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Al Ewing (writer), Joe Bennett (penciler), Ruy Jose (inker), Paul Mounts (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Cory Petit (letterer), Alex Ross (cover artist), Carlos Pacheco, Rafael Fonteriz & Edgar Delgado (variant cover artists), Sarah Brunstad (associate editor), Wil Moss (editor), Tom Brevoort (executive editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
Hulk created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
At Shadow Base, the remains of the Hulk are experimented on, supervised by an eccentric scientist called Dr Clive, who is curious as to what makes the Hulk return to life so often. He and another scientist, Charlene, stop by another gamma-drenched being called Del Frye who they have in suspended animation. Aboard the Alpha Flight Space Station, Captain Marvel is not sure what has happened to the Hulk's remains since he was taken from the Avengers – but she plans to find out. While Alpha Flight doesn't have the capability to look into the Hulk's whereabouts, Captain Marvel sets up a new team, Gamma Flight, of which the de-powered Sasquatch will be part of. Word of Gamma Flight gets back to Shadow Base, which causes Dr Clive to panic. He is determined to uncover the mystery of the Hulk's regeneration, and taunts the Hulk's remains, warning the Hulk that they are going to turn him into a weapon, but to his surprise, the Hulk's remains break free of the jars they are placed in, and his body begins to reform around Dr Clive's, trapping the scientist before he can escape. Charlene returns to the lab, only to discover Dr Clive is nowhere to be seen, and there is a huge hole dug through the floor. Walter Langkowski and his Gamma Flight team have had no luck finding the Hulk, which leads Walter to think the Hulk may have gone underground. Eventually, the Hulk emerges from the ground, and reverts to Bruce Banner, who thinks he hears his father's voice laughing all around him.
Shadow Base, where the US Hulk Operations are located. The green heart of the Hulk is laid out on a table. An adamantium scalpel is placed above it. The hydraulic arm the scalpel is mounted to cost seven million dollars – there are only four in existence. It can bend titanium like paper. Even so, it whines dangerously as the blade tears through the interventricular septum. When the heart was red, they had extracted it with ease – but that was during the day. Now it is night. The night is his time. The two parts of the heart are placed into containers, they lay lifeless as sliced supermarket cabbage. Dr Charlene McGown and other US Hulk Operations scientist study the parts of the heart carefully, taking notes and making measurements, before taking the heart back to join the rest of the Hulk. As a technician pushes the trolley with the two parts of the Hulk down the north corridor, just past the water cooler, before the hamster run – the sundered heart begins to beat.
“Villains dissemble no more! I admit the deed! It is the beating of his hideous heart!” Dr Clive exclaims as he sits in a chair in his lab, where the rest of the Hulk is displayed in a series of tanks around the room – his head is upside down in one tank. Hands and feet, other organs and his spine are placed in others. 'So. What's the science here? Any ideas?' Dr Clive asks, smiling. 'Not you, big guy' Dr Clive remarks, turning to the Hulk's head. Dr Clive looks at Hulk's face, frozen in a roaring motion, 'I mean, look at you. Trying to talk with no air in your lungs. No lungs. Science isn't your speciality, is it? Charming' Dr Clive remarks with a frown as he looks at a hand, which appears to be giving him the middle finger. 'A little decorum, please, Hulk. Be civil' Dr Clive calls out, before asking one of the others to hand him the Hulk's heart, as he wants to play with it a little.
Charlene tells Dr Clive that they need to do more tests, to which Dr Clive declares that this is a test, he is in the moment. 'Let's see what happens when I... oh. Well, isn't that interesting' Dr Clive remarks as he holds the two parts of the heart up – and they suddenly reform. 'Good as new. Dead meat on the table, alive again when it's near him. And it heals. Regenerates' Dr Clive states, adding that he has questions, he asks Charlene if she has questions. They leave the lab and Charlene asks Dr Clive 'Why not full regeneration?' to which Dr Clive replies 'Exactly. A little baby body on a big Hulk head. Or a new Hulk sprouting from every organ. Hulk seeds. Why this and not that' Dr Clive asks. Charlene suggests it might be a psionic link, autonomic control over the individual cells. Dr Clive tells Charlene that there is zero psi activity, plus he had his hypothalamus destroyed – and he came back from that. 'That's the key to all of it. How does he come back? What's the science? What are the rules? We have to know the rules' Dr Clive states as he and Charlene enter another lab, and look at the remains of Del Frye inside a stasis tank. 'Otherwise, how can we break them?' Dr Clive asks.
Meanwhile, aboard the Alpha Flight Space Station, Captain Marvel a.k.a. Carol Danvers stares out a window, gazing down at the planet Earth beneath her, she declares that there are rules to this – basic norms and standards – or at least there are meant to be. She recalls that the Avengers, at great cost both to themselves and the civilian population, captured the Hulk in Iowa, following which, they handed Banner, in an inert state resembling death, over to the proper government authorities. 'Where did he go from there. We don't know' Carol remarks, reminding herself that Thaddeus Ross denies all knowledge, and General Fortean, the man who requested the mission, cannot ber found, while requests for information are misfiled, Washington contacts are fired or reassigned without rhyme or reason – Banner has vanished into a sea of deliberate obfuscation. 'So. Did the US government lose the Hulk? Or kidnap him?' she asks.
'And just to check, Colonel Danvers – I can quote that, but only as an anonymous source?' Jackie McGee asks as she sits nearby, while Dr Walter Langkowski, wearing an AFSS uniform, stands near her. 'It'll have to be, unfortunately' Carol replies, explaining that it needs to be off the record, as Alpha Flight doesn't have the bandwidth for open war with this administration, not on top of everything else. Carol supposes that the bad press should put pressure on where it counts and get Banner's captors antsy – get them to make a mistake. Carol adds that if his captors move him, they might be able to locate him again. 'If he's above ground' Walter remarks, adding that also his gamma signature would need to be the same. 'For all we know, he can alter it at will' Walter remarks, before reminding Carol that they still don't really know what Bruce is capable of when he is cornered or wounded. 'And if this horror has taught me anything... it's that gamma mutation can never be predicted' Walter declares.
'Well, you're the expert' Carol reminds Walter, before telling him that his leave of absence is over, and he is now back on active duty. 'You want me back with Alpha Flight?' Walter asks, reminding Carol that the Hulk drained his gamma energy, he isn't Sasquatch anymore and might never be again. 'But you're a noted gamma researcher with combat training and some insight into Bruce Banner's mind' Carol points out, telling Walter that she doesn't need Sasquatch – she needs him – and that this isn't Alpha Flight. Carol reports that she will call a press conference later, but that since Jackie is here she can have the exclusive. Carol states that her remit is to protect the Earth, and in light about these awful rumors about the US losing one of the biggest threats to it, she is creating a new task force headed by Dr Langkowski to locate said threat. 'Uh-huh. So does this task force have a name?' Jackie asks. 'What else?' Walter smiles.
'They're calling it Gamma Flight' Dr Clive mutters as he speaks to General Fortean on his cell phone. 'Well, no, General, I don't think that's funny. It's the last thing we need' Dr Clive mutters, before asking if they still have leverage on Langkowski, and whether they could force Danvers to back off. 'Overplaying our hand? General, come on -' Dr Clive begins, before assuring Fortean that he is not raising his voice. 'I was just – no, no, I don't want to go back to prison' Dr Clive remarks, before assuring Fortean that he will proceed as ordered. He then thanks the General before hanging up. 'Thank you so much, Reggie, you monumental son of a-' Dr Clive mutters as Charlene interrupts him, asking if that was Fortean and what the problem is. Dr Clive tells her that Danvers gave a press conference yesterday evening, that she is putting a spotlight on them and Fortean's response is to go dark – to cut their ties, use the black funding streams and relocate. 'Seriously? In the middle of everything? It'll take days to -' Charlene begins.
Clive pinches the bridge of his nose and tells Charlene that he knows, and that it is not what anyone wants to hear at the end of a long night's work. He then instructs her to go get the first ready for transport to site B, while he starts prepping red dog, just as soon as he is finished with the jigsaw puzzle here. As Charlene leaves, Dr Clive turns to the the jars of the pieces of the Hulk. 'You think that's funny?' he asks the Hulk's face. 'That your super hero buddies want to make life difficult? Difficult for you, my friend. Everything we've done to you here – that was just the start' Dr Clive snarls, before telling the Hulk that what happens to them now is they ship these pieces of him to their other sites and study them cell by cell. He threatens to cut the Hulk's smile off his face and slice it down to the bone. 'Maybe – maybe we'll pop one of your eyes, huh? Like a water balloon! Rip out the other! See what grows back!' Dr Clive shouts.
The Hulk appears to grin back at Dr Clive, who exclaims 'Needles in your – your tongue, and – we're going to – we're experimenting on you, you moron! What's wrong with you? What's so funny?' he shouts, appearing to get quite agitated. Dr Clive tells the Hulk that they are going to turn him into their weapon, learn all his secrets – how his heart beats, how his fingers move – all of it. 'We're going to find out exactly – what you can do. Oh God' Dr Clive gasps as the Hulk grins back at him. One of the Hulk's severed hands begins to move in its glass jar, as the horrified Dr Clive realizes that the Hulk let this happen. 'You wanted us to...to test you. Because if we know what you can do... so do you' Dr Clive utters, as the Hulk's face appears to roar, and one of his hands suddenly smashes through its glass jar. An instant later, in a terrifying display, all of the other jars and tanks break open, and the Hulk's severed body parts – his head, hands, spine and organs - are thrown around the room as Dr Clive looks on in shock.
The terror continues, 'Please!' Dr Clive shouts as he tries to escape the room. 'I was – please, I was told to, I'm sorry – I'm sorry – I'm -' Dr Clive calls out as the Hulk's body parts begin to engulf him, whirling and writhing around the scientist, the Hulk's flesh and bones completely engulf him – even as he tries to reach for an emergency button on the wall, he can't – and the last part of him to be consumed by the Hulk are his petrified eyes. 'Not sorry enough' the Hulk mutters as he rubs his head, then grabs Dr Clive's labcoat which hangs over the back of a chair. 'You wanted science. You wanted a set of rules. From me. Big mistake, see... science is the other guy. And when you hurt him... I take it personal' the Hulk declares as he notices one of Dr Clive's hands still sticking out of his own chest, before it melts into the Hulk's body.
Outside the lab, Charlene arrives, 'Dr Clive? Listen, we're in the middle of transferring the first over to the portable generator – but I figured as long as we're pausing the work anyway, I'd ask you again about that – tank mix. Dr Clive?' Charlene asks as the door to the lab slides open – and she is shocked to see the lab in ruins, with a massive hole in the floor.
Aboard the Alpha Flight Space Station, a crewmember informs Walter that there is no sign of the Hulk at all, which might mean that he is underground, or in a shielded facility – but this is a needle in a haystck here. The crewmember explains that last time they got lucky after checking Minnesota and neighboring states, there he was in Iowa. 'That took, what? Best part of a day?' the crewmember remarks, pointing at a map of the states, he tells Walter that he has no starting point – it could be New York, New Mexico or California, except maybe he's underground. 'I get it, Romesh' Walter tells the crew member, instructing him to let him know if he does find something.
Walter tells Jackie that this might take a while – unless they can think of another way to find the Hulk. 'Uh, I'm sorry, “we”?' Jackie replies. Walter tells her that he could use her help. He walks down a flight of stairs as he reminds Jackie that she has been chasing the Hulk across the country for months now. 'Sure, but not as...whatever this “Gamma Flight” is. What are you right now? A super hero? A secret agent? I'm a reporter, I can't be the story -' Jackie declares, to which Walter suggests she be an embedded reporter. He adds that this is the way to get to the story, and tells Jackie that he knows she still has questions for the Hulk, and that he knows the Hulk hasn't given her the answers – and he won't – until they find him.
The desert, somewhere, the dry ground is suddenly broken up when the Hulk's mighty hand bursts upwards. He remembers being underground when he was reborn – in a mountain in the north of New Mexico, which meant he was almost home – oddly, they had done him a favor. The Hulk raises a hand to shield himself from the sun, before he begins to melt away, and Bruce Banner's naked body is reborn from the writhing mass of the Hulk. Banner takes the labocat that the Hulk carried all this way and puts it around him. He feels queasy, infected – there is a terrible certainty in his gut that a long-held line had been crossed – the Hulk had taken a life. Sweat pours down his face. For a moment, he thinks he hears his father's voice – laughing from everywhere at once. And as Bruce Banner starts to walk across the desert, the image of his father appears in the clouds above.
Bruce Banner / Hulk
Dr Walter Langkowski
Captain Marvel VI
Romesh and other AFSS crew
Dr Clive, Dr Charlene McGowan and others (all US Hulk Operations)
Brian Banner / Devil Hulk
This issue has the Legacy numbering of Hulk #725.
The original Gamma Flight was the third-tier training team in the early days of Department H and Alpha Flight as briefly seen in Alpha Flight (1st series) #1. A second Gamma Flight team was established in Alpha (1st series) #76 as Canada's new premeire super heroes. That team was slightly longer-lived, until Alpha Flight returned and the team was disbanded. A third Gamma Flight was set up as a support staff unit within Department H in Alpha Flight (1st series) #95. This function of the Gamma Flight name was also short-lived, as the use of the name was eventually returned to being the third-tier training team within Deparment H, firstly when Beta Flight were demoted in Alpha Flight (1st series) #109-112, and then with a brand-new recruit in Alpha Flight (1st series) #126. The name has been dormant since then, although Wolverine and Talisman did team-up with She-Hulk to fight a Wendigo in She-Hulk (2nd series) #16, entitled “Gamma Flight”.
Dr Clive quotes from Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Tell-Tale Heart”.