Appearing in "Quality of Life"
- Michael's luck bar
Synopsis for "Quality of Life"
In a small town, Blaire White is recovering from another beating put onto her by her husband, Mike White, the local sheriff. As he shaves his face while preparing for the work day, Mike justifies the beating and berates his battered wife. Having had enough, Blaire reaches into the night table and pulls out a revolver. She fantasizes about killing him to stop the abuse, but can't bring herself from pulling the trigger. When Mike emerges from the bathroom and sees his wife with the gun in her hand he dares her to take a shot at him. When she chokes under the pressure he beats his wife some more, questioning her on what is going on inside her head.
Meanwhile, in the ruins of Bruce Banner's secret lab, the Hulk pulls himself out of the rubble after an experiment to transfer Rick Jone's gamma radiation into the boy of the Leader ended in a massive explosion. Rick has also survived thanks to the fact that the Hulk shielded his body. When Rick comes around he is surprised to discover that it is night time and he hasn't transformed into the Hulk. Rick is thankful to the Hulk, but when he suggests that they repeat the process with him, the Hulk has not interest in being cured and swats Jones aside. The Hulk does not want to be a weakling like Bruce Banner. Now that the Leader seemingly died in the blast, the Hulk has been cheated out of the promise to eliminate Bruce Banner so the Hulk can lived unrestrained. The Hulk then refuses to return to Gamma Base, and warns Rick against crossing paths with him again and leaps off. Rick then hops into the ambulance that has been left on the scene. Inside he finds the body of the bludgeoned morgue technician and that the gurney carrying the body of Thaddeus Ross is now empty.
The Hulk lands in a nearby town and with sunrise coming up, he seeks to do something to impede the Banner from trying to find a cure during the daylight hours. Spotting a liquor store, the Hulk breaks in and then begins to drink a massive amount of alcohol until the sun begins to come up. When the transformation into Bruce Banner begins Banner finds himself heavily intoxicated and passes out. He is later found by Mike White and his officers who are shocked by the damage done by this puny man. When Bruce is woken up, he tries to explain himself he is too drunk to articulate himself and he passes out again. Banner is then put under arrest. While back at Gamma Base, Rick Jones returns to to find his ride surrounded by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who are aware that he was the "new" Hulk. When Rick is brought into the facility, he tells Betty that Bruce forced himself to transform into the Hulk in order to cure him. This upsets Betty who is furious of all the neglect and secrets that her husband has been keeping from her. When Rick tries to justify it, Betty storms off while Jones is restrained. As she walks away, Hideko gives Betty a note. It's a message from her ex-lover Ramon who tells her to meet him at Chelsie's Bar at 7 pm that evening.
Back in town, Blaire White goes over her photo album and reflects back on her relationship with Mike. She recalls how handsome and strong he was when they first met in high school. Although gentle to all, he refused to be bullied and often defended himself easily thanks to his strong body. She recalls one time when a classmate named Piper tried to get back at Mike by attacking him with a pipe, her future husband managed to disarm his opponent and then used his strength to bend the bar in half. Mike kept the bar as a representation of his great strength. She recalls how they started dating and after high school they got married. After he became sheriff, they tried to have children and discovered that she couldn't carry his child. That's when the abuse started as Mike began taking out his frustrations on his wife. Deciding that she has had enough of the abuse, Blaire decides that it is time to leave and packs a bag. At that moment, Bruce Banner is waking up in a cell with no idea how he got there and feeling hung over. Struggling with his memories, he tries to access those of the Hulk's mind. He begins recalling how the now-powerless Leader sought the Hulk's aid to restore his lost powers. How he intentionally transformed himself into the Hulk. How he now changes into the original gray Hulk and how these transformations now happen every night. He also discovers that the Hulk's persona will overpower him depending on the phase of the moon, and that the Hulk's persona will be strongest during the new moon. Worse, this new version of the Hulk -- more intelligent and more cruel than ever before -- has made it his mission to prevent Bruce Banner from maintaining control ever again.
Coming completely out of his stupor, Bruce demands Mike White let her free and get him back to Gamma Base. White refuses to listen and begins antagonising Bruce by slamming the bent bar of his youth against the bars of Bruce's cell. However, this is just as the sun begins to set and Bruce suddenly transforms into the Hulk. Not liking the mockary of this man, the Hulk breaks out of the cell and begins beating on the sheriff. Their fight takes them out into the street where a crowd gathers, including Mike's wife. The townspeople have come to considered the sheriff a bully and begin cheering for the Hulk. However, when the gamma-spawned monster begins gaining the upper hand, Mike's wife tells him to stop, pointing a gun at him. The Hulk sees how Blaire's face is bruised and leaves her husband to him. Blaire goes to her husband and helps him up. Instead of being greatful, Mike begins to berate his wife for humiliating him in front of the whole town. Fed up again, she points her gun at Mike's head. He dares her to pull the trigger, and surprisingly she does and he is killed instantly. In a state of shock, Blaire insists that she didn't mean to shoot her husband, but the Hulk isn't convinced and leaps away.
Meanwhile, at Christie's Bar, Ramon is waiting for his rendezvous with Betty. To his surprise she actually shows up. Confused as to the thoughts she has about her father, her husband Bruce, and herself, Betty decides that she needs to feel something like she used to. Ramon tells her that's what he does best.
- Although the leader seemingly died in the explosion seen at the end of last issue, he actually survived and resurfaces again in Incredible Hulk #338.
- The death of Thaddeus Ross is mentioned in this issue. He had just recently died in Incredible Hulk #330. His body was loaded into the ambulance that is seen here in the following issue. His body has been removed when Rick claims the ambulance. As later revealed in Incredible Hulk #400, the Leader secretly recovered Ross' body and would later resurrect him.
- Ramon signs his letter to Betty as her "(Ex?) Husband". This statement is never fully explained. It's possible that Ramon could have been a product of his boastful behavior.
- Banner recounts his transformation into the Hulk and how he used to change into the Hulk at night, this first happened in Incredible Hulk #1. However, the transformations into the Hulk immediately began to change starting in Incredible Hulk #2, where Banner needed to use a Gamma Ray Projector until Avengers #3 which began the long standing tradition where Banner would only transform when his pulse rate was up.
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