Issue(s): Hulk #424, Hulk #425
We also learn that Achilles has been acting as Agamemnon's hitman.
But the trial is cut short when it turns out that Agamemnon has activated a contingency plan: the "Endless Knights".
A lot of issue #424 is taken up with a virtual reality training fight between the Hulk and Ulysses-as-the-Thing, and there's also a character scene with Betty talking with Cassiopeia about needing to take a vacation with her husband. The double-sized "special 425th" issue has the first half penciled by outgoing artist Gary Frank and the second half penciled by the book's new penciler, Liam Sharp (who previously made a big splash with his work on Death's Head II at Marvel UK).
Agamemnon compares the Knights to the Asgardian Destroyer and also says that they're an offshoot of a project called "War Zone", which the Hulk previously encountered in Vegas.
In anticipation of the attack, the Hulk sends Betty away...
...and the Pantheon Mount is evacuated.
The Hulk contacts Doc Samson and asks him to look after Betty. In addition to the built-up threat of the Endless Knights, the Hulk says he feels things are going wrong for him.
Betty is driven to Samson by Prometheus. Samson recognizes Prometheus and grabs him, not sure what is going on, and Betty uses the opportunity to steal Prometheus' car and head back to the Mount.
A final farewell panel from Gary Frank before the Endless Knights are revealed.
Then... suddenly... Liam Sharp.
The Knights turn out to be undead former Pantheon members.
Agamemnon tries to escape in the confusion, but in a scene making a nod to the idea that Agamemnon was Bucky, he's seemingly killed by Atalanta.
With his death, the Endless Knights collapse and the mount explodes.
Achilles and Ulysses have been fighting separately from the main fight, and since Achilles is invulnerable, it's not going well for Ulysses. Ulysses is pinned by the rubble of the explosion. He uses his shield to block a gunshot from Achilles, but the ricochet hits the returning Betty. When the Hulk sees that, he becomes super-charged with rage.
But it has the opposite of the expected effect. The Hulk changes back into Bruce Banner (for the first time in about five years).
But the lingering effect of the Hulk's gamma radiation still makes Achilles vulnerable, and he's killed by Ulysses.
So a pretty big change in direction for the series. First of course, we have the very different art style of Liam Sharp. In terms of set-up, we have the end of the Pantheon. The Pantheon characters - or some of them - will still occasionally appear, but the Mount is destroyed and the revelations about Agamemnon kind of call the whole organization into question. And most importantly for readers, the Hulk won't be leading it. Finally, of course, we have the changes in the Hulk triggered by the life-threatening injury to Betty. But more on that next time.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Hulk has been delaying Agamemnon's trial, so time can pass and the Hulk can appear elsewhere between last arc and this one. Hulk will be a patient at a mental hospital at the start of next issue, so he shouldn't appear elsewhere in between. Betty will be shown to be in surgery in that issue, but it's emergency surgery after she'd already been stabilized. And Doc Samson says he hasn't slept for 42 hours, but again, we don't know the starting point for that.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showAchilles, Agamemnon, Ajax, Atalanta, Betty Ross, Cassiopeia, Doc Samson, Hector, Hulk, Jason (Pantheon), Paris, Prometheus (Pantheon), Ulysses
Samson could have jumped after the car!
Posted by: VtCG | February 13, 2018 10:50 AM
For something that built up over so many years, I thought the Fall of the Pantheon felt rushed and anticlimactic. Agamemnon has no better escape plan than jumping on a tiny, tiny airplane? And the "we're fighting his dead children" reveal should have been built up more. It almost flew by as an afterthought. Part of the problem, I guess, is that I never cared about any of the Pantheon as characters.
Posted by: Andrew | February 13, 2018 12:35 PM
Incredible Hulk #300-425 were the best issues of this series. My interest begins to die after this. The departure of Gary Frank causes a steep drop in the quality of this series. I know longer like Peter David's writing. The post-Onslaught issues would improve, but then the series ended and was relaunched. I didn't like the relaunched series, and my fandom of the Hulk mostly ended.
Posted by: Steven | February 13, 2018 12:43 PM
Agreed. There were a few bright spots, but there are no really gems until Pak comes on. (I give Bruce Jones credit for an intriguing run, but I think everything he wrote was retconned out of existence. fnord may skip over it entirely.)
Posted by: Andrew | February 13, 2018 1:16 PM
I disagree. Once Kubert arrives, the writing really improves and remains great until David’s final issue.
Posted by: Lucas | February 13, 2018 2:59 PM
Teeny Head Hulk is so distracting
Posted by: Bob | February 13, 2018 11:28 PM
How could the Hulk revert to Bruce Banner? I always thought that this “Doctor” version of the Hulk was an amalgam of Banner, Green and Grey Hulks, which meant that there was no more reverting back or turning into someone.
Posted by: Lecen | February 14, 2018 8:23 AM
This I remember. Kind of. I remember the end and the beginning, but not the dead cyborgs. But I do now.
I was glad to see the Pantheon go, but definitely disappointed by the conclusion. I just didn't care. The story was meh. The conclusion of a four year story arc should be more impressive. Of course a lot of that is from me never liking the Pantheon to begin with, and since I never cared for these characters I had no emotional response to seeing them leave.
But there is a much bigger problem. Nothing in the past four years was convincing that there was a legitimate reason for Agamemnon to recruit the Hulk to begin with - an obvious and huge exception to the Pantheon's membership. Hulk certainly was never an obvious candidate, the Pantheon really did not seem to need his power, and bringing in an outsider only made it more likely that Agamemnon's control would be lost. So it just leaves me scratching my head. What was the purpose?
PAD obviously had big plans for the group and Hulk's tenure with the team, but I think there were some major conceptual errors in the long term story arc that he could never overcome.
Posted by: Chris | February 14, 2018 7:51 PM
Have any creators done anything with The Pantheon since this run? I can't recall anything but I've also been away from the current scene for a decade.
Posted by: Bigvis497 | February 14, 2018 9:11 PM
I liked the Pantheon, but I agree this was a letdown of an ending. David seems to have been setting up his “Hell on Earth” mega-plot, though, which if it come to fruition as originally intended (instead of in X-Factor a decade later) might have made sense of some seemingly unsolved mysteries. It would have had something to do with Mephisto, Satannish, resurrection technologies (seen here and with the Leader in issue 400), “soulless” General Ross, Betty’s death, etc. As it is, David solves one longstanding minor mystery here by revealing Warzone as a Pantheon project..
David really was Claremont’s equal in long-range plotting, but he did it in ways that weren’t always obvious. Presumably Agamemnon’s enlistment of the Hulk for the Pantheon would have made more sense if David had had the chance to complete his mega-arc.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | February 15, 2018 4:01 AM
Fnord, don't you think that the final hint about Aggie's true identity should be addressed in the post? Given that you're mentioning that aeroplane nod....
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | February 15, 2018 10:27 AM
The biggest problem is that it's never really clear what Agammemnon's overall purpose for the Pantheon is or has been. They clearly do (or did) humanitarian work of some kind, but he's also running secret experiments like the Warzone and the less Knights that have a sinister tinge, and here it seems like he just manipulates people for the hell of it. And it's never explained why a half-Asgardian demigod would give his descendants the names of Greek mortal heroes.
In retrospect, the Pantheon was the Merged Hulk's version of what Vegas was to the Grey/Fixit Hulk, a setting that mirrored his psychology. The Pantheon gives the Merged Hulk a backdrop for his egotism and desire to run away from his real life and problems savage; it has to turn rotten and fall apart to mirror the way his denial is undermining his psychological state, and the members have to be powerful to keep up with him.
It works best when the psychological mirroring is clearest, as with the Achilles-Atalanta-Ajax conflict mirroring the Merged Hulk-Betty-Savage Hulk setup. Atalanta's relationship to Vali can even be paralleled to Betty's conflicts with her father. And of course the Mount implodes, haunted by the not-quite-dead past, just as the Hulk's traumas come back and splinter his personality again. So the psychological angle still works well. But almost everything outside of the psychological metaphor seems bolted on and winds up underdeveloped. It lacks the leanness and discipline of the Vegas stuff.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | March 27, 2018 6:46 AM
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