Issue(s): Hulk #413, Hulk #414, Hulk #415, Hulk #416
The story begins with the alien Trauma (or Trow-Mah, although whether that's more or less cheesey is debateable) begging his father, the emperor of the Troyjans, to allow him to use the full power of their empire to go after Atalanta again. Trauma's father Armageddon (Arm'chedon) opposes the action but says that he can deny his son nothing.
Meanwhile, the Hulk is at a therapy session with Doc Samson, although once again via hologram, to Samson's dismay. Samson is seeing real problems with the Hulk's emotional state, but he can't get the Hulk to acknowledge that there's a problem. Samson has a case against the Hulk that is grounded in past events (see References), and the scene is a nice way of establishing that there's something going on with the Hulk. While, in the moment (and especially in the age of the Punisher and the like) we may not even realize that there's a problem with the Hulk's actions, when Samson (PAD) puts it all together, it's clear that it's building to something.
Rick shows up after Hulk leaves, and Samson tries to get him to reveal the location of the Pantheon's base, so Samson can go there and try to convince the Hulk to accept his help. Rick refuses to betray the Hulk's trust. Samson tries to convince Rick by telling him that the Avengers and other heroes have been giving him the cold shoulder regarding his wedding because of his association with the Hulk.
Note also the jokey dismissal of Amazing Spider-Man #381-382 (there's some discussion of this in the comments of that entry, but in terms of what's in-story here, i wouldn't take it too seriously).
Later, the Hulk is in a training session with Atalanta (hey, it's Death's Head II in an American comic! And DC's Doomsday.).
He pisses Atalanta off by saying that she and Achilles need to either break off their relationship (which upsets Ajax) or transfer out of the Pantheon Mound.
Meanwhile, Marlo and Betty are talking about Marlo's upcoming marriage with Rick and Betty's relationship with Hulk.
Note the line about Rick's future need for a room full of souvenirs, a jokey nod to Future Imperfect.
Rick and Atalanta both wind up at the site of the gamma bomb explosion where the Hulk was born.
Trauma shows up while they are there. While Rick and Atalanta are talking and Trauma is arriving, there are some jokey roadrunner/coyote scenes (same ones from Hulk #362?).
Trauma easily handles Atalanta and Rick.
The Hulk shows up to try to stop Trauma, but the Hulk is shot up and Trauma gets away with Atalanta. And that makes Hulk mad. Smashing mad!
The Hulk gets it together by the beginning of the next issue (#414), and has the Pantheon "throw together" a giant spaceship to go after Trauma. I should mention that a Pantheon member Cassiopeia has rejoined the team. She appeared in the Pantheon history back-up feature, but this is her first present day appearance.
Rick is left behind, with the Hulk saying that he has to be responsible now that Rick is marrying Marlo. Rick resents that, and he and Marlo get into a fight. In the aftermath of that, Dr. Strange shows up to decline the wedding invitation.
The Pantheon head into space ("Starlin Shunt Overdrive engaged. We're zoning.") while Atalanta runs wild on Trauma's ship, trying to escape imprisonment. It's said that Trauma is flying close to the Troyjan empire's border with the Shi'ar. The Pantheon catch up with Trauma, but Hulk is once again defeated by Trauma and left floating in space. The rest of the Pantheon's boarding party is captured. And Achilles betrays the Hulk, knocking out Prometheus to prevent him from helping the Hulk.
Luckily, Dr. Strange alerted the Silver Surfer to the fact that the Hulk was in space, so the Surfer shows up to rescue the Hulk. But the Surfer and the Hulk are both caught in the warp field when Trauma warps away. Surfer and the Hulk wind up with the Starjammers.
We check in with Trauma's father, Armageddon, who is pleasantly surprised that his son hasn't screwed things up.
Note that gloved raccoon among Armageddon's trophies. Peter David got requests to have Rocket reappear in the Hulk series, and this was his response. In 1994, it made sense to assume that Rocket Raccoon was a mostly forgotten novelty and that it would be fun to show that he'd been killed. Nowadays, it looks short sighted.
The Hulk and the Starjammers catch up with the Troyjans, and one thing i really like is Peter David showing the Hulk being impressed by the Silver Surfer.
The Hulk is rarely impressed by anything, so that's a high compliment. The characters have worked together before, of course, but rarely does the Surfer get to cut loose (and it's unclear how much the Hulk remembers from his Hulk Smash days anyway).
Some more fun moments during the fighting:
The group eventually let themselves get arrested, reasoning that they'll just be brought to Armageddon and Trauma anyway.
Meanwhile, Armageddon reveals that the Pantheon's immortality comes from technology provided by the Troyjans. The Pantheon always believed that Agamemnon was a god, and their immortality stemmed from being his descendants. But it turns to have really come from an agreement with the Troyjans. And that agreement came with a provision that the Troyjans could reclaim any of Armageddon's descendants for any purpose. And if Atalanta doesn't go along with it, the Troyjans can revoke the tech that makes them immortal.
When the Hulk's team catches up, we learn that Armageddon can channel the power cosmic.
But Hulk is able to goad Trauma into a duel for Atalanta. The father denies his son nothing, even when it's obviously stupid.
Meanwhile, with some help from Cassiopeia, the Silver Surfer is able to recover.
PAD, write Silver Surfer!
Hulk kills Trauma (Doc Samson ain't gonna like that!).
As Trauma dies, he releases everyone.
Again, the father denies his son nothing, and begrudgingly lets everyone go.
Even if you don't care specifically about the Pantheon and/or the Troyjans, it's a good story with a lot of fun and cool moments and good characterization. Armageddon will appear again though, and he even appears in a Hulk(s) story outside of David's run.
In issue #415, we see a scene repeated from Hulk: Future Imperfect.
This establishes where Future Imperfect (cover dated Dec 92-Jan 93) takes place in the Hulk's regular series.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 277,513. Single issue closest to filing date = 206,900.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Hulk: Future Imperfect takes place soon after this. Regarding Dr. Strange's appearance, note that we're supposed to think he looks different. It seems like this is supposed to acknowledge Dr. Strange's changed status quo with maybe Peter David and/or Gary Frank not getting the memo on what was meant to be different. So i'm just assuming this is a post-Siege of Darkness appearance with Dr. Strange using magic to project a version of himself to decline the invitation and keep the Hulk from searching for him.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAchilles, Armageddon, Atalanta, Betty Ross, Cassiopeia, Ch'od, Corsair, Doc Samson, Dr. Strange, Hector, Hepzibah, Hulk, Janis Jones, Marlo Chandler, Paris, Prometheus (Pantheon), Raza Longknife, Rick Jones, Sikorsky, Silver Surfer, Trauma, Ulysses
I enjoyed PAD's writing, and by this time Hulk was the ONLY Marvel comic I was still collecting. But I must admit I have very little recollection of anything that happened during Gary Frank's run (not any knock on him, his art is very good, just the time period in question). As much as I like his characterization and intelligence, I just don't find David's plots and villains (and non-normal supporting cast) very interesting. The Pantheon is boring, and I don't even remember Trauma and his family/allies. Even with the issues here to remind me, I only have a semblance of "Yeah, I guess I remember this." PAD is just much more enamored about his pet creations than I am. For all his many strengths, PAD just can't create good new characters. (Another problem is his dismissive portrayal of many great existing characters - there is no reason why the Abomination shouldn't be as scary as the Maestro). So while I enjoyed this in real time, I only have sketchy things of what happened until PAD's last issues with a few exceptions.
Posted by: Chris | September 19, 2017 7:06 PM
Chris, I have the same experience with these issues as you do right down to this being the only Marvel title that I was getting at the time. I do have very fond memories of the next issue and some memories of the wedding issue though.
Posted by: Mizark | September 19, 2017 7:40 PM
The Pantheon has potential - he bothered to give all of them individual personalities and agendas and relationships and all that soap opera stuff Stan Lee pioneered in comics. Just, writing soap opera isn't one of David's great gifts, and no one better at it ever tried. AFAIK, they've been left as he left them, pretty much, and, like Gruenwald's Serpent Society, I'd love to see the right writer dust them off and run with it...
Posted by: BU | September 20, 2017 2:17 PM
Surprised that people found this story unmemorable, my reaction to this are much the same as Fnord's. (Though again, I'm another person who was buying nothing other than Hulk at this point... who knew there were so many of us?)
Also, I think PAD's treatment of Abomination actually treated him better than anyone had since his first few appearances. Mantlo and others had used Abomination as a cowardly, completely diminished threat. PAD gave Abomination a great speech about his admiration for the green Hulk compared to the grey Hulk, then fleshed out his character with the classic story about his estranged wife. So he never used Abomination as a major physical threat, but that boat had sailed long before PAD, and he gave Blonsky more character than anyone had before.
As for this arc, Samson's confrontation with Bruce at the start here stuck in my head for years, in particular the "if the universe was shrinking" metaphor for Bruce's deterioration in mental health. Plus other scenes of action and humour, with Corsair's "not every doctor can look nice and normal like you" line being among the favourites.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | September 25, 2017 6:07 PM
I do think the absolute peak PAD years on Hulk end with issue #400, but I think #401-420 (with the exception of Future Imperfect) are on a plateau slightly lower Where all the constant innovations of his first few years on the title have cooled considerably, but the comics are still very good for the most part and well above average (especially for the time) at worst.
Agreed that the Pantheon themselves are not as interesting as they could have been, though I do believe the quality takes another dip after they are gone, so I'm not sure it's just the Pantheon to blame, I think it's more that few comics writers have stayed on the same comic this long without a dip in quality.
Also, I think the Pantheon are often used as examples of PAD's inability to create interesting new characters or villains. I think it is true that for the most part memorable character design is not one of his strengths, but in contrast he has done great work adding psychological insights to existing characters - he created entirely new dynamics between Bruce and the Hulk(s), gave villains like Abomination & Mr Hyde unsuspected depths, and essentially created whole characters out of previously vague templates like the X-Factor cast (Madrox, Guido etc, plus the perfect explanation for Quicksilver's bad attitude) and Justice (the New Universe comic where he set up an entire new character & cast after the previous fantasy origin was realised to be totally at odds with the intended concept of the New U).
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | September 25, 2017 6:25 PM
It's very apparent that young adult fans easing out of monthly comics for a time did buy this one title, appealing for its humor and what Third calls 'psychological implications.' I love Hulk's non-Pantheon supporting cast. I think the book's so generally good, we kinda patiently waited for the Pantheon be more. Achilles got a good early story. I missed this wrap-up but this seems an unusually good use of Silverado. Two fun Rick-centric tales coming up and this era heads into its somewhat messy end. At least a subtle arc underpins these four years; I can't think of any solo character of those times who better benefits from an approach like the 3 primary arcs of David's first roughly one hundred issues.
Posted by: Cecil Disharoon | January 11, 2018 12:13 AM
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