Issue(s): Hulk #223, Hulk #224, Hulk #225, Hulk #226
...and Banner rather optimistically decides this means he's cured of the Hulk forever. He gets his old pilot friend Spad McCraken to fly him to Gamma Base so he can give the news, but it turns out that mysterious stranger that wandered in from the desert was actually the Leader in his Sam Sterns form (although he looked very different from the previous times we saw Sam), and he's now taken over the base, with Samson and Thunderbolt Ross held prisoner.
Left alone in the Gamma Base lab, Samson and Ross subject Banner to gamma radiation in order to make him the Hulk again. Meanwhile the Leader uses Gamma Base computers to attempt to take over all the computers in the world, with the help of his own superintelligent computer, Omnivac. When Banner does become the Hulk again, Doc Samson tricks the Hulk instead of just explaining the situation to him. The Hulk goes off and smashes the Leader, after a brief setback fighting against the Leader's Kinetron Mitts, which reflect the Hulk's blows back at him.
The Hulk doesn't care, he just keeps hitting harder, and eventually destroys the gloves and the Leader apparently disintegrates as he attempts to teleport away before Omnivac is fully ready for him.
The Hulk immediately turns around and attacks Samson for attacking him earlier. After smashing just about everyone at Gamma Base, the Hulk jumps off and winds up at Banner's alma matter, the Desert State University. The Hulk has a flashback about a girl named Sally who loved Bruce back in college. His old professor Dr. Weller shows up to try and reach Banner inside the Hulk but it doesn't work. However, an imposing statue of Socrates with a plaque saying "Know thyself" somehow reaches the Hulk and causes him to revert to Banner.
Samson shows up to take Banner back to the base.
The Leader plot is fairly standard stuff, although it's interesting to see Stern bring back a number of the devices that were used in old episodes of the Hulk during the battles (see references below).
The Hulk's reaction to Samson thinking he had to trick him to get him to help was done very well. Issue #226 is the real gem, though, using aspects of Banner's past to begin to delve into the Hulk's psychology. Stern will continue down this route for a while further, actually using Samson as a psychiatrist for a change. Sal Buscema's art is nice on the Hulk, as always.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Leader says that after he defeats the Hulk he'll have no problem defeating the Avengers or the 'scattered members' of the Fantastic Four, placing this during the FF breakup between Fantastic Four #188-201. As for the Hulk, he starts this issue roaming free, so it's safe to put Hulk appearances in between issue #222 and this issue, but starting with the end of this arc he is living at Gamma Base until issue #229, so no appearances in other books (i.e., the Defenders) should occur in between.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showApril Sommers, Captain Bowman, Clay Quartermain, Doc Samson, General 'Thunderbolt' Ross, Hulk, Jim Wilson, Kroptokin the Great, Leader, Omnivac, Spad McCraken
That is a nice touch of Stern's bringing back old devices of past issues.
Posted by: david banes | April 10, 2014 5:11 PM
It's probably pertinent to note that Banner's re-exposure to Gamma Rays in these issues was done without his consent by Samson and Ross. Samson pronounced him "dying" after feedback from the failed attempt to use the Hulk robot knocked Banner out.
Posted by: Brian C. Saunders | May 22, 2016 5:31 PM
Wow---I was literally just about to make the same point. Thanks, Brian!
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | May 30, 2016 9:56 AM
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