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Appearing in "Lest Darkness Come"

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Synopsis for "Lest Darkness Come"

Jim Wilson is among protestors standing outside Theodore Roosevelt School in Los Angeles to defend the rights of a child with an auto-immune disease. However, due to the stigma caused by the illness there are those who wish to have the child removed from the school for fear of the disease spreading. Thanks to ignorance and the stigma toward the disease, a riot breaks out and Jim is struck over the head and collapses on the ground, bleeding. While in Reno, Betty Banner is about to finish her job at the hotline for the day when her phone begins to ring. When nobody else goes to answer it, she resigns herself to answering one last call. When she answers, she finds herself talking to a man named Chet who just found out he tested positive for the same auto-immune disease and that he is planning on committing suicide. This admission shocks her and her silence is taken as indifference and the man abruptly hangs up the phone.

Back in Los Angeles, Jim Wilson tries to get help from a news crew on the scene, but they are too interested in the riot to listen to his pleas. Suddenly, the Hulk arrives on the scene to help his friend. People start to panic at the sight of the Hulk and an officer tries to shoot him with his shotgun. the Hulk deflects the bullets and warns him against shooting in a crowd like that again as he could have hit innocent people. Asking Jim who had hurt him, Jim can't recall. When the Hulk turns and demands to know who was responsible, everyone runs away in fear. Banner then decides to take Jim some place safe and leaps off into the sky. In Reno, Chet calls back and apologizes for hanging up, telling Betty that he is angry at everybody. Betty then begins suggesting specific hotlines for his diseases, and begins giving him statistics on the length of time it takes the disease to show symptoms and drug treatments that are available. The man asks Betty if she is reading off index cards, and this causes her to admit that she is. She points out their hotline is not meant for such a heavy subject and recommends he calls a specialized hotline. However, Chet isn't interested in doing so because he likes the sound of Betty's voice. The man explains that he is driving in his car and his call will be difficult to trace in time, and admits that her voice will be a good last voice to hear when he finally kills himself.

Meanwhile, the Hulk has brought Jim Wilson to the Pantheon's Mount headquarters where he is examined by the facility doctors. There, Bruce is told by Doctor Harr that Jim has been lying about how serious his disease is. Harr explains that Jim is in the advanced stages of the illness and the fact that he is suffering from pneumonia and two cracked ribs during the protest are not helping his chances of living. The Hulk then suggests that they inject Jim with the cure the Pantheon has been developing. However, Doctor Harr refuses to do so as the drug is not ready for treatment on humans and cannot morally do so due to her Hippocratic oath as a doctor. Bruce loses his temper and demands that she do it anyway, but realizing that he is frightening the doctor relents. He then goes in to check on Jim who asks him if he has some kind of special miracle he can use to save him. When he tells Jim that there are ethics preventing him from using a new experimental drug, Jim chastises him for his hypocrisy toward bending the rules given the fact that he has invaded other countries in the past. But still, Jim persists, asking the Hulk to give him a blood transfusion. He recounts how Bruce once did that for his cousin Jennifer Walters, saving her life in the past. However, the Hulk also cannot bring himself to do this either. At his wits end, Jim begs the Hulk to give him the transfusion that might save his life.

Back in Reno, Betty continues her telephone conversation with Chet. She points out that he could at least have another ten years of life and tries to get him to see that it is a long time. However, Chet has read up on how this disease ravages the human body, and as a formal football player whose body was in peak condition, he cannot fathom himself succumbing to those effects. When Betty tries to appeal to his religious sensibilities, Chet merely scoffs pointing out that if this world is created in God's image, it's quite dysfunctional. However, Betty points out that if God exists, it put her in this world to talk to him. When Chet asks what "they" will think of him, Betty asks who, but he hangs up again. Betty then becomes more determined to try and save Chet's life. At the Mount, the Hulk appears to relent to Jim's request and has a blood transfusion set up. As Jim is being prepared, the Hulk asks why Jim didn't tell Rick Jones the whole truth about his illness. Jim points out that Rick reacted with the same sort of stigma that the rest of the world has been treating his illness with. With the transfusion underway, the Hulk points out to Jim that this is a longshot and it might not cure him. Still, Jim is thankful for at least taking the chance. He then makes a comment about how Rick Jones is terrible at singing Mowtown. Jim also talks about death, how after seeing an elderly man in his neighborhood die, how he wished he would never die that old. Lastly, Jim asks the Hulk if he had to choose between him or Rick in an emergency who would he choose to be his sidekick. The Hulk responds that it would depend on if the situation required singing Mowtown music. This causes Jim to laugh, but then he suddenly starts coughing up blood.

Elsewhere in the Mount, Hector and Ulysses are watching the news coverage about young Joey Harris. Because of the fear that he might spread his auto-immune disease, as unwarranted this concern is, the school has backed down to the concerns of parents and the boy is being removed from the school. Hector is angry because part of the stigma of this illness has been applied to homosexuality. Ulysses responds with some bigoted attitudes about he thinks homosexuals are promiscuous and only have themselves to blame. Angered by this, Hector punches out Ulysses, telling him that he could spend time explaining how Ulysses is wrong in his assessment but hitting him in the face saved more time. Back in the med-lab, Jim is growing weaker and weaker even though appears to think that he is going to get well. When Jim asks for a private moment alone with the doctor, Jim gets her to admit that they weren't actually transfusing him with the Hulk's blood. Jim can't really bring himself to blame the Hulk, but has Doctor Harr swear that she will not tell him. When the Hulk is called back, Jim makes a comment about how he feels like he could spring out of bed, but dies instead. After Jim's body is taken away, the Hulk deduces that Jim had figured out that he didn't really use his blood. When the doctor confirms this, the Hulk storms out of the Mount.

He goes to the hotline to tell Betty about all of this and his doubts about doing the right thing. Betty points out that perhaps giving Jim his blood transfusion and possibly turning him into a monster from the gamma radiation was a good reason not to try. Suddenly, Chet calls her back. This time, Betty gives him her real name and tries to relate by way of how difficult her marriage to the Hulk is. Chet explains that he is afraid that when his friends find out that he has this disease they will think that he is gay. Betty tries to explain to him that it doesn't matter if he is, or isn't, that she cares about his well being. However, Chet is already quite drunk and isn't willing to listen, he can't face the world or telling his girlfriend that he has the disease. Chet explains that he has parked his car on a train track and is waiting for the train to come and hit him. As a train approaches his car, Betty begs him to give her the identity of his girlfriend so she can be informed she might have the disease. Unfortunately, it is too late, a train comes and Chet's last words are amazement over how fast the train can travel.


Continuity Notes

  • This story was originally written during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the United States in the 1990s. In particular, it was likely inspired by the story of Ryan White, a child who was infected with the virus from a blood transfusion. His tragic story was one of many that showed the United States that AIDS wasn't just a disease affecting the homosexual community (who were greatly stigmatized and considered socially unacceptable at the time) but a threat to everybody and that transmission could be caused by other means. As great a commentary this story has, as this story occurs in the Modern Age and considering the advancements in treatment, lower mortality rates, and reduced stigma towards the disease, this should be considered a topical reference per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616. Modern readers should interpret this as an auto-immune disease as opposed to a specific illness.
  • The Hulk mentions that he has been keeping tabs on Jim since the Speedfreak incident. He is referring to the events of Incredible Hulk #388.
  • Jim mentions how he and the Hulk were partners. Jim was the on-again-off-again sidekick of the Hulk in Incredible Hulk #131-232.
  • Chet states that he is calling Betty from his carphone and that it is untraceable. This, of course, should also be considered a topical reference since carphones are long obsolete and the ability of tracking mobile phones is now quite simple through means of triangulation from cell phone towers. Modern readers should interpret the mobile device used as something somewhat more current.
  • Jim vaguely mentions the Hulk's recent attempts to liberate the nation of Trans-Sabal which occurred in Incredible Hulk #390392.
  • Jim also mentions how Bruce gave his cousin Jennifer Walters a blood transfusion. The Hulk's reluctance to do so is likely because although it turned her into the She-Hulk relatively benignly,[1] she is a blood relative; most other Gamma Mutates are not so fortunate.

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