Appearing in "Self Destruction"
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Synopsis for "Self Destruction"
At the site of the original gamma bomb test, the emaciated body of the Maestro tries to make his way across the desert. However, his body is still weak as it did not absorb enough gamma radiation from the Hulk and he collapses on the ground. Suddenly, a group of Asgardian Rock Trolls appear and lift the body from the ground and carry it away.
Not far away in the town of Flagpoke, the people of the town have been evacuated due to a sighting of Bruce Banner. General Ross goes in alone, telling Colonel St. Lawrence and her troops to wait on the sidelines while he approaches Banner alone. When Ross meets with the local sheriff, he explains that Banner is sitting in the nearby diner. Drawing his gun, General Ross enters the diner and finds Banner sitting peacefully in one of the booths. The appearance of Ross, who Bruce believed to be dead, comes as a bit of a surprise. Still, Banner offers Ross to sit. The General explains that he is supposed to bring Banner in, dead or alive. He explains that he would like to bring Bruce in alive as it is the wishes of his daughter, Bruce's wife Betty. He asks Bruce not to make him choose between his duty to his daughter and his duty to his country.
However, before Banner can be taken into custody, the Rock Trolls burst out of the street outside. Behind them emerges the Asgardian Destroyer armor containing the spirit of the Maestro. Seeing this seemingly senseless attack angers Bruce, as he wants to get away from such insanity and live in peace. The Maestro explains that he was able to track Banner because they are linked for all time. Seeing General Ross, the Maestro is glad to get another opportunity to get revenge against his oldest foe. Ross tries to shoot the Maestro, but the Destroyer armor is bullet proof. When the Maestro fires back with mystical energy, Bruce pushes his father-in-law out of the way. Bruce then transforms into the Hulk, who feels he knows his foe, but doesn't know from where, but attacks nonetheless. When Maestro asks why the Hulk is defending Ross, the Hulk explains that if Ross dies he will take the blame, and he is tired of being a fall guy. However, the Destroyer armor is initially too powerful for the Hulk and he is easily tossed aside. The Hulk resumes his battle, the Maestro orders the Rock Trolls to deal with General Ross. However, the Hulk manages to force the Destroyer's visor down and sends a disintegration ray at the Rock Trolls, incinerating them.
Meanwhile, in Cairo Egypt, Marlo Jones blames herself for allowing her husband Rick to go on the mission that saw him crippled during a Hulk battle. Betty tries to convince her otherwise when they notice that Rick has awakened. After some tearful reunions, Betty asks Rick what happened to him, however, Rick cannot remember exactly how he was injured. Back in Arizona, the Hulk and Maestro continue their battle, which has taken them back out into the desert. There, the Destroyer armor manages to draw blood from the Hulk. The gamma-spawned monster soon realizes that he is being attacked by his future self, the Maestro. When the armor makes contact with the Hulk's blood. This creates a circuit between the Destroyer and the Hulk, allowing him to send his spirit inside the Destroyer armor along with the Maestro. The two fight for control of the armor but their spirits are equally matched. Instead, the Hulk charges up the Destroyer's disintegrator then shuts the visor so the energy is turned inward. Suddenly, the Destroyer armor explodes, causing an avalanche that buries the remaining Rock Trolls and the weakened body of the Maestro, killing them all.
In the aftermath of the battle, the Hulk reverts back to Bruce Banner. As he gets back up he finds himself surrounded by soldiers under the command of Colonel St. Lawrence. Suddenly, General Ross arrives and orders everyone to stand down. Thinking that Ross is going to kill Banner himself, the Colonel is shocked when Ross pulls out a cigar from his pocket instead and hands it to Bruce. The two men then smoke together while surrounded by a massive army of troops.
- The Maestro was atomized after being sent back in time to the day of the gamma bomb test in Hulk: Future Imperfect #2. As revealed last issue, the Maestro survived and used his influence on the Hulk to lure the brute back to ground zero for years to draw excess gamma radiation to restore his body.
- Bruce is surprised to see General Ross alive and well as he was present when he was killed in Incredible Hulk #400. The secret behind his recent resurrection is revealed in Incredible Hulk #464.
- Bruce glosses over his ordeals after he was separated from the Hulk. The two were split apart during the final battle with Onslaught in Onslaught Marvel Universe #1. In that story, Bruce seemingly sacrificed his life alongside the Avengers and Fantastic Four to destroy Onslaught. In reality, he and the other heroes were shunted to a pocket dimension created by Franklin Richards. There, as seen in Iron Man (Vol. 2) #1, Bruce lived a "reborn" life where he became the Hulk again. The two Hulks later joined Earth's heroes in saving both Earth and Franklin's Counter-Earth from destruction at the hands of the Celestials. This ended with Bruce and the Hulk being merged again. Those events happened in Heroes Reborn: The Return #1–4.