Appearing in "Chapter 1: Skirmish with Death"
- Rick Jones (Only in flashback)
- New York City
- New Mexico
- Los Diablos Missile Base
- Bruce Banner's cave laboratory
- Stranger's World
Synopsis for "Chapter 1: Skirmish with Death"
The Fantastic Four are on their way to the New York City Mayor's office to help promote the "I Love New York" campaign when the Fantasticar is suddenly struck by a mysterious bolt of energy that puts Reed, Sue, and Johnny into a death-like state. Avoiding a near crash, Ben takes his comrades back to the Baxter Building and puts them in life pods and runs an examination machine. He learns that they have been bombarded with Gamma radiation, and figured that in a situation like this Reed would seek out the aid of Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Hulk.
While in the New Mexico desert, the Hulk bounds through the desert, finding peace in the solitude. Not far away, Betty Ross and her father General Ross go to the site of the Gamma bomb test where Bruce Banner was transformed into the Hulk. When the Hulk happens upon them, he becomes furious and tries to attack when the trio are all struck down by another energy bolt. While Betty and the General are also put in a death-like state the energy causes the Hulk to transform back into Bruce Banner. Banner takes Betty and the General to one of his secret labs where he determines that they have been bombarded with cosmic rays and that he should seek out Reed Richards' aid in saving his loved ones.
Meanwhile, in deep space aboard his personal planetoid, the Stranger prepares to deal with a cosmic threat that threatens the entire universe and must swallow his pride when he realizes the only beings that will be able to help him accomplish his goals are the Thing and the Hulk. He then straps himself into a device that sends him in a beam speeding toward the two beings he seeks. Back on Earth, Banner notices that Ben is on his way in the Pogo-Plane and prepares to meet him outside. Just then the Stranger materializes on Earth causing Ben's plane to crash and upsetting Banner enough to trigger another transformation into the Hulk. The two recognized the Stranger as a menace from their previous encounters both the Thing and the Hulk try to attack the cosmic being and find themselves woefully overpowered. The Stranger freezes the two brutes and explains that he has come seeking their aid in stopping a universal menace. The Thing easily understands and agrees and then manages to convince the Hulk to join them as well.
The Stranger transports them to Hades, the Olympian underworld where it's ruler, Pluto, has devised a device that fires hellish energy into the heart of a black hole in the hopes of destroying the universe so that Pluto might rule over a universe of eternal darkness. When the Hulk attempts to attack straight on, both the Thing and Stranger try to get the simple-minded monster to exercise restraint and form a strategy, which leads to the Thing and the Hulk coming to blows and forcing the Stranger to attack Pluto head on. During the fight, Pluto manages to overpower the Stranger and unleashes a horde of demons on the Thing and the Hulk. Pluto then threatens to throw the Stranger's body into the device (thereby speeding up its process of destroying the universe) however the Hulk becomes furious and uses his strength to destroy the device itself, leaving the Thing to save the Stranger while Pluto falls into the device of his own making. Pluto's spirit is fired up into the black hole where it is seemingly destroyed, ending his threat.
With the machine also destroyed, the revived Stranger returns them to Earth where he thanks the two brutes before departing. When Ben wonders what he is to do about their unconscious friends, he is surprised when General Ross and Betty emerge from the cave alive and well. The Hulk departs not wanting to be hassled by the military once more, and Ben rushes back to the Pogo-Plane where he finds that his fellow FF members have similarly been revived following Pluto's defeat. Ben promises to tell his bewildered teammates about what happened as they hitch a ride back with General Ross.
- The origin of the Hulk is recapped here, it was first depicted in Incredible Hulk #1.
- The Thing recalls when he last met the Stranger back in Fantastic Four #116 when he came to Earth to stop the Overmind from conquering the planet.
- The Thing and Hulk have been feuding for years. At the time of this story, the Thing and the Hulk have clashed many times. These clashes are as follows: To date the pair have clashed in Fantastic Four #12, Fantastic Four #25–26, Incredible Hulk #122, Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Comics Magazine #5, Fantastic Four #112, Incredible Hulk #153, Marvel Feature #11, Giant-Size Super-Stars #1, Fantastic Four #166–167, Rampaging Hulk (Vol. 2) #5, and Marvel Two-In-One #46.
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