Appearing in "Countdown Fantastic 4"
- Hulk (Main story and flashback)
Synopsis for "Countdown Fantastic 4"
Following his battle with the Abomination, the Hulk has collapsed due to the fact that he had been poisoned. Now the people running the Yucca Flats nuclear research facility try to contain him. As he is being carried away by a forklift, the Hulk wakes up and leaps away, needing to find someplace to think about his next move. No sooner has the Hulk left has Doc Samson arrived at the scene to investigate.
At that moment at an annual science convention in Pheonix, Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four is giving an address to the audience. In the audience are Ben Grimm and his girlfriend Ms. Marvel. As Grimm complains about having to sit through yet another one of Reed's boring speeches, the Hulk suddenly comes crashing through the roof into the middle of the convention. Ms. Marvel tells Ben to stay back as she has been waiting for an opportunity to take on the Hulk. The Hulk mistakes Ms. Marvel for the Thing, who has since been reverted back to human form since his last encounter. Ms. Marvel responds by landing a punch that sends the Hulk smashing out of the building and into the middle of the street. The force of the battle is so great that it is heard by the Invisible Woman who is shopping not far away. Meanwhile, Ms. Marvel corrects the Hulk on his case of mistaken identity. The gamma-spawned brute quips that at least she didn't call herself something stupid like "She-Thing". As the battle rages on, Ben Grimm watches and sees how his girlfriend is defending his honor and feels depressed as he is too weak to do it himself.
As the battle continues, Ms. Marvel manages to get the upper hand, but the Hulk eventually gets fed up of listening to her talk and jams two of his fingers in her mouth. By this point, Ben Grimm has grown tired of standing on the sidelines and jumps on the Hulk's back. This shocks the Hulk enough to drop Ms. Marvel. The Hulk finally recognizes Ben Grimm and asks how he got turned into something so ugly. During their exchange, Ms. Marvel recovers and not seeing her boyfriend on the Hulk's back, picks them both up and tosses them. They are stopped from slamming into the wall thanks to the fast action of Mister Fantastic who uses his pliant body to cushion their fall. Meanwhile, back at the Yucca Flast facility, Doc Samson finds it hard to believe that the Hulk could still be alive after all this time. When he tries to investigate Philip Sterns denies knowing Bruce Banner, or that they were working together. This angers Doc Samson who can tell that Sterns is lying, but there is nothing he can do to make the man talk. With no further need to discuss things, Philip tells Samson that he needs to get back to work.
Back in Pheonix, the Hulk remarks how stupid Mister Fantastic was by knocking himself out trying to save him. This allows Ms. Marvel to once again regain her composure and renew her attack. Fed up with the woman he considers a pale imitation of the real Thing, the Hulk lays into her. This time when the Hulk knocks Ms. Marvel into a fire hydrant she suddenly turns invisible, alerting the Hulk to the presence of the Invisible Woman. Seeing the outline of Sue Richards in the water the Hulk warns her against attack him. Suddenly, the Hulk is struck by another heart attack from the poison coursing through his veins. Ms. Marvel finally knocks him out, but Mister Fantastic orders his team to stand down. Observing that there is something wrong with the Hulk, Reed tells the others that they must do what they can to help him, because it is the right thing to do.
When the Hulk wakes up he finds himself in a hospital. After being made to apologize for his rampage, the Hulk is told that something has been causing him a series of heart attacks. The doctors have tried to get a blood sample but none of their needles can pierce the Hulk's dense skin. In order to help discover what is wrong with him, the Hulk punches himself in the face to cause a nose bleed and tells Reed and the doctors that he can keep doing it until they get all the blood they need. Later, the Hulk goes to a bar where Ben Grimm is stewing over their plans to save the Hulk. The Hulk orders a milk and sits down next to the man who used to be the Thing and the two begin talking. The Hulk makes Ben realizes that the only one who held a grudge between the two of them over the years was the Grimm himself. The Hulk then makes Ben remember their first encounter, pointing out how everyone assumed that the Hulk was responsible for wrecking devices around the base when it was a spy named the Wrecker. This makes Ben Grimm point out that the Hulk attacked him because the gamma-spawned brute was envious of everything he had as the Thing, despite the fact that he was a monster. The Hulk counters by saying that the difference between him and Ben when he was the Thing was this: That the Hulk never wasted his time wishing he wasn't a monster and the Thing was envious of his confidence and strength. Before he leaves the bar, the Hulk tells Ben that all the times he let the Thing win in a fight, the Hulk was going easy on him.
The Hulk then returns to the hospital and learns that Mister Fantastic and the doctors have finished their test. Reed explains that the poison in his system is like a modified autoimmune virus that is preventing the Hulk's immune system from fighting it. Richards goes on to explain that while the poison was meant to kill Bruce Banner almost immediately, it will slowly kill the Hulk as well unless a cure is found.
- Ben Grimm appears in human form in this story. At the time of this story Grimm had recently been restored to human form in Fantastic Four #327. He will remain in human form until Fantastic Four #350.
- The Hulk confuses Ms. Marvel for the Thing because she resembles the Thing's trademark rocky form. He is confused because the last time he faced the Thing in Fantastic Four #320/Incredible Hulk #350 he looked like a "pineapple". This is a reference to the Thing's mutated form which caused him to have a more rocky form. The Thing (and incidentally Ms. Marvel) were further mutated in Fantastic Four #309.
- There are multiple mentions about how the general public thought the Hulk to be dead. This assumption was due to the fact that the Hulk was seemingly atomized in a nuclear blast as seen in Incredible Hulk #345.
- The Hulk and Ben Grimm reminisce about their first encounter with each other. That happened back in Fantastic Four #12.
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