At the end of the last chapter Bruce and Betty finally reconciled, and now I must ruin this touching scene by bringing up another of Duursema's shortcomings; she doesn't like to finish what she starts. Where is the rest of Bruce's leg? Or the rest of his arm in this picture? And in the second panel Betty's right eye is misshapen, like she only drew what was shown instead of drawing the full eye and then erasing the part behind Bruce's face.
When they get back to Rick's apartment to try to figure out what happened to him, they find an answering machine message from Captain America mentioning his visits to the Fantastic Four and Henry Pym.
Haha, no, Rick wasn't planning on having chilled old man brains for dessert like an even more fucked up version of that one Temple of Doom scene. It's just Aggy, who wants to talk to Bruce now that Betty's settled him down. As it turns out, he only told the Leader he'd help him fight off the incoming Hydra agents to get him to fuck off and leave the Mount alone, and he has every intention of letting Bruce go knock his inflated head off.
And as luck would have it, Rick, Leader, and Betty's father are all chilling in Freehold, a city Sterns built under a glacier. One's giving an incredibly wordy lecture on the Kirlian aura, one is trying to comprehend it, and one is drooling in a chair. Guess which is which.
If you don't want to read all of this, Sterns tried to revive Ross after he died at the Gamma base (the reason he gives is, literally, "just 'cause"), but he hadn't perfected the process yet and Ross' soul was long gone, so his body is now just a mindless shell. But with the help of Soul Man, a Gamma-powered priest, he assures Rick that he can bring Marlo back to life in both body and soul. At first Rick is skeptical, but after deciding he doesn't want to live without Marlo he eventually accepts Sterns' offer.
The second half of issue #400 is by a different artist, Chris Bachalo, and it's... damn. Duursema could stand to put more time into her work, but Bachalo's art is just dumb. The characters are all stretchy like they're made out of putty, and when Bruce comes crashing into Freehold to give the Leader what for and lands in front of a bunch of Hydra soldiers, it looks more like he crashed a Tick cosplay party.
Yes, I know the Tick wears blue tights, which just makes it all the more baffling that every one of those Hydra grunts somehow looks like him.
Though I do love that one that popped his head out of his tank to scowl at the Hulk.
Oh, and all that stuff the Leader told Rick about the Kirlian aura and the soul? It was bullshit and he just wants to steal Soul Man's power for himself.
And I really wish they'd stop setting the panels at funny angles. It makes my scans look bad.
Bruce begrudgingly yields to Rick's pleas to buy the Leader some time while he helps Marlo, but it doesn't take long for him to get fed up with the feeling of being used. Shortly after Soul Man starts reviving Marlo, Bruce rips through the Leader's lab, damages the machinery connected to Marlo, and gets the Leader shot by Redeemer. When Leader threatens to kill Bruce for his insolence, Bruce doesn't take it very seriously.
Huh, is that what Delphi was getting worked up over?
Bruce leaves Sterns to bleed out on the floor while he smashes Redeemer's helmet open, revealing Ross's face. As Leader vacates Marlo from the crystal chamber and is about to seal himself in, Bruce throws Ross against the crystal chamber, creating a massive explosion that kills the Leader... um, rekills Ross, and mortally wounds Soul Man. Rick escapes with Marlo, but finds she's a vegetable just like Ross was. As Bruce surveys the wreckage, both he and Rick simultaneously realize they both did a couple of stupids.
Granted, with some inside information the reader can figure that they didn't fuck up nearly as much as they think they did - the Hulk foiled the Leader's plans at gaining omnipotence, and Marlo... well, that's a story we'll get to soon enough.
Duursema comes back for issue #401, where the Hulk appears to have had his eyes glued shut.
And the colorist might be the one to blame here, but it looks the door was blocked by a giant brown cracker or one of those Japanese paper walls or something that Rick had to break through to get into the apartment. And holy fuck, how big is Bruce in that last panel? Maybe Betty should have been spending less time worrying about Bruce's reaction if she said something that upset him and more time worrying about getting accidentally stepped on.
After Betty pulls herself together and gets the story on what happen, the three discuss what to do with Marlo while Rick tries to get her to drink a cup of soup - Betty says she needs to be taken to professionals, Bruce agrees with Betty, and Rick throws a temper tantrum.
Says the one who pretended to be God with the Abomination.
Bruce informs Rick that he doesn't appreciate him bringing Betty into this, which just makes Rick feel even worse. Bruce tries to calm Rick back down and assures him that they'll work something out together, but then Aggy appears wanting one last chat with Bruce. Bruce leaves for the Mount, and Rick goes back inside where Betty is getting Marlo to eat the soup (wait, after scraping it off the floor?) using a trick she learned at her job where you rub a baby behind its ear to make it eat... which I haven't been able to find anything about on Google or Bing, so I think Peter David pulled that one out of his ass.
And for fuck's sake, Duursema, is Bruce one-and-a-half heads taller than Rick or three? Make up your mind.
When Bruce gets to Agamemnon's inner sanctum, Aggy explains he recruited Bruce into the Pantheon in the first place because he... wants to take a vacation, and thought an outside party should take over in his absence? Bruce is as puzzled by this as you probably are, and to earn Bruce's trust Aggy reveals himself to be a thousand-year-old teenager.
And wouldn't you know, Bruce's first task as boss of the Pantheon is to head to the Amazon to get the shit beaten out of him by a giant lumberjack whose identity is a mystery to absolutely nobody except Bruce.
Seriously though, it's the Juggernaut. And he's actually working for Red Skull, who wants the Hulk unconscious rather than killed.
So that's the end of Duursema's time on the book, and Gary Frank comes on as the main penciler for the Hulk. This is the Hulk most gamers are probably familiar with, being the style Capcom used in the first few Marvel fighting games. In fact the artwork from the Hulk's cutscenes in Marvel Superheroes (save one) are modified from Frank's artwork, which I'll showcase where appropriate (Marvel Super Heroes screens courtesy of Rage Quitter and his shrine).
What might be a bit stranger to pick up on is that Gary Frank loves to draw the Hulk getting his clothes torn off. Yeah, Bruce tearing his shirt off when he Hulked out is part of the mythos, and even when he isn't changing between scrawny scientist and half-ton behemoth Keown was no stranger to occasionally sexing Bruce up (oh mercy, is it just me or is it getting hot in here?), but for fuck's sake, there's at least three instances of the Hulk hitting something so hard the recoil tears his own shirt off off.
Not that I'm complaining... just, you know... pointing it out...
*cough* Um, to bring this back on track, Bruce wakes up to a case of deja vu, only it's him in the restraints and Red Skull on the ground.
Now, in several of the following issues they bring in villains who are already established in the Hulk mythos, but I didn't know jack about them. In fact, going into these books the only Hulk villains I was aware of were the Abomination and the Leader, and Bruce's father if you count him. The first guy I got to meet is Mentallo, a low-class psychic whose abilities are limited reading minds and projecting mental images. But with the help of Hydra technology, Red Skull thinks he can mentally enslave the Hulk. After this hilarious scene, Mentallo tries to intimidate Bruce with an army of supervillains, which doesn't work at all.
Failing that, Mentallo digs deeper looking for a way to break Bruce, and uncovers the man who broke him in the first place.
As a result, when the Avengers (I dunno, that's what they call themselves, even though there's no Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, or... um, Hulk among them) arrive in the Amazon to investigate the same disturbance Bruce originally came down for, they find themselves up against not one but two unstoppable forces.
While this is all going on, Leonard is donning his Chinese knockoff Kenshiro costume and paying Rick a visit, primarily to talk with him about Marlo, but also to get him to take a bloody shower for the first time in days. Except then he decides to do them at the same time, which yes, makes for some artsy imagery when Leonard goes to water the plants and gets with another bombshell...
... but it also makes it hard to tell what exactly is going on and where the two are in relation to each other. What, are they shouting to hear each other through the walls and running water? And assuming the neighbors aren't going to hear Rick's confession to killing Totally-Not-Saddam-Hussein?
And um, nice placement of Rick's speech bubble in that lower left panel, there.
So while her husband is off in the Amazon throwing entire trees around like a fussy child who doesn't want to eat his broccoli, Betty is trying to do something mundane, like grocery shopping. It doesn't work.
Meanwhile, a Hydra scientist with a Ladd Spencer haircut is monitoring something in a tank.
Meanwhile, the fight with the Juggernaut-Hulk tag-team works about as well as you expect for the Avengers, and all they can really do to Bruce is gratuitously slice his shirt open. Bruce is ready to crush one of them like a pinata, when the Juggernaut gets too excited and does something Bruce's father never would have done...
... and ruins everything for himself.
And speaking of ruining, it's a shame that after Red Skull was nice enough to give him that slick hairdo and a new pair of overalls, Bruce went and messed up both. Tsk tsk.
Hulk swats the Juggernaut's helmet off and realizes he isn't his father (which I'll be first to admit does sound pretty stupid out of context). Mentallo tries to bring Bruce back under control by assaulting him with more nightmares of his father, but Bruce isn't taking anybody's shit anymore, and it blows up in everybody's face when Bruce breaking the hold unleashes a psychic wave that knocks the Juggernaut and most of the Avengers out cold, backfires on Mentallo, and wakes up whatever the hell the scientist was monitoring.
Before we delve into the next issue, I want to briefly talk about the cover. Over in one of her November 2013 Capsule Reviews, Flying Omelette watched a video about female superheroes that said you always see comic book covers with vulnerable women in the arms of men, but it's never the other way around. FO found one completely on accident, and the Hulk provides us with another one:
Granted, later in the series we will have a cover with the man holding the woman:
In all fairness, though, it would be rather difficult to have that one the other way around.
So, a couple of things are coming to a head here. First there's Marlo's brothers trying to get custody of her from Rick. They tried to take her directly, but after fighting aliens beside Captain America for so much of his life, Rick beat the utter shit out of both of them. The next step is to send a lawyer to Marlo and Betty's apartment to have a word with Rick. Rick's reaction to that is... well, they say a picture's worth a thousand words, or in this case a thousand confused stares.
Even Betty has to call Rick out on what he just said.
The second thing is, as you may have figured out from the cover of the book, a love triangle involving Atalanta, Ajax, and Achilles. So Ajax has been in the infirmary every since the U-Foes attacked the Mount and Vector left him with radiation burns, and without him around getting jealous whenever anyone so much as looks at her Atalanta has been spending more time with Achilles. Specifically, more time in his pants. Now, I'm sure you all are wondering the same thing I am: "Wait, aren't the members of the Pantheon related?" Yeeeeah, the books never actually address that. Another thing nobody mentions is that Achilles had a family that died in the Holocaust, and now he's banging his distant cousin behind his other distant cousin's back?
Well, Paris takes Atalanta's bedroom shenanigans as an invitation to start some mischief, convincing the doctor in the infirmary to release Ajax. You can guess where this is going.
For some reason, Leonard is back in Rick's apartment waiting to have a checkup with Bruce, and is about to head over to Marlo's apartment thinking Bruce is going to be a no-show when Bruce suddenly appears in the room. Leonard doesn't give his quiet entry much thought, but then Leonard doesn't notice anything else weird about Bruce's behavior.
Suddenly Bruce starts muttering about receiving a call, then tells Leonard he has to leave. Leonard tries to stop him, but his hand goes through Bruce and reveals him to be a hologram. Bruce is in fact back at the Mount, as was using the same projector Aggy used with the image of the old man. And good thing, because he can quickly intervene when Ajax goes on a rampage. Well, maybe not so good for Achilles who gets clobbered by Ajax as soon as Bruce and his Gamma aura enter the room, but fuck him.
Look, I know Ajax has the mental capacity of a child (which you'd think would crop up more often what with all the incest in the Pantheon), but when you're trying to have an emotional moment in a story, having somebody call somebody else a "doo-doo hed lyer" is never a good idea.
Atalanta tries to come clean with Ajax, about how she still loves Ajax but is in love with Achilles, which just makes Ajax want to AJAX SMASH her. But before he can go through with it Bruce tackles him through the side of the Mount.
But rather than coming back at Bruce, Ajax is taking his anger out on the side of a mountain with the intent of boulder-induced suicide. Bruce runs in to try to restrain him, but gets buried under the landslide along with Ajax. When the dust settles, Atalanta and Ulysses discover something completely unexpected.
After getting everybody back to the Mount and Achilles to the infirmary, Bruce gets a call from Betty informing him that another of his friends is having a meltdown, and since Rick's going to be easier to handle than Ajax, Bruce heads out. Unbeknownst to either of them, Betty's call could not have been better timed because things are about to redefine ugly in the dictionary.
I do find it strange that the police chief is more concerned about a potential media shitstorm than the fact Rick's best friend can tear apart a tank like it was tin foil. But that doesn't mean he's going to ignore the court order altogether, and has recruited Captain America to help them.
After an awkward moment and a dream that he probably doesn't want to tell Bruce about, Rick is woken up by Captain America knocking at the door. Cap tries to assure Rick that Marlo's family wants what's best for her and have picked out a lovely hospital for her, but Rick insists that Marlo is just hiding in her own body and that he can coax her out with games of Itsy Bitsy Spider. Captain America shakes his head and pins Rick while the police come in to take Marlo. To say Rick is in over his head is a bit of an understatement until the reinforcements show up.
Yeah, right Cap, what are the police going to do, handcuff him? And sweet shittin' shinola, I guess Duursema isn't the only person who can't remember that the Hulk is "only" seven-foot-six and not... dear lord, what would he be standing upright there, twelve?
When Cap tell him to choose between friends, Rick obviously sides with Bruce. Unfortunately, Bruce put his stupid hat on that morning, and when Cap realizes all he has to do is lure Bruce away from the apartment so the police can handle Rick, he easily provokes Bruce into doing exactly what he wanted him to.
Oh, and there's a bit of a running gag that starts here where a couple of Japanese tourists keep popping up around the Hulk, and it's cool that Marvel went through the trouble of having them speak real Japanese and not just gibberish. However, rather than translate what they're saying into English the footnotes just rewrite what they're saying in romaji. I can understand if they wanted to keep them as in-jokes to people who can read Japanese, but why bother with the romaji? Maybe it was for clarity, since the Japanese characters had to be hand-written and could stand to be more legible. My Japanese is a little rusty and I was never what you'd call fluent in it, but I'll try to translate them as best as I can. If anyone with a better grip on Japanese can offer better translations, please email me.
"Look, the new Hulk is very well drawn!" "Quick, take a picture!" Um, again, my translation may not be perfect, but that's the gist of it.
So Bruce has Captain America wrapped in a lamp post, and is getting ready to pound him when Cap's own Gamma-powered help arrives in the form of Doc Samson, who then proceeds to piss Bruce off with snide comments about only caring about himself.
Hulk Blowing His Own Shirt Off Count: 1
Unfortunately, Bruce is too busy dominating his fight with Cap and Leonard to realize that Rick is about go get hauled off to the pokey. So Marlo has to step in to save the day...
... and conclude the issue with a happy little Kodak moment.
I'll be skipping over this in the issues to come, but after Marlo recovers Rick proposes to her. Now, since I haven't read any Hulk issues prior to the one with the merger, I'm not entirely sure how long they knew each other. But eh, after what Rick went through for her, I guess I can suspend disbelief.
Bruce can't stay for the happy family reunion for very long because something Pantheon-related came up, so while the lawyer is busy settling the police down he sneaks off, leaving behind a hole in the wall and a bizarre note.
That "something" is a distress call the Pantheon received from Perseus, a retired member who now runs a hotel by Loch Ness, which now has an actual monster in it. And our Japanese tourists somehow managed to be in Nevada and Scotland at the same time?
"Look, we're in another Hulk comic!" "Is that so, maybe we'll become characters in a new miniseries." Minus one point over the fact that Godzilla is called "Gojira" in Japan, though.
Bruce doesn't know this, but the monster in the lake is in fact the chimeric abomination from Red Skull's lab. So Piecemeal, as he's called, just happened to hitch a ride on a plane in the Amazon that just happened to be flying to Loch Ness, which just happens to be the home of a retired Pantheon member.
"Codie, is that really any harder to swallow than a green guy with a giant brain bringing a dead girl back to life with a gamma-irradiated priest?"
Okay, Bruce losing his shirt by getting pulled underwater is gratuitous, but since he didn't remove it by punching something, and I guess I can buy Piecemeal's tail yanking it off, I won't count it in the tally.
Bruce also spoke way too soon, because Piecemeal does have more tricks up his furry sleeves.
Did, um, Bruce forget about getting most of his flesh torn off by Vector? Or is that the point of his comment?
Oh, and there's also the fact that Piecemeal is a psychic chameleon.
The giant fist belongs to a character called Madman, whom I also had to read into. It turns out he's the Leader's brother, who intentionally exposed himself to Gamma rays and received the power to change his size and strength. Apparently the last time he and the Hulk met, Hulk left Madman trapped and poisoned (somehow) and placed the antitode just out of his reach. But a simple size change and he was back in action, leading me to wonder what the point of teasing him with the antidote was.
Also at this point, the main stories are being cut short to make room for a miniseries about how Ulysses was recruited into the Pantheon after living most of his life as a street punk. I'll talk about these in the next chapter, where they become important.
Even though it looks like Bruce is picking himself back up at the end there, the next issue opens with him waking up chained to a weight at the bottom of Loch Ness. Of course chains aren't going to restrain the Hulk, and he soon surfaces with some unexpected help that somehow isn't the least plausible thing in this story. He's able to make it back to the hotel just in time to save Perseus (but not in time to stop Madman breaking a man's neck and Piecemeal sucking the life out of a woman), and as a reward gets the ultimate mindfuck from Piecemeal.
So what do this and the prior note mean? Were they clues that the Merged Hulk was intended to be a seperate entity from Bruce (i.e. the Professor) all along? Well, notice Piecemeal doesn't take on a normal Bruce face. I'm inclined to believe that the original intent was that the Merged Hulk is Bruce, who's having an identity crisis as to whether he's Robert Bruce Banner or the Hulk. But either Piecemeal is tapping into Bruce's knowledge of the other two, or the Savage and Gray Hulks are still in there and either the merging is weakening or they're not so much completely fused with Bruce as they are bonded to him like the two hydrogens in a water molecule.
Anyway, Piecemeal's little show gets him kicked through a wall, leaving it to the two titans to slug it out. Perseus pulls himself out of retirement to help Bruce, but just gets his neck broken for his troubles.
Bruce flies into a rage, which draws Piecemeal's interest in this strange emotion. But his attempt to understand Bruce's rage (by killing him) ends with him skewered on Perseus' spear and hurled to drown in Loch Ness.
Madman takes off in a jet (where did it come from? Who knows!) and the Hulk tries jumping after him, only to miss and come crashing in on two British superheroes named Killpower and Motormouth. These two are from another of Frank's comics, which had only been released in Europe at the time making this their American debut. Though what with the giant guns, thigh pouches, and metal jockstrap thing, Killpower looks like he got lost on his way to the Rob Liefeld tryouts.
Yeah, I'm with the people who say "Fuck Rob Liefeld"
Here's something fun you can do: stare at the second panel while this video plays in another window.
I just love that video, okay?
And on the subject of fun asides, here's the first Marvel Super Heroes source image.
Not sure why the game screenshot is stretched out a bit, but they're all like that.
Meanwhile, Madman has somehow managed to get into Buckingham Palace and kidnap Prince Charles, and is now threatening to throw him off the Big Ben clock tower unless Parliament makes him the king of England. Bruce gets to the top in one jump while Killpower has to climb up, and when Madman drops Charles we learn what crazy antics happen when two giants try to rescue the same guy.
The three make it to the ground all right when Bruce claws down the side like a kitten descending the living room curtains, while Madman catches a sample of Motormouth's supersonic scream and is hurled across town to raise hell on London Bridge. After a childish temper tantrum about how Bruce "doesn't get it", Madman finally gets the shit beaten out of him by the Hulk.
Well, I guess it's not just Frank who has a thing for the Hulk.
Marvel retires the Japanese tourists after having them inexplicably speaking German for their last appearance.
So, you've probably noticed that the writing is a lot lighter in these books than it was in the ones drawn by Dale Keown. I guess with the combination of Gary Frank's cartoonier artwork and Bruce no longer having Betty's fear burdening him, Peter David's having a little more fun with the character.
The next issue takes Bruce from wacky British antics back to the Mount, where he's making plans to break his old college girlfriend out of one of America's toughest prisons, where she was sentenced for life after leaking classified CIA intel.
I was going to cut those last two panels, but I loved Ulysses' face too much.
After Perseus' funeral which consists of placing his ashes in an urn and saying "So say we all" a lot, it's time to raid Ft. Cheer. Before they get down to business, Bruce sends some kind of telepathic message to both Susan and the warden that he's coming for her, and if they want to avoid conflict they should just hand her over. Then most of the Pantheon hang back while only Ulysses accompanies Bruce into the prison, because Peter David decided to make him the comedy relief of the Pantheon.
So if you've ever wondered why Bruce was relying on Betty's grip to make it to their second honeymoon in Marvel Super Heroes, there you go; his wife used to be Ulysses.
... huh, what a badly worded sentence.
Anyway, once within Ft. Cheer Bruce and Ulysses find little resistance from either the manpower or the building structure, and not even doors meant to survive a nuclear blast can slow an angry Hulk.
Hulk Blowing His Own Shirt Off Count: 2
But this wouldn't be much of a story if Bruce and Ulysses just dropped in, grabbed the girl, and fled. So things go up the piddle-pipe when Bruce tears into Susan's cell and finds her missing because warning Ft. Cheer that he was coming was kind of a stupid idea. Even better, SHIELD unexpectedly shows up.
At first Fury tries to subdue Bruce and Ulysses from what I guess is the Helicarrier with a concentrated sonar, but when Bruce escapes that with the complicated strategy of tunneling underground, Fury goes in on foot. Bruce manages to take the prison warden captive before Fury can get a lock on Bruce with an special bullet that'll pierce Bruce's eye then splatter his head all over the walls like guacamelee. I mean guacamole. Bruce informs Fury that if he follows through, the warden's head is going to join him as the salsa.
Okay, that was a terrible play on words, I'm sorry.
Except I don't think anyone thought this scene through. First of all, because how much lower the laser-sight is than the barrel of the gun, I'm pretty sure the actual bullet would hit Bruce's forehead, not go into his eye. Second, based on the direction of the laser and angle of Bruce's head, I think Frank forgot that Nick Fury is not as tall as the Hulk. And third, all Bruce has to do is turn his head.
Instead, the standoff gets broken when Achilles does something useful and gets shot down. That might sound like a jab at him and his douchbaggery, and it is, but it also means the SHIELD pilots lose their shit when they see him walk away unscathed from the wreckage of his ship. Bruce then threatens to have the Pantheon initiate "Plan Prime Alpha", which means they're going to nuke the whole facility in two minutes. Fury, amused with Bruce's gusto, finally relents and convinces the warden to give him the girl.
Except "Plan Prime Alpha" was a bluff and actually meant "do nothing". Fury knew this, but let Susan go anyway that's because she never did anything wrong.
Well now here's a question; did Bruce know Susan's imprisonment was bullshit? Or was he busting her out of prison just because he didn't like the idea of his ex-girlfriend rotting in a cell?
In any case, Bruce and Susan catch up on old times back at the Mount, after getting Susan out of her prison garment and into some fresh clothes (presumably after shitting herself).
I'll bet you are, Susan.
Next up is the She-Hulk crossover that is by far the stupidest issue I read for this writeup and I'd really like to skip it completely, but there are two things I have to stop to note. First is a panel that got used in Marvel Super Heroes.
Curious, because Marvel Super Heroes takes place during the Infinity Gem event, and as we saw in Chapter 1 Betty had short, blonde hair, and was scared shitless of Bruce at that time.
And then for bringing our Hulk Blowing His Own Shirt Off Count to 3.
No, seriously, he punches Bi-Beast in one panel, the guy with the stupid facial hair pushes a button, and then Bruce is suddenly missing his shirt. What's weird about that, though, is that this issue wasn't pencilled by Frank.
Now we need to go back to an issue I passed by in Chapter 1, the one after the 30th Anniversary Special. While Rick was hiding away in his apartment, Bruce was off in the arctic saving Atalanta from Trauma, an alien who's infatuated with oh for fuck's sake, what is it with everyone being obsessed with her? Actually, I did a bit of reading and it turns out Trauma had a twin brother who was killed by Atalanta. I'd say that makes my question all the more pressing, but I'm inclined to believe that's a retcon from much later in the series.
Well, he didn't take kindly to the Hulk escaping with Atalanta, and now he's ready for Round 2. The miniseries is called "The Troyjan War", but a more appropriate name is "The Iliad IN SPACE"
Back on Earth, Bruce is having another therapy session with Leonard through the hologram projector, this time sporting a kicking pink shirt. Leonard is giving Bruce crap for doing what heroes do and fight villains when they cause trouble, but also for the incident in the Amazon with the Avengers, nevermind that even the Avengers realized Bruce was under psychic control. Leonard then starts beating his point over Bruce's head in a way that's too funny for the reader to take serious.
Leonard then starts berating Bruce for letting his fists do all the talking, nevermind that in three of those situtations the other person started it and Bruce gave Ft. Cheer a chance to just hand Susan over. I'm also not sure how Leonard knew about Piecemeal, but not Ajax. Aside from the fact that I think Leonard is full of shit, the Hulk and his enemies solving their disputes over a cup of tea every issue would make for a very dull comic. When Leonard pushes Bruce too hard, Bruce phases out.
So determined is Leonard to get face-to-face with Bruce that he even threatens Rick with the information he gave him regarding Farnoq-Dahn's death to get the location of the Mount. This sends Rick into an emotional crisis since the other supers of the Marvel universe are already white-knighting him for choosing his best friend and girlfriend over Captain America.
Rick retreats to the ruins of the Gamma base to have a sulk, where he's conveniently joined up with Atalanta who also wants to have a sulk, who is then conveniently joined by Trauma and a cringe-worthy pop culture reference, who is THEN conveniently joined by the Hulk who tries to follow Leonard's advice and talk things out and just gets shot up for his trouble.
Hulk Blowing His Own Shirt Off Count: 3.5? Yeah, okay, it gets torn off when he hits something, but it's in the passive rather than active sense, so I'm not sure it counts as a full point.
In any case, Bruce gets back up and punches the wall of the trench so hard he completely destroys the ground around the Gamma base, but it's too late and the Troyjan ships have already taken to the air. Bruce fumes about not being strong enough to save Atalanta for a bit before totally losing his shit right in Rick's face.
Huh, maybe Leonard does have a point. And since Bruce just flexed the rest of his shirt off, I guess I can round our tally up to 4.
So, the Hulk rallies the Pantheon to chase down their abducted teammate. With Atalanta absent we're introduced to Cassiopea, Perseus' daughter who also doesn't hang out with the main group much and has the power to absorb and fire cosmic rays. She also has a thing for Hector, but since he's homosexual he doesn't return it (it also probably isn't helping that he's her cousin). As they get ready to launch, we get a good look at the biggest flaw in Gary Frank's artwork.
Yeah, he can do facial expressions just fine, but he can only draw two actual faces; a square-jawed man with a buttchin, and a young woman. Then to differentiate the characters he gives them different hair styles and draws lines all over Prometheus' face.
Out in space, Atalanta is raising hell on Trauma's ship, as well as getting Trauma aroused. One of his men is giving a status report to Trauma's father, Armageddon, who apparently did his pet shopping at Snake Mountain.
I'm also confused by that guard; is that a really ripped woman, or a dude with long hair and a bra? I'm also wondering why (s)he is holding that weapon by part of the blade when there seems to be a handle a little further down.
So while Bruce is out in space, Betty is back on Earth dealing with more ghosts jumping out at her from the fridge. This time it's Dr. Strange, sporting a completely different getup along with *sigh* a square jaw and a buttchin.
Okay, I have some questions about the whole "Bruce got Betty pregnant, but Betty had a miscarriage" thing. I figure this all happened before the merger, but wouldn't Bruce's sperm still be Gamma irradiated? After all, he gave his cousin a blood transfusion in Bruce mode and it turned her into the She-Hulk. So if Betty carried the baby to full term, wouldn't she end up giving birth to a Hulk baby? But on the other hand, Betty spent some time as a Gamma creature known as the Harpy and the process of changing her back left her with a resistance to Gamma radiation. So, would that have meant she'd cancel out the Gamma radiation and birth a normal baby? Or is that actually why she lost the baby? I don't know which issues this actually happened in, so it's all just speculation on my part.
The Pantheon is able to punch a hole in Trauma's ship to allow Ulysses, Hector, and Cass in, but Bruce is left outside struggling with Trauma and some anger management issues. Trauma then activates some of his ships cannons on Bruce, and Prometheus can't help him because Achilles is an shitpiece. Achilles is about to have... well, his Achilles Heel killed off when an unexpected ally shows up.
When Trauma sees the Surfer and something that's totally hilarious out of context, he realizes he's in deep shit. But then the shit tide goes out when his mechanics announce that they just got the hyperdrive working. Trauma manages to get back in the ship just before the Surfer circles back around to let the Hulk grab him, and the two get caught in the hyperdrive's kickback and shot into the middle of nowhere.
Now we're introduced to a team of pirates called the Starjammers. The team consists of Corsair who's apparently Cyclops' father, Raza who's a ninja cyborg and the one I have the least to say about, an anthropomorph named Hepzibah who looks like a cat but according to her Wikipedia page she's supposed to be a skunk, and a big reptilian humanoid that I originally thought was Frank's rendition of the Abomination, but is a completely different character named Ch'od.
Bad science, Surfer - sound doesn't pass through the vacuum of space.
"Again, you're trying to apply real-world science and logic to a superhero comic where aliens speak English?"
Oh, well, that answers my earlier question about the guard. And why does Armageddon think green is a "ghastly" color when not only is that the color that other guard is wearing, but the color his son's getup? Or is it just emerald green that disgusts him, while monkey bile green gets an okay? And why does Armageddon have Rocket Raccoon's pelt on his trophy wall?
Despite just meeting and the whole "let him rot" thing, the Starjammers are pretty cool with the idea of escorting Bruce to a Troyjan outpost and starting some shit. After they blow up some Troyjan battleships and rampage through the outpost itself, a tiny Troyjan calling himself Vittio (Danny DeVito reference, maybe?) comes in to break everything up. For their crimes the Hulk and Starjammers must answer directly to Armageddon, and Vittio obliviously becomes the Troyjan Hyorse.
Elsewhere Atalanta and the other Pantheon members that were on Trauma's ship have been rounded up and are being brought before Armageddon. After blowing off more of his advances, Trauma finally asks Atalanta why she's getting so upset when she should be honored to be chosen by the prince of the Troyjans, and besides shes obliged to become his bride as part of their pact anyway. When the Pantheon doesn't know what he's talking about, Armageddon reveals Agamemnon's nasty little secret.
And hey, and here's our final Marvel Super Heroes source image.
That said, I'm not entirely sure what Bruce is fighting on the cover of the comic, because it's not like he's thrown to some Rancor pet of the Troyjans. I guess it's supposed to be Armagdeddon's hand, enlarged to symbolic levels.
When Bruce, the Starjammers, and the Surfer are finally brought before Armageddon, Armageddon says they're lucky to have caught him in such a good mood, because he's in fact so pleased that Atalanta has completely changed her tune on becoming his daughter-in-law that he's dropping all criminal charges.
So Rick was right to think is name was "Troma".
(And before anybody asks, that's not a hair going across the Hulk's face, my copy of the comic has a crease in it, so I can't get a better scan)
Bruce demands Trauma release Atalanta, swearing he'll kill him if he doesn't. At first Armageddon yawns and blasts him with cosmic rays, but Bruce is able to manipulate Trauma's pride to deal with him directly. At first things are going bad for everyone; the rest of the Pantheon has been freed by Achilles but are wandering the palace lost, Armageddon is about to overload the Surfer, and Bruce is still getting his ass kicked. But things change when Bruce and Trauma crash through the wall of the hallway that just happens to contain the stray Pantheon members.
Cassiopea's ability to absorb cosmic rays allows her to safely throw herself into Armageddon line of fire and give the Surfer a chance to start up an offensive... which in turn means the Pantheon, Starjammers, and some Troyjan guards have to haul ass out of the room as Armageddon and Surfer's slapfight escalates to explosive levels. Bruce and Trauma continue to slug it out until Bruce accidentally makes good on his threat.
Haha, no, he's not trying to say "FUCK!", he's crying out for his father. Upon hearing his scream, everyone drops what they were doing to watch him bleed out his last as he explains himself to Atalanta, and begs her to know if he deserved to die just for loving her. No, he didn't deserve to die for that, she says.
Huh, apparently Trauma wasn't really that bad a guy, just terrible at expressing his emotions. After asking Armageddon to let everyone go peacefully, Trauma starts babbling about how badly he fucked up, and eventually dies in his father's arms.
Armageddon honors his son's dying wish, but takes advantage of the fact that Trauma never asked him to be polite.
I'm not entirely sure if Bruce is referring to his guilt over the situtation, or Betty's miscarriage. I'm also not sure if that's Armageddon's special way of telling Bruce to tell him to go fuck himself, or if he somehow knows what's next for Bruce.
So, the Future Imperfect special is supposed to be this world-shattering event for the Hulk, and was considered important enough to merit a higher quality release outside of the main comic series. But it makes so many mistakes I actually have a hard time taking it seriously. First of all, George Perez's artwork looks like something out of a Where's Waldo book. Second, most of the characters use a futuristic slang that makes everything they say unintelligible at best, and incredibly silly at worst. Third, Bruce is wearing that dumbassed brown jumpsuit again.
In the story, Bruce time travels to a future built on the ruins of a nuclear apocalypse to help some resistance fighters take out a tyrant known as The Maestro. When he gets there, he learns Rick is still alive and hilariously old, Betty is an urn of ash, and that all the other heroes of the world except one were wiped out in the war and all that's left of them is the trinkets Rick collects in a museum. As fatal as the fallout was to everyone else, anything short of a ground-zero explosion only made the Maestro stronger, and upon learning this even the guy who didn't recognize the Juggernaut in jeans and a t-shirt can figure out who he really is.
Okay, I deeply apologize for the mental image I'm about to give you all, but I still have to ask... how can the Maestro bang his sex slaves without tearing them in half?
So the premise still leaves hope for some mind fuckery. That is, until we get to the Maestro and his adviser trying to extract some information from a captive with some kind of mental projector thing, and one panel in particular that cracks me up every time I see it.
But maybe it's just that same part of me can't stop giggling over Disapproving Guybrush that finds something so hilariously absurd about this old man Hulk poking his head into the frame to announce his boredom. It isn't until Bruce finally confronts the Maestro that whatever chance I had of taking this storyline seriously gets completely torpedoed.
I mean, seriously, even when Bruce lowers his guard for some peasants crushed by a building, allowing the Maestro to come up behind him and break his neck, it failed to shock me. Of course, it also probably isn't helping that, obviously, the Hulk isn't dead. And this might be a petty thing to latch on to, but I do wish the colorists would make up their minds as to whether the Hulk's gums are supposed to be pink or green.
When Bruce comes to, he finds himself in the Maestro's guest bedroom, paralyzed in a neck brace, with one of the Maesto's slave girls nursing him (which might be a terrible choice of words, considering...)
Bruce gradually heals up, and when he regains movement in his arms he threatens to shoot himself in the head if it'll wipe out the Maestro. Except the Maestro calls his bluff because, according to a paper Reed Richards wrote, when the rebels took Bruce from the past it caused a split in the timeline and the Maestro isn't bound to Bruce. Despite Bruce's insolence, the Maestro offers to let him stay in the future he can have all the luxuries as the Maestro himself, unless he wants return to his time and lose everything.
Bruce decides he isn't having any of that, tries to sneak the rebels into the Maestro's palace only to get the shit beaten out of him again, something-something-something, Hulk and Maestro end up slugging it out in the superhero museum where the Maestro impales Rick on Wolverine's adamantium skeleton and the narrative does another great big stupid...
... and in the end, the Maestro ends up blinded by Betty's ashes and steps into a trap made with the time machine that brought Bruce to the future, and is teleported right next to the Gamma Bomb to get vaporized in the explosion that created him (I see what you guys did there).
Is it wrong that I'm less concerned with how balls-out insane this plan is and how it depends on the Maestro, you know, not moving in the time it takes for the bomb to go off, and more about how the hell Rick got Mjolnir into his superhero museum? What, is Rick worthy to wield it? Or did Thor drop it off before he died? And why hasn't Odin come to reclaim it?
Before he returns to his time, Bruce stops to give Rick a proper sendoff. Meaning he glues Rick's ashes to Captain America's shield, and hurls it into orbit.
For the sake of this writeup, I'm going to pretend Bruce witnessed a mind-shattering potential future as an insane bastard and not... well, whatever the fuck this was. So, what effect is all this going to have on him? We'll look into that and more in the third and final chapter.