Issue(s): Hulk #363
Dr. Doom convinces the Grey Gargoyle to go after the Hulk.
The Grey Gargoyle also initially thinks the "villain alliance" seems absurd, but his ego gets the best of him and he goes along with it.
Bruce Banner, meanwhile, is getting into a tight spot with the operator of the Yucca Flats nuclear research facility where he works.
The doctor's name is Sterns, which should set off alarm bells for those of us who know the Leader's civilian name. Sterns works out an arrangement for Banner where he's allowed to use the facility for his own work if he'll help Sterns with his.
Sterns also has some interesting, and concerning, thoughts for Bruce. Bruce is worried about how his radioactivity might affect a child (remember that Bruce isn't aware of Betty's miscarriage), but Sterns has a larger thought: how does Bruce transform into the Hulk and then change back to "normal", with no visible effects of gamma radiation. Every other "radiation-affected" individual that Bruce knows was made permanently different, but Bruce is perfectly normal when he's not the Hulk. "Which would mean...", thinks Bruce, "that the norm... would be the Hulk. Which would mean all these years that he claimed I shouldn't exist... he was right."
While pondering that on his way home, Bruce is pulled over, but the cop is really the Grey Gargoyle in disguise.
But no, it's not that simple.
Despite the transformation, the Hulk is still stone, and the Gargoyle isn't even sure if the Hulk really reached forward or if it was just momentum from the car stopping. So he stops at a construction site and grabs a jackhammer, intending to bust up the Hulk statue.
I am assuming that the flesh-toned hand above is a coloring error (not the first time when dealing with the Grey Gargoyle), but there is a very slight chance that it's intentional. At the very beginning of this issue, the Hulk is caught mid-transformation while jumping around the desert deep in thought, not realizing it's dawn.
I'd still put the odds at 99% that the scene with him grabbing the jackhammer with a non-stone hand is unintentional (and i'll update this if a later lettercol confirms) but that opening scene adds just enough doubt to make me not 100% sure. Confusing!
The Hulk keeps coming at the Gargoyle despite still being made of stone. He attributes it to his healing factor.
In the end he twists the Grey Gargoyle's hand backwards and tells him he better do something about it before the Gargoyle's power wears off. And he makes some more fun of Acts of Vengeance in the process.
I think the Grey Gargoyle, who has previously fought Thor and the Avengers, is an interesting opponent for the Hulk. And, especially since the Hulk is currently at a lower power level, maybe the Gargoyle should have had a better showing. But i do like my Grey Hulk cruel and abusive. And it's not so much that the Hulk has an easy time of it; it's really just that he's got a lot of bluster, which in turn terrifies the Gargoyle on top of the fact that his powers are not working as expected. I think it's a fun encounter.
And i do love that Peter David uses the Hulk to express his opinions on Acts of Vengeance, even while turning in a perfectly in-theme chapter of it. It actually makes me realize how staid and serious Spider-Man has become recently; this sort of thing used to be his (and the Thing's) purview: the point of view character that laughs along at the weird and unbelievable stuff along with the reader. So i'm glad to see the Hulk fulfilling that role at this time, albeit in a nastier way.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: I'm placing this before Avengers #311 to increase the number of random super-villain attacks Peggy Carter can be reporting to Quasar in that issue. I'm not sure if a fight between the Hulk and the Grey Gargoyle out in the desert would have been noticed by the Avengers staff, but i'll take what i can get. I'll also note that the Hulk is still thought to be dead at this point (based on an altercation between the Grey Gargoyle and an airline security officer on the plane ride to Las Vegas).
Crossover: Acts of Vengeance
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I wonder if PAD confirming that the Hulk was still thought to be dead was a reaction to the scene in Iron Man 247 where a bystander correctly identifies the Hulk.
Posted by: Michael | March 25, 2015 7:57 PM
I gave the first Phil Sterns appearance to issue #362.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 25, 2015 8:54 PM
Doom's comment that he owns a few pieces of the Grey Gargoyle's art is horrifying if you consider what we learned about the Gargoyle's "art" in his previous appearance.
Also, this story is pretty much the last time anyone uses the "artistic immortality" angle with the Gargoyle.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 7, 2015 8:34 AM
I think when the Hulk breaks the jackhammer his arm is still partly immobile, so he breaks it by flicking his wrist. This moves his knuckles towards the camera, so one's eye misreads the arm as having a thinner wrist.
On my computer the hand looks more purple than flesh-coloured. Its colouring could be just an accident - purple for grey - or it could be the colourist was trying to show the arm was coming back to life. In the following panels he's shown partly blue, partly grey to represent him de-petrifying.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | November 8, 2015 8:45 AM
Super-healing really shouldn't help when every atom in your body is transmuted simultaneously. (Is Wolverine exempt from the Gargoyle's petrification as well?) I suppose Banner becoming the Hulk might conceivably have broken the spell though.
Posted by: Oliver_C | May 20, 2016 11:57 AM
This was the last issue with a Dutch translation that was published in Belgium and the Netherlands by Juniorpress.
Posted by: Johan Mattheeuws | December 25, 2016 12:36 PM
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