Appearing in "Thicker than Water"
- Speedfreek (Joss Shappe) (First appearance)
- Mr. Lang (Only appearance)
- Ralph Baldone (Only appearance; dies)
- Jacqueline Shorr (Unnamed)
- Jefferson Wolfe (Only appearance)
- Tyler Lang (Only appearance; dies)
- Falcon (Samuel Wilson) (Only in flashback)
- Talia (Mentioned)
- Kelly (First appearance)
- Miggy (First appearance)
Races and Species:
Synopsis for "Thicker than Water"
In Los Angeles, mobster Ralph Baldone goes for a jog with his two bodyguards he hears a strange sound. His men dismiss it as insects, but it is actually the high speed assassin who calls himself the Speedfreak. Using his super speed, the killer gore Baldone's bodyguards before decapitating his target.
Later that day, Rick Jones arrives at the airport and is greeted there by Jim Wilson, another former sidekick to the Hulk. Jim thanks Rick for coming to perform at his benefit concert. As they are driving on the freeway, Jim lets Rick in on his secret: He has tested positive for an auto-immune disorder. Rick dismisses this as a joke initially, but is stunned to silence when he realises that Jim isn't joking. Meanwhile, the Hulk meets with Ulysses and Hector at the Pantheon's Mount. There they disuss a mission they are undertaking to liberate the nation of Trans-Sabal, the very place where the Pantheon rescued refugees that were doused with napalm. They claim that the ruler of Trans-Sabal has been breaking international conventions as well as getting weapons and equipment from the United States government. The Hulk tells his allies that he wants to see physical proof of this before he agrees to go on this mission. Until then, he tells them that he is got plans in Los Angeles.
Back in Los Angeles, Speedfreak meets with his employer, a rival mobster named Mr. Lang. Lang is impressed with the work. Speedfreek needs more money to pay for the drugs that give him his powers. Lang gives some of the drugs for free and offers him his next job: His son Tyler is dying of a disease and he wants Speedfreek to kill the man who is responsible. At that moment, Rick Jones and Jim Wilson are at a hospital where they meet Tyler Lang. Rick also meets Jefferson Wolfe, Tyler's boyfriend. Rick feel awkward and slightly scared of being around these terminally ill people, but is social nonetheless. In Jim's office, Rick hears how Tyler's father is a local mobster who is furious that his son is dying while his partner is still in relatively good health. Jim also explains how his uncle, the Falcon, was able to come to town and help keep Lang reigned in, but now that the Falcon is gone again, Lang is starting to cause trouble again. Rick suddenly explodes, upset at the news that Jim Wilson is dying of a fatal illness. Jim tells Rick that he can't stop living his life because he knows he is going to die.
In Reno, Betty Banner comes home to find her husband the Hulk is visiting the apartment she shares with Marlo. Marlo kisses the Hulk on the cheek and tells him to send her love to Rick before he leaps off. Betty is jealous and upset, given Marlo's past history with her husband and the current tensions in their relationship. Meanwhile, at the 1-800-Hotline, Betty's co-worker Veronica takes a call from someone looking for Betty. When Veronica asks who is calling, the woman on the line says she is Rick Jones' mother. While in Los Angeles, Rick Jones and his band are getting ready to play when suddenly Speedfreak crashes the event. After speeding around the room and getting Rick's autograph, the hired assassin asks for the location of Jefferson Wolfe. Rick tries to stop him, but Speedfreed is too fast and his wrist mounted swords make him dangerous. When he spots Tyler and Jefferson, Speedfreed charges in for the kill, but Jim gets in the way, getting seriously stabbed in the process. It's then that the Hulk comes crashing in. Speedfreek manages to use his superior speed and high tech weapons to keep the Hulk on the defensive and drag him outside. Inside, Jim Wilson asks Rick for help, but the sight of all the blood causes Rick to panic and run out of the room, for fear of getting infected himself.
Eventually, the Hulk regains his footing and begins poudning on Speedfreek. Seeing that he is out of his league, the villain decides to flee. Returning to the benefit, the Hulk asks Rick why he is just standing there instead of helping Jim, Rick tells him what's wrong. The Hulk picks up Jim and leaps toward the nearest hospital. In the aftermath of the battle, Jefferson is shocked to discover that Tyler had died of his disease.
After Tyler's funeral, Jefferson tries to give his condolences to his father. When Mr. Lang vows to kill the boy, he does so unaware that Rick and the Hulk are on site and recorded his threats. They warn him to leave Jefferson alone or they will see the authorities get it. Back in Reno, the Hulk and Rick tell Betty and Marlo what happened. When Betty asks the Hulk how Jim caught the illness, the Hulk says it doesn't matter. What does matter is that he'll be there for Jim, as much as he will be there for everyone else important in his life, including Betty. Flattered by the compliment, Betty kisses her husband on the cheek.
- The illness referenced in this story is identified as HIV/AIDS. At the time of this story the virus was at epidemic levels. Most of this was due to lack of understanding, fear, and prejudice toward the homosexual community. Since this story has been published, a lot of the stigma toward the disease, as well as medical treatment for it, has greatly changed and improved. Thanks to medical breakthroughs the disease is killing less people who get treatment. Since 2007 new techniques has been developed that could lead to potentially eradicating the illness completely. As such, the context of this story should be considered a topical reference per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616.
- Jim Wilson mentions that he was the Hulk's sidekick for a time. He was the Hulk's partner intermittently from Incredible Hulk #131-232.
- This issue is reprinted in the trade paperback Incredible Hulk Visionaries: Peter David Volume 7.
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