Appearing in "Strange Matters"
- Imei Chang
- Charles Lassiter (Last appearance)
- Margaret Lassiter (Last appearance)
- Jack Lassiter (Last appearance)
- Betty Banner (Mentioned)
- Clea (Mentioned)
- Silver Surfer (Mentioned)
- The Visage of Vishanti (Mentioned)
- Dormammu (Mentioned)
- The Argo
Synopsis for "Strange Matters"
On his way to Connecticut to be reunited with his wife, the Hulk stops in New York City as it is almost dawn, which will trigger a reversion back into Bruce Banner. He spots strange energy emanating from an apartment and decides to investigate. From the street below, he is observed by the Sub-Mariner who was also drawn to this place and decides that this is fate. Inside the building, the Hulk witnesses Doctor Strange's astral form battling a pair of black demonic hands emerging from a closet. When the Hulk calls out to Strange it distracts the magician briefly, allowing the creature to grab his spirit form and pull it into the closet. The Hulk leaps in after his ally and finds himself in a strange dimension of darkness. He recovers Doctor Strange and that's when the Hulk realizes that everything in this realm seems heavier. With the creature reaching out after them, the Hulk tosses the Doctor's spirit form back out through the doorway and tries to make his own way out as well. The creature grabs him and tries to pull the Hulk back in but he is helped back out by the Sub-Mariner. Once out, the Hulk slams the door shut.
The Sub-Mariner remarks that this whole situation reminds him of their early days of the Defenders. The Hulk tries to see if Doctor Strange is okay, and convince Namor -- who can't see Strange's astral form -- that the Doctor is there. Suddenly, Strange's spirit form sinks into the floor and disappears. The Hulk things are no longer making sense, especially since he heard the news that the Sub-Mariner was dead. Namor points out that both Doctor Strange and the Hulk have been reported as dead and that they are very proficient at tricking the world into thinking so. As the Hulk raids the fridge in the apartment, the sun begins to rise to cause him to revert back into Bruce Banner. After Namor compares notes with Banner on what just happened, they both agree to go and see Doctor Strange. Meanwhile, at a hospital in South Carolina, Doc Samson interviews the Lassiter family following their encounter with the Hulk. Samson takes interest in young Jack's new toy, a strange-looking red car. When he asks about it, the Lassiter's tells him that another "government guy" came to question them earlier. This strikes Doc Samson as very strange indeed.
Back in New York, Namor and Banner arrive at Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum where they are invited in by Wong and Imei, his betrothed. When Namor sees Rintrah, the Sub-Mariner thinks him a foe and is about to attack when Wong stops him and explains that Rintrah is Doctor Strange's new disciple. By this time, Doctor Strange's spirit returns to his body and he greets his guests. While they are comparing notes, Doctor Strange notices a strange scar running down the base of Banner's neck, something Banner wasn't aware of either. Back in South Carolina, Doc Samson spots the strange red car that has been secretly tracking the Hulk. When he tries to stop the driver, he is run down and left for dead. While at Strange's Sanctum, Bruce tries to get some rest but finds he cannot sleep. Looking at the scar, he finds that it traces all the way down his back and it's starting to itch.
Getting dressed he meets with his two former allies to discuss the creature they fought and the dimension it comes from. Bruce's scientific knowledge suggests to him that this dimension is one of strange matter, a denser form of matter that barely exists in their universe. He goes through a number of theories about how strange matter could be a useful form of energy or a dominating force. Doctor Strange then suggests that they work together to solve this mystery. Bruce then explains that the Hulk only comes out at night but he could convince him to work with them. It's then that the Sub-Mariner recalls how they were told if the original Defenders ever reunited the world would come to an end. Strange tells them that he has since learned that this was nothing more than a cosmic hoax. When Namor asks why he didn't tell them sooner, Strange explains that he needed the peace and quiet. Strange then uses the Eye of Agamotto to allow Banner to travel into his mind and converse with the Hulk.
Banner impresses the importance of trying to uncover the mystery of this strange matter universe. The Hulk is not happy about this, reminding Banner that they are trying to find his wife. When Banner says this is more important, the Hulk figures that Banner is afraid of finding his wife out of fear she won't love him anymore. The two argue until the Hulk notices a massive metal door that is barred off that he has never seen before. Bruce asks Hulk if he is interested in opening it up and seeing what is on the other side, but the Hulk is not the slightest bit curious, as he figures that this is a physical representation of a mental block and should probably stay closed. Suddenly, the demonic entity they are fighting suddenly emerges out from the scar on Bruce's back. The creature grabs the Hulk, while also enveloping Banner in the waking world. Suddenly, Bruce turns into the Hulk and merges with the creature. This new black Hulk vows that it will use this vessel to conquer the universe and make it his own.
- Mention is made about how the Hulk, Sub-Mariner, and Doctor Strange have all recently faked their deaths. The facts:
- The Hulk was seemingly atomized during a gamma bomb blast in Incredible Hulk #345. He had been laying low in Las Vegas for months.
- The Sub-Mariner was seemingly killed during in Iron Man Annual #10 during the Atlantis Attacks event. He survived as seen in Fantastic Four Annual #22, but has kept his survival a secret to found Oracle Inc. as seen in Namor the Sub-Mariner #1.
- Doctor Strange also led people to believe he died battling the Beyonder in Secret Wars II #9, a funeral was held for Strange in Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #1, but this was a hoax.
- Banner mentions how he transforms into the Hulk at night. This has been the status quo since Incredible Hulk #333.
- Bruce and Namor meet Wong's fiancee Imei, their engagement was first announced in Strange Tales (Vol. 2) #17. They also meet Rintrah, who has been an ally of Doctor Strange since Doctor Strange (Vol. 2) #80.
- Namor mentions that the original Defenders were warned never to unite as they would cause the world to end. They were convinced of this by the Tribunals in Defenders #124 leading to the departure of the founding members, Doctor Strange, Hulk, and Namor in the following issue.
- This issue contains a letters page, Gray Matter. Letters are published from Rusty Mead, Ryan A. Grant, Vincent Surace, Jr., Vaullgene Shepherd, David Powell, Freddy Thompson, SCott Tipton and Dave Smith.