Appearing in "Wake to Nightmare"
Synopsis for "Wake to Nightmare"
Bruce Banner wakes up confused and disorientated in a strange hotel room. When he goes outside to see where he is, he discovers he is in Los Angeles, but the city is a deserted ruin. Remembering that he was with Tony Stark last, he rushes to his mansion to find it in ruins. As he wanders around, he tries to make sense of the situation when he sees a woman run past him but loses her. He then hears voices and rushes in a building where the sound is coming from. He enters a room and is disappointed to discover that it is only a television playing an old re-run of "Gilligan's Island". As Bruce turns around to leave the image on the television suddenly changes. It is the mouth of the man who had run the organization called Home Base, although now he is sporting a mustache. The man behind the organization that has been hounding Bruce for months decides to finally reveal himself. Emerging from another room, the mastermind behind Home base turns out to be none other than the Hulk's old foe the Leader. The Leader welcomes Bruce Banner to the future.
When Banner questions why the Leader created such a convoluted plot, just to get a sample of the Hulk's blood, the Leader explains that it was a matter of sowing so much confusion it was easier to control his operatives and keep Banner guessing who was responsible. As the Leader shows Bruce around the ruined city, he dodges Banner's questions regarding the Hulk's blood. He goes on to explain this future is a world where the world was decimated by nuclear explosions. However, it has caused a nuclear chain reaction that will go critical in a few days time, destroying everything left. The Leader explains that he sought Banner out because the Hulk is the only being that can change things. Taking Banner back to his hideout, the Leader shows him the location of a missile silo where a time machine is located. The Leader wants the Hulk to travel there and use it to go back in time and stop this catastrophe from happening. When Bruce asks why the Leader cannot do it alone, it is because the wasteland is filled with gamma mutates that he cannot defend himself against. However, the Leader suggests that Bruce go back in time and stop the original gamma bomb test to ensure that this future never comes to be. The boon being, there will be no Hulk, and no rivalry between the two of them. Everyone lives happily ever after.
However, this is all a deception being played out in the Hulk's mind, and as the gamma-spawned monster thinks he is fighting his way through a nuclear wasteland in a post-apocalyptic future, he is actually tearing up the streets of modern-day Los Angeles. Watching this closely is Betty Ross who is in contact with Doc Samson, who is in LA with Tony Stark. He tells Betty to hurry to California while he contacts Nadia Dornova and gets her to come as well. Later, Stark and Samson have mobilized a helicopter to try and find the Hulk. Betty convinces them to let her go, and before she can take off with a DNA tracker to find the Hulk, Nadia arrives and insists on coming along. Despite the protests from Doc Samson, the two women take off in the chopper leaving Samson and Stark to monitor things from the ground. The two women eventually track Banner to the woods along the California/Oregon border. However, he changes back into the Hulk when he is attacked by state troopers. As the Hulk continues his rampage, the Leader continues his mental link, thus maintaining the illusion so the Hulk doesn't see what he is really fighting. After narrowly having their chopper knocked out of the sky, Betty and Nadia lose the Hulk as the brute reverts back to human form and flees into the woods.
Convinced that they can only stop Bruce by getting ahead of him, Betty lands the chopper and faces her former husband. At first, she is able to get through to Bruce, but the Leader uses his mental powers to convince him that it is a trick. In response, Bruce transforms into the Hulk and tries to attack her. Betty manages to flee back to the chopper and she and Nadia just barely manage to fly out of range. Having figured out that Bruce is sleepwalking, they report this back to Doc Samson and Tony Stark. Using their sophisticated equipment they are able to discover the source of Bruce's mind control: The Leader. However, when Betty suggests that they use the equipment to track their foe, the Leader uses his powers to make her fall asleep. Nadia is then forced to take the controls, although she is not sure how to pilot the chopper. Before she can get the craft steady it suddenly crashed.
- The Leader states that he had previously been experimenting with reanimating the dead. The Leader was revealed to be utilizing this technology in Incredible Hulk #400.
- Betty's reappearance here is a complicated one, especially since the Leader seems surprised that she is there. Some facts:
- Betty died of radiation poisoning in Incredible Hulk #466. As revealed in Incredible Hulk #473-474 this was due to Betty being injected with the Abomination's Blood.
- The Leader wonders how Betty was brought back to life, which he should know since he and the other members of the Intelligencia were responsible for bringing Betty back to life as seen in Fall of the Hulks: Alpha #1.
- However, some aspects of this storyline are part of the manipulations of Nightmare as a round about way of birthing a child named Daydream as revealed in Incredible Hulk Vol 2 #81.
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