Written by Al Ewing
Art by Lee Garbett
The Story So Far:
Since coming back from the dead, Hulk has manifested when Banner dies, which resurrects Banner each time. Bruce wanders the country, looking for ways to strategically use the Hulk for good as a way to atone for his past crimes. He is confronted by Sasquatch—Walter Langkowski of Alpha Flight—who was apparently losing control of his animal side. In the battle it becomes apparent that Sasquatch is possessed by the spirit of Brian Banner. To defeat Langkowski, the Hulk absorbs the radiation that created Langkowski’s alter-ego…and Brian Banner came along for the ride.
Since the showdown with Walter Langkowski, Bruce has kept the Hulk wrapped up tight in his psyche, because he fears something else came over with the radiation that Hulk absorbed. He tries to commune with the Hulk in a new way, by allowing his unconscious mind to write out a message with pen and paper. He gets a one word response: “home”. Bruce, as if he doesn’t know, ponders where home is, as the scene shifts to Betty Banner in California.
She is watching news reports of a Hulk sighting. She doesn’t want to believe that it’s Bruce, and while she tries to convince herself of that, we come to realize that she is being watched, along with Leonard Samson and Rick Jones’ gravesite, for any appearance of Bruce Banner by a creepy shadow organization. Turns out that these Minority Report inspired psychics are controlled by General Fortean, Thunderbolt Ross’ hand-picked successor to oversee Hulk Operations. In this secret base, a team of scientists work on a man named Del Frye—a nod to “The First” from the old Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno Hulk TV series from the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. The scientists, in order to make progress on their experiment, need a Hulk, or a Hulk-like being. Fourtean suggests they find Sasquatch.
Langkowski is being checked out by Alpha Flight’s Shaman, who tells him that Sasquatch was possessed by a primal force, “creation’s other face”, a force of darkness. Carol Danvers shows up to tell Walter that he is being extradited for crimes committed while he was Sasquatch, but that General Fourtean is willing to leave him be if Alpha Flight can bring in Bruce Banner. Carol suggest that without Langkowski on the team, they can’t take the Hulk…but the Avengers can.
The issue ends with Carol and the Avengers confronting Bruce, heading to New Mexico from Minnesota. Captain Marvel says that she knows that the only way the Hulk can save Bruce is if Banner dies, and she’s not about to let that happen. “That’s my secret, Captain,” Bruce says in a callback to the first Avengers movie, “I’m already dead,” as he transforms into the Hulk, ready for a fight.
The callbacks. Wow, this run already feels like the old Bixby/Ferrigno TV series, but with things like hitching a ride at the end of the issue, and the sneaky reference to “The First”, this issue gave me a nostalgia trip. And I loved every second of it.
Bringing in the Big Guns: Always nice to see the Avengers, and that ending was perfect. Now I’m spoiling for a fight, and ready for the next issue to come out already. I love seeing Captain Marvel in a leadership role, too. And Iron Man in his “Hulkbuster” armor.
Betty Banner: She’s essential to the Hulk. Her character is a wonderful counterpoint to Bruce, and she’s the Hulk’s outrigger, his stabilizer. Or has been in the past. It was a short cameo, but she’ll be back, I hope, for the inevitable showdown with Bruce.
What Doesn’t Work:
Not much, again. This series is knocking it out of the park every single issue. It’s the best book Marvel is offering right now, bar none. I literally have no complaints about this issue. Even the guest art, which is usually a failing of many a title, is on point. Moody and dark. Brooding, just like this book. And that is the best possible way to present the Hulk. This series feels at once like a revisiting of all the best Hulk runs in the past, Peter David’s, Al Milgrom’s, Bruce Jones’, and at the same time a refreshing take on one of Marvel’s longest running and most beloved characters.