of Soul Man, one of the gamma-powered minions he picked up after the gamma bomb explosion in Hulk #345. The Leader reveals that he's already brought General Thunderbolt Ross back from the dead, although he's only in a half-alive state. The Leader has been using him as the current Redeemer.
But the Leader has built a machine that he thinks can be used to amplify Soul Man's abilities and bring people all the way back.
Meanwhile, Agamemnon reaches out to Betty and asks her to bring back the Hulk.
The Hulk is in a mood, and acts like a jackass towards Betty. But that changes when he learns that Marlo is dead.
Rick is brought to the Leader's Freehold, which is populated with people that are dying of cancer.
Meanwhile, a rogue branch of Hydra prepares to attack Freehold. I wondered if the guy on the phone was meant to be Baron Strucker. He's playing the right role, but seems too... accommodating. As Brian notes in the comments, this was probably meant to be the Red Skull as part of the set-up for the New World Order storyline. He still seems too accommodating, and the whole relationship between the Skull and Strucker feels like it wasn't settled. You'd think the Skull would go through Strucker, who would be focused on wiping out or consolidating this branch of Hydra they way he was doing in the Nick Fury series.
At the same time, Agamemnon tells the Hulk that he doesn't intend to honor the deal with the Leader, and he tells the Hulk where Freehold is. Hulk is pleased to "fiiiiinally" be able to take the battle to him. Betty suggests contacting SHIELD or the Avengers, but the Hulk wants to do it himself. But Agamemnon may be manipulating the Hulk into helping the Leader deal with the Hydra attack.
The U-Foes are conspicuously missing at this point, but that will be addressed in issue #401.
When the Hulk shows up, he's not all that interested in Hydra.
But Rick tells him what's going on, and Hulk - very angrily - decides to help.
But the Hulk then changes his mind and goes after the Leader again.
Meanwhile, the Leader seems to be trying to siphon off Soul Man's power for himself while Soul Man is trying to resurrect Marlo. So when the Hulk shows up and wrecks what Soul Man is doing, it's not clear if it would have worked anyway.
The Hulk just goes nuts.
However, seeing the semi-resurrected General Ross gives him pause. But at this point it's too late, and Marlo is brought back only to the same semi-alive state that Ross is in.
Peter David continues to do great stuff. The Leader's motivations are nuanced enough to keep him interesting, and of course the various fights with the villains are fun. But the stuff with Rick reacting to Marlo's death is moving while also acknowledging in a fun way the reality of the Marvel universe that Rick, especially, lives in. I wouldn't want an average person to go around to various super-characters asking for someone to be resurrected, because that breaks the "world outside your window", but since Rick is deeply involved in the weirdness of the Marvel universe, it makes sense. And, ultimately, does him no good. It's villains that dabble in bringing people back from the dead, of course. What i like the most is the Hulk getting angry that he's being manipulated again and then totally losing control. Despite his current merged status, there's still a monster in him, and that comes to the forefront here. Really well done.
I probably disliked Chris Bachalo's art when i first saw it, but i'm more familiar with his style now, so i appreciate it in a different way. The rest of the art is great. It's sad to see Dale Keown go, but i know that Gary Frank is coming.
Issue #400 also reprints Tales To Astonish #63.
Quality Rating: A-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Hulk (and some of the Pantheon) are still in Las Vegas at the start of this arc, so he shouldn't appear elsewhere in between and it shouldn't be too long since last arc. Some time passes between issues #398 and #399, but the Hulk probably shouldn't appear anywhere else in between, so i've kept it all in a single entry.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): showAchilles, Agamemnon, Ajax, Atalanta, Betty Ross, Dr. Strange, General 'Thunderbolt' Ross, Hector, Henry Pym, Hotshot, Hulk, Human Torch, Ironclad, Jacqueline Shorr, Jailbait, Leader, Marlo Chandler, Mr. Fantastic, Ogress, Omnibus, Paris, Prometheus (Pantheon), Rick Jones, Rock, Scarlet Witch, Soul Man, Suzie Berengetti, Ulysses, Vapor, Vector, Wong, X-Ray
Dr. Strange's "Morpheus" line refers to Neil Gaiman's Sandman, and one of Chris Bachalo's most visible projects before this was one of the Vertigo Death miniseries.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 23, 2016 12:15 PM
The panel with Hulk with blood on his hands (the HA HA HA one) is a repeat of a premonition shown in an earlier issue, that's why it looks a bit out of place since it's Chris Bachalo aping Dale Keown in order to recreate it.
Posted by: Vincent Valenti | April 23, 2016 1:17 PM
@Fnord The voice that the "Supreme Hydra" is talking to is Red Skull, who is organizing the New World Order.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | April 23, 2016 1:25 PM
Very bad of Marvel to kick Dale Keown off when he gave them notice he'd be doing Image. They should have let him finish the series to # 400.
I have an inordinate fondness for the U-Foes mainly because I think they are the best FF origin knock off (better than the super apes, and the Frightful Four did not get their powers that way) and their powers are very unique and challenging. Good to finally see them again, but I always wanted them to be more prominent (and be more than goons, Vector is supposed to be a successful businessman).
Peter David really overutilizes the healing aspect of the Hulk. It should be just that - healing, not regeneration. Especially super healing is Wolverine's thing, the Hulk's should be much less. It's one of the few bad legacies of David's writing.
Never liked the Rick Jones subplot here or what happened to Marlo.
Posted by: Chris | April 23, 2016 1:30 PM
Inasmuch as I've never seen Chris Bachalo do anything wrong, I'm not certain he was the right person to draw the last chapter of this issue. Of course, the problem is that Dale Keown was the right person and he left at the prodding of Todd McFarlane. Marvel did not remove Keown, he quit. This decision to leave 3 months early was to accomplish nothing except to kneecap this issue and the big moment that had been foreshadowed in HULK #382, which is why the panel with bloody hands Hulk comes off as a swipe instead of the call back it was supposed to be. Not Bachalo's fault.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | April 23, 2016 1:35 PM
Vincent & Brian - thanks. I've added a reference to Hulk #382 and put the equivalent scan on that entry. And i've added the Red Skull as a character appearing and added some thoughts about that in the entry.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 23, 2016 1:47 PM
Mark, the "Death" miniseries was actually Bachalo's next project after this. "The High Cost of Living" was published in Spring 1993 while these issues were from Fall 1992. He was also the regular artist on "Shade the Changing Man" at the time, so I'm not sure how he came to draw this issue too.
Posted by: ChrisW | April 23, 2016 1:58 PM
Agreed that Marvel was really short-sighted to kick Dale Keown off the series two issues early when he'd committed to penciling the entire story before leaving for Image. But that was the general trend at Marvel at this time. There seemed to be a heck of a lot of resentment towards the Image founders. Jim Valentino actually had Guardians of the Galaxy plotted out up to issue #51. He really wanted to stay on GotG as the writer *and* go to Image to write & draw Shadowhawk, but Marvel would not let him.
Posted by: Ben Herman | April 23, 2016 2:34 PM
Looking at the prophecy from 382 it seems PAD chickened out a bit. Where is the soul no longer sane? Originally the implication was that merged Hulk would lead to a truly torn apart and scary Banner/Hulk. The callback is very weaksauce even if he does basically kill the Leader here. Who never officially returns during David's run but then gets resurrected all the time in the stupidest ways afterwards.
Posted by: PeterA | April 23, 2016 3:15 PM
I must admit that the Leader's revamped look made it very hard for me to treat him seriously. He looks way too cartoonishly with that mushroom-like head of his...
Posted by: Piotr W | April 23, 2016 5:07 PM
That Leader redesign looked better when McFarlane did it.
I loved Bachalo's work here...I'm still getting used to his new style. Works very well for Dr. Strange.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | April 23, 2016 9:28 PM
I wasn't a big fan of Bachalo's early work, but I think he became one of Marvel's best artists by the late 90s when he started working on Uncanny X-men.
Posted by: Red Comet | April 23, 2016 10:13 PM
Must... resist... urge to make... One More Day jokes...
Posted by: Morgan Wick | April 24, 2016 1:03 AM
"Peter David really overutilizes the healing aspect of the Hulk. It should be just that - healing, not regeneration. Especially super healing is Wolverine's thing, the Hulk's should be much less."
Absolutely. The thing with Hulk should be that he's almost impossible to injure, but when he IS injured, he shouldn't just get better in a few minutes. Wouldn't it make the character more interesting if, say, after getting slashed by adamantium claws, he had to leap away for fear of bleeding to death if slashed again, and then had to stay out of action for a while? You could have him need a top-up dose of gamma rays, too. He could worry that turning back to Banner might be lethal, or that hulking out again might aggravate his injury. The main point is, though, he usually doesn't need to heal at all, so why bother giving him that power?
Posted by: Dave77 | April 24, 2016 10:22 PM
That reminds me of an early Hulk story where Banner got shot in the head, turned into the Hulk to survive then spends an issue or two doing his damnest to remain as the Hulk.
Posted by: david banes | April 25, 2016 4:42 AM
In #400, Hulk moans "you need me... the Pantheon need me... the Avengers need me". Would the latter count as a reference to Infinity Gauntlet/War? Was trying to work out if it was a reference to anything in particular.
Posted by: AF | June 15, 2017 11:50 AM
I think it is a reference to The Hulk having been one of the founders of The Avengers. He left in issue #2 after deciding his unstable personality was too dangerous for the rest of the team to function well.
Posted by: James | June 16, 2017 6:50 AM
Regarding the Hulk's healing power, Peter David built up the idea that the Hulk was a truly indestructible force, over the course of his writing the series. That could make for a boring character, but David made it work, by exploring the idea that this indestructibility is more of a hindrance (particularly to Bruce's mental health) than a benefit.
The healing definitely sees to be part of this. It peaked with the Future Imperfect story, where Hulk has even survived a nuclear war that wiped out almost all of the other superheroes. The same story arc also peaked with #400, with Bruce genuinely afraid of losing control and becoming a malevolent force.
Posted by: James | June 16, 2017 6:59 AM
How does that translate to the Avengers needing him thouh? Betty and the Pantheon both are wanting his time and attention right then and there and to lump them in with a metaphorical allusion doesn't make any sense?
Posted by: AF | June 16, 2017 5:52 PM
It could have been a reference to the Infinity Gauntlet series. I don't know for sure. I remember thinking it was a reference to the Hulk having been a founder of the Avengers, because they were the only team other than The Pantheon that included The Hulk as a member (The Defenders not counting, as they were never an official team).
PeterA - I've wondered if Keown leaving the book affected how David planned to pay off Delphi's prophecy. As it is, I thought the art in #400 looked very rushed and atypically messy for the book at the time. Peter David often wrote to the strengths of whoever the penciler was (Purves, McFarlane, Keowen), even fill-in artists (Sam Keith), and that seemed to be missing here. I definitely remember thinking that the story seemed "off," as if it wasn't quite what was intended, though I couldn't put my finger on the reason why I thought that way.
Posted by: James | June 19, 2017 8:24 AM
I take it to be a general reference to the Avengers calling on the Hulk a fair amount recently (Evolutionary War, Atlantis Attacks, the Infinities).
Posted by: fnord12 | June 28, 2017 9:12 PM
Comments are now closed.
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