Appearing in "Piece of Mind"
Synopsis for "Piece of Mind"
After having hidden away Rick Jones, who now finds himself transforming into a Hulk as well, Bruce Banner begins making his way to Gamma Base to let everyone there know he is all right. However, despite the urgency, he stops in the middle of the desert to reflect on the situation at hand. In the sweltering sun he thinks about recent events and how he now feels responsible with Rick being saddled with the curse of the Hulk. Growing thirsty, Bruce stops at what he thinks is an oasis, but he discovers that it is merely a mirage. With the heat starting to get to him, Bruce makes his way back to his jeep and continues down the highway. As he continues to drive down the road, the heat makes it hard for him to think about anything and just barely sees elderly man sitting cross-legged in the middle of the road. Bruce is forced to swerve causing his jeep to tip over.
Surviving the crash uninjured, Bruce rushes out to the old man to demand why he is sitting in the middle of the road. The old man explains that he has come out here to die. Bruce tells him that he can't just do that. However, the old man -- who recognizes Bruce -- explains that he has a terminal disease that cannot be cured and as such he believes he should have the right to decide to die on his own terms. Banner is horrified to learn that the old man has hired an assassin to kill him in the event that he cannot end his own life. He tries to force the old man to leave, but he refuses to go. Suddenly, the hired assassin, a costumed man named the Fragment teleports between them. He then uses his powers to encase the old man in a cage made out of energy.
Bruce warns Fragment not to kill the old man, a threat that the hired assassin thinks humorous at first until he recognizes Bruce Banner and his alter-ego the Hulk. Fragment finds it amusing that Bruce would seek to redeem the Hulk's wrongs by saving this old man. Banner then begins to beg Fragment to take his life and spare the old man instead. Fragment tries to goad him into letting the Hulk out, but he refuses. Instead of killing him, the Fragment causes the ground to open up and Banner falls into a cavern of near darkness. There he is approached by an image of Rick Jones. He suddenly feels guilt over creating the Gamma Bomb to begin with and begs to Rick that he had to build it for the military. Suddenly, the image of Rick disappears and is replaced with one of his wife Betty. When he tries to reach out to this illusion it blames him of taking away all stability in her life and then the illusion suddenly shatters like glass. Banner can hardly believe that his life has created nothing but misery.
However, this dispair triggers a transformation into the Hulk, who digs himself free and confronts the Fragment. Fragment mocks the Hulk by calling him Banner, and the two come to blows. The Fragment matches the Hulk, but the gamma-spawned monster seemingly wins the battle, burying the assassin under tons of rock. The Hulk then sets Banner's jeep upright and is about to leave when Fragment attacks him again. The being continues to mock him, but the Hulk finally loses his temper enough to hit Fragment and shatter him to pieces. Thinking his foe is defeated, the Hulk then approaches the old man who started all this. It's then that the Hulk realizes that is beard and hair are fake and pulls them off. Oddly, this man is actually Bruce Banner as well. This revelation causes the Hulk to revert back to human form. The two men talk it out and Bruce convinces the apparent illusion of himself tells Bruce to commit suicide and hands him a gun. Banner contemplates shooting himself in the head, but the Hulk fights back in his mind. Banner resists the urge to kill himself but also fights off another transformation into the Hulk as a storm suddenly begins pulling in.
The storm quickly passes and Bruce finds no sign of his other "self" or the Fragment. Thinking it was all an illusion, Bruce returns to his jeep. However, the idea that it was all a dream is rattled when he spots the Hulk's fingerprints embedded in the hood of the jeep. Regardless, Bruce has decided that suicide is not an option and he will continue fighting until he finds his cure. As he drives away, the remains of Fragment think that is a good idea and begins to laugh wildly.
- Mention is made how Rick Jones has begun turning into a Hulk. This happened after he was dunked in a chemical bath along with Bruce in Incredible Hulk #325.
- The Hulk's origins are recounted here as they were told in Incredible Hulk #1.
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- Images from Incredible Hulk Vol 1 328
- ↑ First and only known appearance to date besides flashbacks
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