Appalachia was a nice place to visit, but he wouldn’t want to live there – or so thought the Hulk in words pretty much to that effect. Which helps to explain, perhaps, why the green-skinned goliath is coming to a far-from-graceful landing at this very moment in the hills of upstate New York.
As the Hulk lands in the midst of a farm, breaking the fence in the process, he remarks “So, Hulk is here, but where is here?” Enraged, the owner of the property asks his farmhand, Hector, if he saw what that, that gorilla just did to his new fence, his brand-new knotty-pine, six hundred fifty-eight dollars and twenty-seven cents fence. Hector answers Jasper that he sure did. Leastways, he thinks he did.
The stallions, on the other hand, are certain of what they’ve just seen. They can sense the impending danger in the air. And, being creatures of some intelligence, they run. Their owner, though, is renowned throughout the county for his stubbornness and hair-trigger temper. Traits which are liable to make him one very dead farmer right about now. After all, who says everyone has to recognize the Hulk?
Slamming his hat to the ground, Jasper angrily states that sinks it. He’s ruined his fence, run off his horses. Just what does he intend to do now, gorilla? Confused, Hulk looks at him and asks what will he do? To tell the truth, for a moment the green behemoth isn’t sure of what he’ll do. Usually, puny humans attack him or run from him in terror. Never before has one just stood there, angrily berating him, and frankly, the Hulk is confused.
Just then, Hulk says he is…sorry. Didn’t mean to land on fence. Hulk will…Hulk will fix fence if human will stop yelling at… Wait, what is Hulk doing? Puny human yells at Hulk and Hulk just lets him? Bah! Pushing Jasper out of the way, Hulk tells him to get out of Hulk’s way, puny human before Hulk loses his temper. Hulk is leaving this place. As he leaps high into the air, Hulk remarks that, wherever Hulk goes, Hulk finds puny humans who confuse him. But Hulk will find someplace where there are no puny humans. And maybe there, Hulk will also find peace.
Like a great green billiard ball, the Hulk caroms aimlessly across the countryside, his awesomely powerful leg muscles carrying him further and further northward until, at length, he comes to another of his fabled clumsy landings somewhere deep in the sprawling Canadian North Woods. Landing, Hulk says this is a good place, filled with pretty trees, filled with quiet. Hulk will find no puny humans here.
Maybe not, Hulk, but in that case, it’s even odds they’ll find you. For in a top secret Royal Canadian Air Force tracking installation, your sudden arrival north of the border has been duly detected and reported. Inside the compound, the person monitoring the radar informs his captain that there’s something on the screen. And unless it’s a low-flying jet with the hiccoughs, he’s afraid that the Hulk has returned to Quebec. The captain tells his “leftenant” that of course it’s the Hulk. One of the specific reasons this installation was constructed is to detect the presence of that green brute and others of his kind on Canadian soil. And after the havoc he wrought on his last visit to this province, he’s afraid they have no choice but to mobilize Weapon X!
And while you ponder the grim significance of that nameless Captain’s command, why don’t we return to the green-skinned star of this book…
Wandering the woods, Hulk remarks that he was right, is peaceful there. No humans, no noise, no… Just then, Hulk hears howling and asks huh? Dogs. There are big dogs here in Hulk’s forest. Close Hulk, but no cigar. For these aren’t dogs that surround you, moving slowly closer, fangs bared and slavering, but wolves. Snarling, ravenous wolves; driven south from their almost arctic hunting grounds by too much winter and too little game. They are hungry, Hulk; desperately hungry. And right now you look about as appetizing as a catered ten-course banquet.
As the pack of wolves attack Hulk, he asks why. Hulk likes little animals, likes dogs most of all, but dogs who attack Hulk are no better than puny humans and Hulk does not like humans. Does not like humans at all! Again and again, the green goliath sends his canine attackers sprawling. But still, they assault and pursue him, driving their would-be dinner slowly, inexorably, back to the very edge of a nearby ravine; to the edge and then over it. The landscape shudders as the Hulk strikes bottom and instantly, he is smothered beneath a blanket of snarling lupine flesh. He does not stay smothered for long.
Just then, the Hulk uses his immense strength to knock the wolves off of him. Whining in pain and defeat, the hungry wolf-pack scrambles off into the underbrush leaving one rather annoyed ex-entrée behind them. As he emerges from the ravine, Hulk yells at the dogs and tells them to run from him before he smashes them all. Hulk doesn’t need nasty dogs to be Hulk’s friends. Hulk doesn’t need anyone. Hulk has Hulk to be Hulk’s friend. Hulk… always has Hulk.
While the great behemoth wallows in emerald self-pity, why don’t we take a quick side-trip to the vast New Mexican desert and see what’s happening with the rest of our cast at the military complex called Hulkbuster Base One.
In General Thunderbolt Ross’ office, Colonel Jack Armbruster informs Ross that the commander-in-chief has planned his visit for sometime late next week to inspect Project: Greenskin and to congratulate Major Talbot on his escape from the Russkies. Assuming of course, that Talbot is up to it. Ross tells him good point. He knows the medics checked Glenn out as a-ok but maybe it would be better for him to wait a while before…
Just then, Glenn (who was sitting in the room the entire time) begins to get annoyed and tells them to wait just one blasted minute. Stop talking about him as if he’s not even there. He has a say in this too. If the president is coming to this base, he wants to meet him. And he will meet him, if he has to…. At that moment, Betty Ross implores Glenn to calm down. He knows her dad only thought he was looking out for his best interests. Holding his head, Glenn apologizes. He didn’t mean to make a scene. Betty tells him it’s all right, he doesn’t have to explain. They all know the strain he’s been under. Thunderbolt concurs and tells Glenn to just take things easy for the next few days. If he wants to meet the president that badly, he promises he’ll have his chance.
Preparing to take a puff from his pipe, Armbruster wonders will he? He wonders. As far as he’s concerned, Major Glenn Talbot isn’t fit to meet anyone, let alone the most important man in America.
Ominous thoughts, indeed but, unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a while before we discover their importance. Cause at the moment we have to get back to the Hulk, who having shaken off his melancholy mood, now wanders heavily thru the magnificent Canadian heartland, searching for he knows not what. But though ol’ greenskin is doing the seeking, it is he, it seems, who is found.
At that moment, Hulk hears his name being called. Hearing the voice, Hulk turns around, asking who is calling his name but finds nobody there. He was sure somebody called. Must be bugs in Hulk’s ear. Hulk will fix ear, make voice go away. Just then, Hulk hears the voice again asking him to come. Holding his hands over his ears, Hulk exclaims no. Leave Hulk alone voice, stop talking in Hulk’s head. As the voice gets louder and louder, Hulk asks where voice is hiding. Under rock? Behind tree? No, there is nobody here, nobody! Trouncing through the forest, destroying trees along the way, Hulk angrily tells voice to leave Hulk alone. If voice does not go away, Hulk will find the one behind voice and Hulk will smash!
And on that rather dramatic note, Marvelite, we’ll shift scenes once more, pause a brief moment for our collective dizziness to pass, then focus our attention on a stone-slab hovel some distance from the furious Hulk where, if we listen very closely, we may hear an almost familiar voice…
Inside the cave, Georges Baptiste begs Marie Cartier to listen to him. It’s still not too late to stop this madness. Wearing a cloak, and a crown made of horns, the blonde-haired woman tells Georges that he’s wrong. It was too late for her a long, long time ago. It’s been too late since the day her brother Paul was first lost to her. Lost because he chose to preserve his life in any way possible, even to the awful extreme of eating human flesh, an act that cursed him in the eyes of the elder gods, transforming him forever into the hideous cannibal beast known only as…the Wendigo! She’s going to save her brother, however she must and he is going to help her.
Georges intervenes and tells Marie that what she plans is monstrous and inhuman. Marie replies nothing more inhuman than what Paul has become. Remember, Paul was studying to be a doctor, a healer of men when went hunting with him and Henri Cluzot. It if it wasn’t for him, he would never have been caught in that cave, would never have done what he did. He owes it to help her; he owes it to Paul. Georges answers perhaps he does, but he’s not there out of debt and she knows it. Now how does she intend to affect this miraculous cure? Pointing towards two stone beds, Marie informs him that the Wendigo curse is super-natural and she has studied the dark arts well since Paul’s transformation. Now all is in readiness. She needs only place Paul on one of the pallets, a second being on the other one, then use the ancient arts she’s learned to transfer the Wendigo’s form from Paul to the other.
Shocked, Georges exclaims that she can’t. What right does she have to condemn another to the horrible fate her brother now endures? What right does she have to condemn a man to hell? Marie tells Georges not to worry. The one she has chosen is not a man, and the “hell” this curse will visit upon him can be no worse than the one he is already living. Besides, Georges, the decision is no longer in her hands. The one she has summoned is already coming.
And he’s coming with a vengeance, little lady. The earth fairly trembling beneath his ponderous tread. Emerging from the forest and into a clearing, Hulk remarks that voice inside Hulk’s head has stopped but not before Hulk followed voice home to funny looking house of stone. Hulk will see who is inside of funny house, then maybe Hulk will smash. Angrily, the emerald behemoth lumbers towards the primitive structure, then stops as some equally primitive instinct, perhaps, warns him of impending danger. But the Hulk is not exactly famous for heeding such subtle premonitions, so…
Reaching the opening to the structure, Hulk calls out and asks who is there. Who is the one responsible for voice inside Hulk’s… Once the Hulk enters the cave, Georges points out to Marie that she brought the brute there, now what is she going to do with him. Marie tells Georges to be quiet, she’ll handle this. She then turns to Hulk and tells him hello. Hulk responds bah. It’s only another puny human and girl dressed like animal. Puny human and animal girl are almost familiar, but Hulk can’t remember who… Touching the Hulk’s arm, Marie tells him that of course he can, think. Try to think. He remembers them. He tried to help them once and now they need his help again.
For a time, the Hulk stands silently, the sound of mental footsteps echoing loudly thru the almost-empty corridors of his mind, metaphoric footsteps that stumble at last, almost purely by accident, over a fragment of garbled memory. The two who stand before him are called Marie Cartier and Georges Baptiste, but that is not important to the emerald man-brute. The only thing that matters is: they were once Hulk’s friends.
In short time, the Hulk has taken a seat and Marie has brought him some food. When she asks Hulk if he is enjoying his dinner, Hulk tells her that food is good and thanks her. Covering his face, Georges quietly asks Marie how she can do this. The poor brute is so simple, so gullible. Marie tells him to be quiet before he spoils everything. Just then, Marie brings Hulk some nice broth to wash down the food. Hulk says broth smells good but Hulk isn’t hungry anymore. Hulk only feels sleepy, so sleepy. Putting her arm around him, Marie leads the Hulk over to one of the stone beds, telling him to lie down for a while. He’ll feel much better after he’s had a little rest. And the behemoth’s emerald eyelids slide shut almost before he lies full on the pallet.
Once the Hulk has fallen asleep, Marie remarks that the vapors of slumber have done their work well. The Hulk will sleep soundly until the transformation is complete. Georges sarcastically tells Marie that she must feel very proud of herself, betraying a creature who trusted her. Marie answers that pride doesn’t enter into this, she does only what she must.
Her graceful jaw firmly set, Marie Cartier then turns her attention away from her remorseful companion and back to the mystic potions she has tended so carefully these many days past. Then, in a tongue far older than the towering maple trees that abound nearby, she softly begins to chant… a sing-song supplication that is carried up out of the earthen hovel upon pungent, swirling mists to spread like a rampant breeze throughout the verdant forest. Where something finally hears the chant and stirs! Meanwhile, the would-be witch-woman’s arcane preparations continue. Starlight glitters dimly off silvery pumice as it is carefully added to the seething, bubbling brew. But the neophyte sorceress has not yet perfected her art, it seems, for one of her potions has not done its job at all well. Either that, or she has failed to consider the incredible stamina of a much-bewildered Hulk.
Awaking from his slumber, Hulk rubs his head and notices that he is still in animal-girl’s house. Must have fallen asleep. Hulk will go tell animal-girl that Hulk is awake again and see if animal-girl has any more good food.
But just beyond the tattered curtains that had sheltered the slumbering Hulk… Georges pleads with Marie and asks her if there is no way to dissuade her from her mad scheme. He tells her to think. Would her brother want to regain his humanity at the cost of another’s soul? Will Paul be able to live with her sins on his conscience? Marie replies that those are questions that she cannot answer. Why doesn’t he ask them of Paul instead? Turning around with a jerk, Georges utters, “Oh my lord.”
It stands in the doorway like a furry colossus, its amber eyes glaring balefully from beneath a heavy, shaggy brow. If man could put a name to all his darkest fears, his most secret savage horrors, that name would be Wendigo! And the massive woods-beast’s sudden arrival has not gone unnoticed by you-know-who. Peering around the corner, Hulk sees Wendigo standing there and says is big white monster Hulk fought once before. Monster called Winnie… Windy… Wendigo. But what is Wendigo-monster doing in house of Hulk’s friends? And when the Hulk has a question, he also has a rather direct method of seeking an answer.
Bursting into the room, Hulk asks Wendigo what he is doing there in house of Hulk’s friends. Go away from here, or Hulk will have to smash you. Distraught, Georges exclaims no and tells Marie that her potion has worn off. The Hulk is awake, and he’s angry. Marie attempts to get the Hulk to listen to her. She tells him that the Wendigo is his friend. He isn’t there to hurt anyone. He’s only… But a certain short-tempered green gargantua is already way beyond the listening stage. Just then, the Hulk tackles Wendigo. As he does, he exclaims Hulk warned him to leave this place, now Hulk will make him go away. The hovel wall bursts outward with the force of the monstrous impact and the two human bystanders to this budding battle are quick to realize it will be a good deal safer standing way behind the sidelines.
Shattered stone raining around them, Georges and Marie make it out of the hovel and into the shelter of the forest with micro-seconds to spare. Then from the shadows that surround them, they are privileged to stand witness as two of the most awesome behemoths on the face of the earth square off for what could just be the battle of the century. The Wendigo’s blow would have caved in a cliffside, but the Hulk only shakes his head to clear it, then stoops to pick up a baggage-car sized boulder.
Holding the boulder over his head, Hulk says Wendigo thinks he is strong but Wendigo is wrong. Hulk is stronger than Wendigo, stronger than anyone. Hulk is the strongest one there is. With that, Hulk hurls the boulder at Wendigo. But the mini-Gibraltar merely crumbles against the Wendigo’s ivory pelt. It is quite a spectacle to behold, these two hideous once-men clashing with nigh-mindless fury. The Hulk, as always, bellowing of his strength, his power. The shaggy woods-beast, howling the nerve-numbing cry that has let it the name – Wen-di-go – and made that name a by-word for destruction.
Ripping a large tree from the ground, Wendigo slams it onto Hulk’s head. Shaking off the blow, Hulk asks how does Wendigo think he can hurt Hulk with just one tree when Hulk can throw whole forest at Wendigo? Just then, Hulk tears up a large piece of the ground, knocking Wendigo off of his feet. Upon seeing Wendigo raise to his feet, Hulk remarks that if monster still wants a fight, Hulk will give him one.
Like a pair of enraged rhinos, the two goliaths thunder across the clearing to collide head-on. And we do mean head-on. Almost equally-matched, all the two monsters can really do is return blow for blow for blow. Until a harsh voice from behind them makes the two brutes hesitate, a voice that is more like a snarl.
Just then, a diminutive man wearing a blue and yellow costume with claws exclaims “All right, you freaks… just hold it. If you really want to tangle with someone, why not try your luck against… the Wolverine! Well, now you know what… er… who Weapon X is, faithful one. He’s a living, raging powerhouse who’s bound to knock you back on your emerald posterior.