Appearing in "Spiral Staircase, Part 3"
Synopsis for "Spiral Staircase, Part 3"
At the Baxter Building headquarters of the Fantastic Four, the Hulk has brought the cure for his neurological disease provided to him by the Leader so it can be examined by Mister Fantastic. While the Hulk waits, he sits in the lobby with the Thing. Ben Grimm is disturbed by how nice the Professor persona is and wishes they could just beat on each other like usual. When the two get into a heated argument on how many times the Hulk won in a fight with the Thing, but they are broken up by She-Hulk and Angela Lipscombe. It's then that Mister Fantastic enters the room and he is excited because the cure provided by the Leader turns out to be viable, and he invites everyone into the lab to see their findings. There they find that Reed, along with Doc Samson and Ant-Man, mapped out how the cure is going to work out. They explain that the Leader's cure involves replacing parts of the damaged DNA in Banner's body with a donors cells so that it eliminates the disease from Bruce's system. To perform this delicate surgery is Ant-Man who will shrink down to microscopic size and replace the damaged cells. When Scott Lang brings up his concerns about the Hulk's immune system, Reed fashions him with a gun that shoots pineapple juice, which will keep the antibodies in the Hulk's body at bay.
With all the explanations out of the way, the Hulk is prepped for surgery. As the others stand by and wait, the Ant-Man is injected into the Hulk's frontal lobe through an Adamantium needle. Inside the Hulk's brain, Ant-Man is instantly swarmed by antibodies. Unable to keep them all at bay, he is forced to increase his size, but such a sudden size shift causes the Hulk extreme pain. Inside his mind, Bruce Banner hangs on for dear life when he is confronted by the consciousness of the Leader who informs Bruce that he made a terrible mistake. When Bruce asks if he means the cure, the Leader says the cure is sound, he regrets his ascension because the "other side" frightens him. In the waking world, the operation continues, Ant-Man makes it to the damaged DNA in the Hulk's brain. As he replaces the damaged portions with samples taken from the donor, Ant-Man asks where they came from. That's when Reed reveals that they were harvested from the body of Bruce Banner's father. Ant-Man quips that it must be one heck of a father, little knowing the sort of abuse Brian Banner put his son through before his death.
The surgery is a success and Bruce Banner is cured of his neurological disease. When he is well enough, he goes to the cemetery where his father has been buried. He goes with mixed feelings after everything his father did to him, and everyone he has cared about is dead. He wonders how he can forgive his father after it was his DNA that saved his life. Banner begins to lose his temper and is about to change into the Hulk, but he holds the transformation back. After a moments silence, he leaves his father's grave without another word.
- There are numerous mentions to the fact that Bruce's wife, Betty Ross, had just recently died. She died of radiation poisoning in Incredible Hulk #466. She will be eventually resurrected, as seen in Incredible Hulk (Vol. 2) #62.
- Although the Leader appears to ascend to a higher plane of existence, he resurfaces as the leader of Home Base as seen in Incredible Hulk (Vol. 2) #75.
- Reference is made to Bruce's abusive childhood which was first depicted in Incredible Hulk #312. The death of his mother was seen in Incredible Hulk #377, his father's incarceration happened thanks to Bruce's testimony in court as seen in Incredible Hulk #403. Bruce's father was died by Bruce's hands in an act of self-defense as seen in Incredible Hulk #-1.
- Bruce Banner states that he has Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Since this story has been published there have been advances in treating the illness and with the advent of and innovations in stem cell research could potentially lead to a cure. As such any references to what disease Bruce is suffering from should be considered a topical reference per the Sliding Timescale of Earth-616.