Jump to navigation
Kurt Busiek (writer), Alan Davis (penciler), Mark Farmer (inker), Tom Smith (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft's Albert Deschesne (letterers), Marc Sumerak (assistant editor), Tom Breevort (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief)
Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, Thor, Iron Man, the Vision, Warbird, the Wasp, Quicksilver and the Goliath impostor have arrived in Kalkhimithia, Greece, where the entire town has been transformed into Hulks, and that they are on the move, headed out in groups. The Avengers split into three teams to slow down and stop the Hulks. Iron Man, Wasp and Goliath form one team, with the Wasp curious as to Goliath's strange change in behavior. The Vision, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver form another team, and Wanda finds that she cannot use her power to turn the Hulks back to humans, while Captain America, Thor and Warbird set about blocking the Hulks they are after from heading toward town. At that moment, Wonder Man and Triathlon are en route to Greece, during the flight, Wonder Man reveals that his agent want him to go back to LA and get his acting career re-started, but that he feels committed to the Scarlet Witch, who brought him back to life, he doesn't want to feel like he is up and leaving her, not when he owes her so much. The two mysterious men who have been watching the Avengers continue to observe them. The younger man wants to strike, but his father tells him that they will have their chance soon. As the battle against the Hulks continue, Goliath devises a plan, and kicks one Hulk into another, causing them to merge into one larger Hulk. The Wasp and Iron Man aren't sure about this plan, but Goliath explains that it will be easier to manage against one large Hulk than lots of smaller Hulks, so the Wasp and Iron Man agree. At Avengers Mansion, Silverclaw is having breakast with Jarvis, and asks him whether she should join the others in Greece, but Jarvis changes the subject, asking his sponsor child how things are going at school. A blinding flash of light across the road ends the discussion as they go to investigate. Bruce Banner is watching footge of the Avengers battling the Hulks, and he feels responsible for the problem. In Greece, the Avengers learn that the dust that was dropped over Kalkhimithia has been traced to Midddletown, where gamma radiation is stored in a SHIELD facility, but some of it has gone missing. Silverclaw finds herself at a demolished building across the road from Avengers Mansion, where she interrupts Diablo, who is trying to locate something. Diablo responds by throwing a vial of something at Silverclaw, who goes cold and rigid. The Hulks meanwhile have formed into one large, massive creature, so Goliath devises a particle bond from his portable lab, which Warbird then takes and sprays on the Hulks, but it doesn't work, and with all of the Hulks now merged into this one massive Hulk, the Avengers seem out of options!
Greece, a few miles from the small town of Kalkhimithia, where the people from the surrounding hills flood south as a fire rages behind them. Soldiers send explosives into Kalkhimithia, blasting them through the flames while calls out to each other in their native language. An explosion knocks several civilians over. A soldier goes over to a fallen woman, who is clutching her infant child, when suddenly, a large green Hulk stands over them and growls. The great green behemoth raises one massive fist to strike – but a certain hammer is thrown in his face, knocking him backwards. 'Nice work, Thor. You and Iron Man stay alert. We need a few seconds here...' Jan Van Dyne a.k.a. The Wasp calls out as she and several of her teammates in the mighty Avengers arrive on scene. Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America and Wanda Maximoff the Scarlet Witch tend to the soldier and the woman, assuring them that it is all right, that they are safe now, while Thor, the Wasp, Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man, the Vision, Pietro Maximoff a.k.a. Quicksilver, Carol Danvers a.k.a. Warbird and someone claiming to be Hank Pym a.k.a. Goliath are ready for battle.
It was only a few hours ago that the Avengers – Earth's Mightiest Heroes – were enjoying victory over the mercenary Taskmaster, and testing their headquarters' new communications equipment, when the call came in – there was something wrong in Kalkhimithia – terribly wrong, and as the heroes look out over the town, they see every man, woman and child has been transformed into a growling, rampaging Hulk. The Wasp tells the Avengers that the townspeople are confused, not sure what to do. She informs the Vision that now that they have seen conditions on the ground, she wants a situation report – this is only part of what they are up against, she wants to see the whole thing. 'Of course, Wasp' the Vision replies as he links to the SHIELD data broadcast, and reports that things are worse than they appear to the naked eye. He reveals that of the Kalkhimithians turned to hulk-creatures, some still battle each other in the town, but thousands are moving out in three loose groups. 'With only nine of us, we may not have the manpower to stop them' the Vision points out.
The Wasp declares that they will find a way, and that the Avengers don't gall down on the job – not anymore. She turns to Captain America and asks for his tactical recommendations. Cap looks at the diagram projected by the vision which shows the three routes that the Hulk-creatures are on. Cap agrees that the Vision is right about the Avengers being outnumbered – they can't go head-to-head with the Hulks, but at the same time, the creatures don't think clearly, so perhaps they can herd them, drive them back into the town and contain them until a solution can be found. Thor alerts the Avengers to the Hulk-creatures that are starting to stir and move towards them, and tells the Avengers to choose their plan swiftly, and that the time for talk is over, as he swings his hammer, knocking the first Hulk-creature backwards. The Wasp reports that she wants three teams built around their powerhouses Thor, Iron Man and the Vision, and tells Iron Man that she wants him to hold back the locals while they split up. 'Can do, Jan' Iron Man responds as he sends some sonic waves blasting at the Hulk-creatures, scrambling their brains.
The Wasp announces that Wanda will lead Quicksilver and the Vision at the northernmost outbreak, while Cap leads Warbird and Thor at the next nearest, while she, Goliath and Iron Man will remain here. 'That's it, people – let's turn 'em around!' Jan orders. The Vision flies off northwards, with Quicksilver speeding across the ground, carrying his sister in his arms. Thor takes flight, with Warbird at his side, carrying Captain America. Goliath increases his form to a massive size and tells the Wasp – calling her ”Jannie-Girl” that he is hurt. 'The Vision gets classified as a “powerhouse” - but not me? Doesn't the name “Goliath” mean anything anymore?' he asks. The Wasp fires a sting into the ear of one of the Hulk-creatures and tells Hank that no slight was intended. She explains that powerhouses are taking the point, but she needed at least one team scientist concentrating on why and how this happened – and that is him. 'Oh. Well, now, that's different, isn't it? Hank replies, adding that he is flattered and pleased at Jan's faith in him. He enlarges one of his scanning units and gets right onto it. Jan fires another blast, she is a litte confused – Hank has been so quiet and repressed lately, then he suddenly changed. She doesn't know whether to be worried, or relieved.
To the north: 'Closer, Hulks – cluster ever closer!' the Vision calls out as several Hulk-creatures close in around him and pummel him – but their blows do not hurt the Vision's super-dense form. He wants as many of them in close range as possible, so that when he switches to intangibility and disrupts them, knocking them out. He phases through the fallen Hulk-creatures, and floats towards the next knot of Hulks, while Wanda takes action in her own inimitable way – casting magical energies towards the creatures, but they don't work. Sporting her new pink and red costume, Wanda had hoped to tap into their bio-energy with her chaos-magic, latch onto whatever changed them like this, and change them back – but there is something unnatural about the change, something she can't quite hook into, and needs more time. As the Hulk-creatures move in towards Wanda, backing her against a large rock, Wanda knows she doesn't have time, she decides to toss a few simple hex-spheres, occupy them with that until she can work out her plan.
But, suddenly, before the Hulk-creatures can attack, Quicksilver speeds in, his force causing a wave of sand and dirt to blast up over the creatures. 'Excuse me, my sister – but you are ill-equipped to annoy a cluster of Hulks and stay out of their reach – while my speed makes me ideal to decoy them away!' Quicksilver calls out as he races through the cluster of Hulks, who start to chase him. 'Just don't let them get too close, Pietro!' Wanda calls out. 'Come along, lummoxes' Quicksilver calls out, casually.
And, nearby, Warbird blasts several of the Hulk-creatures back, while Thor and Cap assault them physically. 'These “Hulks” - they are strong indeed!' Thor calls out, adding that they lack the cunning, the true fighting spirit of the original. 'Maybe so, Thor – but they're plenty dangerous enough!' Cap replies as he flips up between two Hulks, one of who was readying to punch Cap, but punches the other Hulk instead. Cap is pleased, as these two Hulks fight each other, blocking the path, forcing the ones behind them to turn west, back towards town. 'Still...I wish we had more Avengers here' Cap thinks to himself.
At that moment, across the North Atlantic, the Quinjet rockets at top speed, eating up the miles between Manhattan and Greece. Inside, Delroy Garrett Jr a.k.a. Triathlon asks Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man how come he is so wound up. At the controls of the Quinjet, Simon claims that it is nothing, he just wants to reach the others as soon as they can. 'If we'd only been there when the alert came in...' Simon remarks, but Delroy tells him that it is more than that, and points out that Simon was tense even when he was giving him tips on going undercover, before the signal came in. 'It's a long flight, Simon. You got anything better to talk about?' Delroy asks. Simon pauses, before Simon reveals that his agent, his managers, are bugging him to go back to LA for a while, to his acting career.
'They want me out there promoting Second Chances – the foundation I set up with my old video profits to give people a shot at turning things around, like he has gotten so many times, they want him to talk about some new projects, too – to support the foundation. Delroy smiles, and remarks that, speaking as someone who messed up pretty good himself, and got a second chance, he thinks it sounds great. 'So what's the problem?' Delroy asks. 'It's... it's Wanda' Simon reveals, informing Delroy that Wanda brought him back to life, with the power of her love – he can't jus sat “Thanks, you've been great, so long” - not when he owes her so much.
Elsewhere, a man stands in the shadows and watches monitors depicting the Avengers battle against the Hulk-creatures. He announces that the Avengers are occupied, vulnerable, in disarray, so they should strike now. 'You are too impetuous, my son' a shirtless man fighting robots with large staves declares, telling his son that a good commander takes advantage of chance, yes, but not if it means abandoning a long-term strategy for short-term gains. He adds that a good commander gauges all conditions against his overall needs, weighs them, measures them, decides what will bring about the best result – and then, only then – does he strike! At that same time, the shirtless man slices one robot's head off, then cuts another from abdomen to face, tearing it apart.
'It's easier for you, father. You have proved yourself, time and again' the man's son replies, adding that he burns to do the same, but tires of all this waiting, all this inaction. With the robots destroyed, the shirtless man wipes his brow and tells his son to fear not, and that he will have his chance, many times over – but that impatience is a mortal sin. 'We have a plan. We will complete our preparations, and we will follow it. After all – we have time...'.
Back in Kalkhimithia: 'What is it, Hank? Have you found something?' the Wasp asks as she sees Goliath reading the scanner. Hank looks at the small molecules on the screen and reports that it is dust, that it is in all the skin scrapings he has taken. Iron Man unleashes another sonic wave against the Hulk-creatures, while Goliath reports that it is not any normal dust, that it is inert at the moment, but it has gamma-traces and other unidentifiable energies, and it is showing core stress, as if it has been through enormous chemical change. He then sends the data to SHIELD for more detailed analysis.
And, at the closes SHIELD base, in Athens, several SHIELD agents begin analyzing the data, speaking in their native Greek, except for one, who informs Dr Pym that they have his sample readings and will correlate them against all known data in their banks and get back to him as quickly as possible. Hank tells the SHIELD officer to take their time – it's not like this is an emergency or anything. He then ends the communication and tells the Wasp that as long as they are waiting, there is something else he wants to try. 'What did you have in -?' the Wasp begins, but hank grins and cuts her off, declaring that it will just take a second, and adds 'Why waste time explaining – when the best way to find out if you've invented dynamite is to light the fuse and stand back?' The Wasp is confused as Goliath shrinks down and runs towards the Hulks, who are rampaging towards him. 'Well, sure – I'd look pretty goofy doing flip-kicks at 20 feet tall, wouldn't I?' Hank replies as he leaps against a large rock, holds himself up and kicks one of the Hulk-creatures into another, where they suddenly start to merge.
'I thought so! The gamma-dust – it's given them a chemical instability on a cellular level – but at the same time, it's turning them identical – into virtually the same organism! At first, they'd be cohesive, no real problems – but now that they've been like this for a while, the effect's more pronounced – if we slam them together hard enough – presto, two little Hulks into one big Hulk!' Goliath grins as the merge is complete. Hank suggets they keep going, while Iron Man asks if that is wise, as they will just end up with bigger, stronger Hulks. 'The problem is numbers, Iron Man! Too many of them, not enough of us!' Goliath declares as grabs one of the Hulks and throws it into several others. Goliath explains that this way, they will end up with one big Hulk, and with Pym Particles, he can shrink it down to bite-size – and poof, problem solved! 'Ah...' the Wasp begins. 'I don't know, Hank...' Iron Man calls out, asking Hank why he doesn't just shrink them down now, while they are less of a threat.
The Hulks that collided with the one Hank threw at them start to merge together. 'Oh, like that's what we need – six-thousand super-strong insect-sized Hulks. They'll be really easy to round up...!' Hank mutters, pointing at the Hulks that are currently merging together. 'I guess so...' the Wasp agrees, before telling Iron Man to do it, while she tells the others.
Seven time zones earlier, it is evening in Manhattan, and at Avengers Mansion, Edwin Jarvis and his sponsor child, Maria de Guadalupe Santiago a.k.a. the reserve Avenger called Silverclaw, are watching a report about the Avengers' battle on a television in the kitchen. 'Do you think I should join them, Tio Edwin? As Silverclaw, I am an Avenger...' the young woman remarks. Jarvis reminds Lupe that she is a reservist, and not fully trained on the Quinjets yet. He tells her that he is confident that if the Avengers need her, they will call her, and in the meantime, asks her how she is finding college here in the States. Lupe smiles and remarks that she has one professor who is very intimidating, but whenever he growls, she just thinks of Thor – no one is as intimidating as Thor!
Lupe then asks Jarvis how he is, and whether the mansion being refurbished around him is a nuisance. 'It is not my place to complain, of course -' Jarvis begins, before admitting that it is impossible to get anything done. 'The dust everywhere – and the constant noi-' Jarvis starts to say, before there is a blinding light. Jarvis and Lupe turn to the window, and Lupe sees that it came from across the street. 'Let's go!' she calls out to Jarvis.
And as they do, the television chatters on, its lights and sounds filing the now empty room, depicting the Avengers coralling the Hulks together and merging them into one being. An announcer reports that they don't know why the Avengers are doing this, but that they are combining the Hulks by an unknown process, and adds that it is still a mystery why so many Hulks apppeared in Greece, of all places. And just as it fills the rooms and the attention of millions around the nation, the report is also watched by one worried man in particular, who sits on a chair and frowns, as the announcer remarks that they are in the studio to discuss the legacy of Dr Robert Bruce Banner, the man within the Incredible Hulk.
That worried man continues to stare at the screen, when a voice calls out to him: 'Bruce...?' and a blonde woman touches him on the arm, telling him to stay calm, not to let this get to him. 'Whatever's going on over there – it's not you and it's not your fault' she assures him. Bruce calls the woman Angela and asks her if it really makes a difference – it wasn't him before with that airliner, and he still got blamed for it. He tells Angela that this will be laid at his door, they both know that – and for that matter, they can't be sure, that somehow, some way – this isn't his doing.
Back in Kalkhimithia, Cap kicks one pair of merged Hulks into another, but he is starting to reach his limits – he's been battling them for so long, and another one rushes towards him – thankfully Warbird sees he is in trouble, 'Hey there, soldier boy. Need a lift?' she calls out as she swoops down and pulls him skyward. 'Your air force backup, getting the army in and out' Carol jokes as she sets Cap down nearby, adding that they may have to lead these mega-Hulks together, but they can stay unsquished while doing it.
And, nearby, Iron Man fires repulsor rays at several merged Hulks, forcing them into one. 'Nice one, Iron Man! A few more minutes of this, and -' Goliath begins, as he gets a communication in from the SHIELD agent Demetrios, who reveals that they have traced the dust. Goliath asks where it is from, and Demetrios reports that it is from Middletown! Goliath sucks in his breath. Demetrios begins to tell him that it is in Arizona, but Goliath tells him that he knows where it is – it's the town the Leader blew up with a gamma bomb, killed thousands, in incredible agony, and it is now a lifeless, radioactive glass crater in the desert. 'That's where the dust came from?' Goliath enquires. 'Not directly' Demetrios replies, explaining that Middletown is under a complete security cordon and there have been no reported intrusions. He adds that some of the radioactive earth was collected for testing and analysis, however, and they have done an inventory of that material – some of it has turned up missing, but security seals were never breached.
Iron Man and the Wasp gather next to Goliath as he remarks 'Home-grown Hulks. Not a hoax, not a dream – but derived – at least to some degree – from what created trhe real thing'. Iron Man points out that at least they know how, or have a hint of how, but the Wasp tells him that leaves to more questions – why – and who.
'Lupe, wait! We should call the others! Jarvis calls out to Lupe, who leaps over the mansion wall, wearing her Silverclaw costume, she reminds Tio Edwin that the others are busy, and reservist or not, she is an Avenger, so it is her job to investigate. But as she arrives across the street, the young woman's bravadp dies in her throat as she takes in the shattered buildings. Not abandonded. Not empty. She smells acrid smoke, and hears the screams of the wounded and dying and she knows there are more, beyond help. She moves in cautiously and senses movement behind her, more than hears it – 'Wh -?' Lupe begins, before quickly shifting into her fastest form, a cheetah, but even so, it is barely fast enough, as she narrowly avoids being struck by some energy. 'Well, well, well. Congratulations my dear, on such an interesting ability' a voice calls out, and Lupe looks up to see a man floating above her.
The man wears a green and purple costume and holds a glowing vial in one hand. He remarks that he thought that al lthe Avengers would be away from home this evening – he had taken steps to assure it, but it seems he missed one. 'Who -?' Silvercalw calls out, before the villain tells her that she may call him Diablo – in those few moments left that she draws breath. He then crushes the vial in his hand, and Silvercalw falls backwards, shielding herself with her hand as the air goes impossibly cold around her – cold and rigid.
Back in Greece, 'By my father's beard, what -?' Thor calls out as he, Warbird and Cap see the large Hulk creature turn and move from the trio, ignoring them. But Cap sees other large Hulk-creatures all rushing together, and points out that it is as if they are have reached critical mass, and now are calling to one another, compelled to combine further.
'Well, that's convenient – so long as they don't blow up, eh?' Pym remarks. He pulls something from one of his pouches and tells Iron Man to stand ready while he finishes the job for them. He enlarges the portable lab that he pulled from his pouch, and starts to mix potions together. For long minutes, the world's foremost biochemist works, deftly mixing chemmicals, combining powders, catalzying the mixture at various stages, until, finally, 'Done!' Pym calls out, holding up some sort of fire-extinguisher type device. 'I'll take that!' Warbird calls out as she swoops down and takes it from Pym. 'While you geniuses are congratulating yourselves on your brains – there are still real people inside these creatures somewhere – and after what we've been doing to them – they're in pain!' Carol exclaims as she starts spraying the mixture that Pym has created amongst the large, rampaging Hulks.
'Fine' Pym mutters, and as the Vision, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch re-join the other two squadrons, Pym announces that he has got to test for particle-bond, as it is a faster-acting solution than he usually uses, less stable, but they don't need it viable for long. He reports that it has bonded, and concentrates hard – but the particle-bond doesn't work, as the writhing mass of Hulks flops about before the Avengers. 'Not working? We're about to have a gargantuan horror on our hands that could devastate Europe – what do you mean it's not working?' Quicksilver snaps. Pym declares that it is no problem and rushes over to the portable lab, explaining that it is the unstable body chemistry – it keeps shifting, but he can compensate for that. 'I'll just whip up another batch, and -' Pym begins, distracted as he starts to make the particle-bond, 'HANK! LOOK OUT!' the Wasp suddenly shouts as she flies towards Hank and pushes him to safety – just as one large green foot slams down on the portable lab.
The Avengers look up – and up – and up – to see one massive green behemoth looming over them, roaring as the combined Hulk-creatures leers down at the heroes. 'Oh, great. What now?' Wanda asks, while a devestated hank Pym tells his teammates that he is sorry – but he left his spare lab in his other suit!
Captain America, Iron Man, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Triathlon, Vision, Warbird, Wasp, Wonder Man (all Avengers)
Silverclaw (reserve Avenger)
Hank Pym Impostor
Dr Angela Lipscombe
The Scarlet Witch brought Wonder Man back to life in the classic Avengers (3rd series) #11.
Middletown was destroyed in Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #345.