This storyline starts off with a bang… almost literally. The army comes looking for the Hulk and finds Betty… Oh boy, do they find Betty! She gets back into the house only with enough time to tell Bruce not to come get her – that they won’t hurt her. That’s when Talbot walks in – not Glen Talbot but his nephew – Matt Talbot. And he’s just a little angry with Betty… and he’s out to prove he can take the Hulk down. He wastes only just a bit of time before he pulls Betty out of the house and shoots her right in the leg.
This, of course send Bruce off to her rescue. Bruce is met with all new Hulkbuster units. They are holding Hulk at bay – but mostly just pissing him off and getting destroyed. That’s when Matt Talbot shoots Betty in her other leg. Hulk goes all “flying fury” toward Talbot – only to turn into “Savage Banner” by the time he reaches him – and a solider knocks him out with one hit.
They take Bruce to a government facility where, if they keep him awake and mad – then they don’t have to worry about the Hulk! Betty, on the other hand, wakes up in the hospital. She runs into the police officer that tried to help her before – and he says he wants to help break her husband out. He introduces Betty to – one of the worse named groups ever – The Head Shop. Yes, the Head Shop. They are a groups of people created by the Leader – and they want to help release the Hulk so that he may help them find the Leader. They’re a group of 5 – but were once a group of 6 – the last member being Frost – you might remember Frost – Hulk ran into him back in Vegas back in issues #395-396.
Now, the current leader of Freehold is a green man by the name of Omnibus – and even though he has strikingly similar features of the Leader – he is not the Leader – except he thinks he is sort of possessed by the Leader. Omnibus is getting control over certain men, and with the Alliance ready to make terrorist attacks, he is thrilled thinking that his plan is going over so well…
The Head Shop helps Bruce escape – but the issue is still that he THINKS he is the Hulk and he is not – Bruce has no enhanced abilities and is actually worse than the Hulk as he is vulnerable in almost every way! This becomes a real problem when Bruce, thinking he is Hulk, goes to stop a grenade and it goes off.
The Head Shop brings the practically dead Banner out to the waiting helicopter that Betty is flying. She sees Bruce’s condition and freaks – but they tell her they need to take off. Once in the air though, Betty goes to check on the lifeless Bruce, only for the Hulk t emerge – except the Hulk doesn’t exactly look like himself. His skin color is darker and he’s a bit nastier to… well, everyone – but especially Betty. The Hulk is informed that the shrapnel from the grenade is still in his body – that his organs have healed around all the bits of metal – and the ones in his brain may be a problem. When the Head Shop asks for Hulk’s help to find the Leader he tells them that the Leader is dead. The Hulk remembers that the Leader once took a bullet out of his brain – maybe he can use his machines to take the remaining metal out of him as well.
Matt Talbot wants to find who is responsible for freeing the Hulk and he wants the Hulk found again – but Gyrich tells him that the Alliance is more important at this time and that they have to stop them. Talbot begrudgingly agrees.
Hulk is leaping through the air near Mt Rushmore when a huge explosion happens – Hulk wonders what that’s all about - and we see the Great Wall of China also get blown up – and Omnibus watching it all go down – laughing away that his plan is working perfectly! Soon everyone will be blaming each other and it will be Omibus to have to pick up the pieces – and we watch as Omnibus changes into the Leader!
The Hulk stands outside of Freehold and gets attacked by Ogress and Hot Shot – seeing as the last time Hulk was in Freehold you really can’t blame them for going on the defensive. All across the country things are amiss – a man finds one of the Leader’s Humanoids sitting in the parking garage of the World Trade Center – a man taking the tour in the White House hears the President is not there and he suddenly stops and sits in a chair as the tour goes on without him. Meanwhile, Jailbait is back in the lab where Omnibus came in before and freaked out on her and Hot Shot, so when Omnibus comes in this time – Jailbait hides and overhears the big headed maniac say he is the leader of the Alliance!
Rick Jones and Marlo are visited by a lawyer saying that her clients would like to have a reality show of them named “Keeping up with the Jones” (Holy Crap! Keeping up with the Jones?!! Are you kidding me? I hope PD is getting royalty rights to the name from that horrible Kardashian show!) But then we see that the whole world is going crazy as explosions are happening everywhere. The President wants it taken care of – he wants answers – and Gyrich turns back to his advisors and wants the same from them. Talbot, spoken like a true army man, simply asks for a target. But now we join Hulk back in Freehold where he and Omnibus talk over how they can take the shards of metal out of his body. But then Omnibus shows the Hulk all the destruction happening all over the world. The Hulk freaks out – starts talking to himself – knows that this is the future that Maestro talked about. And back at Mt Rushmore we see only half of it was destroyed – until something hits it and destroys the other half. When the dust clears we see the Hulk – now with a beard and long hair – and most importantly, calling himself the Maestro!
And who better to take down one of the strongest incarnations of the Hulk ever? That’s right – only a God would stand a chance against him – Mr. Goldilocks himself – Thor! Problem is – as the Avengers learn about the Maestro’s appearance (who they think looks amazingly like Hulk) Thor is de-powered and depressed. But soon – things change – Thor is not only back – but he’s mad. He says to beat the Hulk he needs to really cut loose – the way the Hulk seems to – not restrained in any way. Well, as the battle rages on there are distinct eyes upon the beat down – Betty being one, Talbot being another. Matt Talbot has an atomic bomb ready to be dropped on the Hulk at a mention – but as everyone else watches thinking the Hulk has lost his mind – only Betty knows the truth. Hulk visited Betty before he went to Rushmore, saying that the world needs a scapegoat – needs someone to blame – so that they don’t all blame each other. He is that scapegoat – the perfect patsy.
Back in Freehold – thanks to Jailbait’s earlier discovery – and her loose lips on the matter – the citizens of Freehold learn that Omnibus – their leader – IS the Alliance. They storm the lab where Omnibus is and… well, they take care of business. But that leaves the Hulk and Thor – still battling – Thor out for blood. He’s in a berserker rage like never before. Suddenly Samson shows up to overlook the fight and give Talbot a professional opinion about the Hulk – is he out of control or not. But Talbot hardly needs convincing and sends the signal to drop the bomb. Hulk sees the bomb – and with some parting words punches Thor as hard as he can and sends Thor to the stratosphere. The bomb touches down and in a firey explosion the Hulk is gone. Samson can’t believe it – Talbot is celebrating – until Samson back hands him – and the Head Shop asks Betty – who was still watching – they ask if she’s okay. She’s starts laughing deliriously.
I know I am missing an issue in this storyline – and the sad thing is my computer is down and getting cleaned out – so I wasn’t able to add it in – I will make sure to add it in later. It’s the Cutting Edge issue and I remembered it too late. Also, when I get my computer back I will review the latest issues – the end of the Chaos War. Now, back to these issues – The storyline had it’s up and downs for sure – beginning with the art of Angel Medina. It is so inconsistent – there are some freakin’ fantastic shots - but most of his panels are really awkward looking. And then there is the storyline itself – we begin with a bang – the introduction of Matt Talbot was awesome – and how die hard is he - and shooting Betty? Bad-ass! But he turns out to be another Army wacko just wanting blow things up… Also, the Leader coming back was fantastic – except David himself has gone on record as saying that the Leader appearance was left open-ended as maybe in Omnibus’ head. Eve the Thor vs Hulk fight was questionable. There are some die hard Thor fans that claim he wasn’t up to full strength – but this was one of the best Hulk vs. Thor fights ever and to me showed just who the real powerhouse is. So pretty much everything in these issues were left with highs and lows. I was looking to see if this was ever collected into a trade – but did not come across anything – and with it so deep in the David run I think we’ll have to wait to see if they even make it into the Visionaries trades. If they do it will surely be up to Volume 20. Grade: C