Instant recap department: Ol’ greenskin has been lured to Quebec, Canada as part of a fantastic plan to cure the wild-eyed woods-beast called the Wendigo. But where the emerald man-brute is concerned, nothing is predictable. So instead of curing Wendy, the Hulk is embroiled in battle with him. A battle that rages thru the forest, until this gaudily-garbed gentleman intrudes upon the scene, claws bared, teeth clenched, his face awash with almost feral fury!
Jumping off the rock towards the two behemoths, Wolverine tells them “if you freaks want to tangle with someone, why not try your luck against me.” With astounding speed, the snarling Wolverine hurtles forward, his very momentum scattering the two massive monsters who loom before him. Wolverine tells them heads up, he’s coming thru. Confused, Hulk asks huh? Little man attacks Hulk. Leaping on Hulk’s back, Wolverine replies that’s about the size of it sonny. The government sent him to take care of the Hulk and he’s a gent who always does his job.
Hulk tells Wolverine to stand still little man or Hulk will smash. Leaping off of the Hulk’s back, Wolverine tells Hulk that he’s sorry but, seeing as how he’s about two feet taller than he is and how he outweighs him by about 100 stone, he’ll just keep moving, if he pleases, because moving is the thing he does best. Hulk exclaims bah. Little man jumps around like a big rabbit. Wolverine corrects him and says “like a wolverine” if he doesn’t mind. And like a wolverine, he’s got claws, forged of diamond-hard adamantium and the power to back them up. And since those claws can’t seem to pierce that incredible emerald hide o’ his, why doesn’t he see how they fare against his shaggy friend.
With that, Wolverine slashes Wendigo across the chest. When he does, he says ahhhh, that’s much better. Startled by the sudden savage slashing, the Wendigo takes a single-step backward and the Wolverine is quick to press his advantage. When he kicks Wendigo in the chest, knocking him backwards a bit, Wendigo howls out his name. Wolverine asks so that’s his name, is it? Back at the base, they said that he was only a legend, that he didn’t exist. Well, when he’s done with him, shaggy, he won’t. Watching the battle, Hulk asks where little man is going. Come back, little man. Come back and fight.
In case you hadn’t noticed, Hulk, the Wolverine already has a sparring partner. And though you might think a battle between an eight foot monster and a five foot, five inch man would be a trifle one-sided, we assure you it’s not.
As he continues his vicious assault on the Wendigo, Wolverine notices that he’s starting to weaken. He’s bigger than the Hulk, but he’s not nearly as impregnable.
Hulk says he doesn’t understand. First little man fights Hulk, and now he fights Hulk’s enemy? But if Hulk’s enemy is little man’s enemy, then little man is Hulk’s friend. Hulk’s friend? Yes! Little man is Hulk’s friend so Hulk will help little man fight Hulk’s enemy.
The most awesomely powerful leg muscles on earth propel the green behemoth across the glade to plow with staggering impact into his shaggy foe. Leaping into Wendigo, Hulk tells his little friend that he is there to help him beat Wendigo. But the emerald man-brute may have spoken a trifle prematurely, as suddenly… When Wendigo punches the Hulk with a thundering blow, Hulk feels it and states that Wendigo is strong but Hulk and Hulk’s friend are stronger. Hulk and Hulk’s friend will smash Wendigo. As he jumps on Wendigo’s back, Wolverine thinks to himself that he doesn’t understand why the big green brute suddenly thinks he’s his buddy, but it’s a little misconception he can make use of.
Holding Wendigo, Wolverine calls out to his friend Hulk and tells him to attack him while he has him distracted. Hulk says is good plan, friend. Hulk will do as he says. But first, little friend must go away from Wendigo because what Hulk does now, only Hulk can do and Hulk does not want Hulk’s new friend to be hurt, not even by accident. Watching the Hulk’s display of power, Wolverine exclaims incredible. The Hulk threw the Wendigo with force enough to uproot a stand of trees but the woodsbeast is still conscious. The Hulk did his best, but it just wasn’t good enough. So it’s up to him to finish this little donnybrook, and fast.
With the savage ferocity of the creature for which he is named, the Wolverine hurls himself upon the furry nightmare. There is a shrill hissing as his adamantium talons flash thru the air, a sickening thwuck as they strike and when the Wolverine rises, he rises alone.
Standing over Wendigo’s prone body, Hulk says little friend did good. He smashed ugly Wendigo once and now Wendigo is dead. Wolverine states that he should be, but he’s not. Apparently, the Wendigo is as immortal as the legends say. His talons only rendered him unconscious.
A strange, uneasy silence settles over the scene then, the threat of the Wendigo is ended, or so it seems. And the Hulk peers at his pint-sized companion in quiet confusion. He does not know what to say to the Wolverine now that the battle is done, does not know how he should respond to this somber little man. But when the Wolverine suddenly lashes out with customary savagery, the Hulk’s response becomes almost automatic.
Slashing out at Hulk, Wolverine tells him all right, greenskin, it’s his turn to take a thrashing. Falling backwards for a moment, Hulk angrily points his finger at Wolverine and tells puny little man that Hulk thought he was Hulk’s friend. Hulk trusted him but he betrayed Hulk, attacked Hulk, just like all the other puny humans Hulk has known. Little man made a fool of Hulk and for that, Hulk will smash! Wolverine remarks that he’ll have to catch him first, ugly, and nobody is fast enough to do that.
Hidden in the pre-dawn shadows nearby, an uncomfortable Georges Baptiste and a grim Marie Cartier, the girl who lured the Hulk to Quebec, watch the raging battle with a mixture of horror and anxious anticipation. Georges asks Marie if she sees what her madness has wrought. Her brother has fallen, perhaps mortally wounded, and it is all her fault. Marie replies nonsense. Everything goes even better than expected. The Wendigo can’t be harmed, he knows that. She then adds that the Hulk and the one called Wolverine merely saved them the task of overcoming Paul all by themselves. Now, quickly, while they’re still distracted, help her carry Paul’s body inside. The sooner things are prepared, the sooner they’ll be ready to begin the transformation.
Moments later, within the stone-slab hovel nearby, Georges begs Marie to reconsider this insanity. What she intends to do is unnatural, unholy and dangerous. Marie replies fine. Her vapors of slumber to keep Paul unconscious until they’ve captured the Hulk as well. Then she’ll utilize the black arts she’s learned to transfer the curse of the Wendigo from her brother to the brute. Outside, the jade-hued juggernaut fights on, unaware of the terrible fate the maniacally obsessed girl has planned for him, unaware of the gold-and-crimson splendor spread across his battlefield by the swiftly rising sun.
A sun also rising behind a secret Canadian military complex nestled deep in the sheltering hills not too very far away where we have come to eavesdrop on a most pertinent conversation. Inside the base, the commander asks Mathews if there’s been any word from Weapon X. Mathews answers not at the moment. Aerial reconnaissance reports that he’s entered the target zone but so far… well, so far they’ve heard nothing.
Another officer, Holderidge, asks the commander if they did the right thing. He means, sending him into active combat like that… alone. The commander states that they wouldn’t have sent him if they didn’t think he was ready. The government has spent a great deal of time, effort, and money developing that mutant’s natural-born speed, strength, and savagery into the skills of a professional warrior and despite the few kinks still remaining his psycho-logical makeup, he thinks they’ve done a pretty good job. The Wolverine asked for six hours to bring in the Hulk single-handed and he’s going to have those six hours. Then, if he fails, and mind you, he doesn’t think he will, then they will take other action. Contingency measures have already been put into active operation outside. That specifically designed chopper is ready to drop a crack team of top commandoes into the area if necessary. Believe him, one way or the other, the Hulk is as good as finished!
And that unnamed officer may speak more truly than even he knows, for back at the battle site… As Wolverine and the Hulk continue to do battle, Wolverine curses Hulk and says nobody can be that strong. Why in blazes doesn’t he fall? Hulk asks strong? Bah! Puny little man, Hulk will show you strong. See how easy Hulk lifts big rock, rock that Hulk will smash you with? Wolverine answers that he sees but in a second, all that he’ll see are a lot of stars. With that, Wolverine crashes into Hulk, forcing him to drop the rock. With the shards of the rock showering him, Hulk angrily tells puny little man that he makes Hulk mad. Now nothing will stop Hulk from crushing him like bug.
Nothing, jade-jaws? We’ll see about that for on a small rise behind you… Standing behind a fire she has set, Marie holds her hands in the air and states that everything is in readiness. The sun is at precisely the right angle, the breeze is blowing perfectly. Again, Georges begs Marie not to do this. As her brother’s best friend, he beseeches her. Marie tells him that as her brother’s best friend, he’ll do exactly as she says since it’s his fault he became the Wendigo in the first place. She then proceeds to tell Georges to stand aside as she prepares the mystic spell of subjugation or he may be caught in its grasp as well.
With that, Marie Cartier turns her face skyward, mutters an arcane chant beneath her breath, then pours a dusty gray pumice from the vial in her hand. A pumice that glows golden with the dawn sun’s rays as it plunges into an ornately-carved vessel, thus releasing billowing clouds of an almost invisible gas. A gas carried down the rise to the battlefield below by the brisk morning breeze. For several seconds, the conflict continues, unmindful of the all-pervading mist. Then the two combatants stagger, gasp desperately for breath, and fall. And it is a triumphant enchantress who comes to claim her prize.
Standing over Hulk and Wolverine’s prone bodies, Marie asks Georges if he sees. She told him everything would work out in the end, didn’t she? Georges replies that unfortunately, everything is not ended, not yet. Marie remarks that it soon will be if he’ll help her bring the brute inside so she can start. When Georges doesn’t move immediately, Marie asks him what he’s waiting for. She asked him to… Georges tells Marie to look at the Hulk. Eyes wide with horror, the two responsible for this strange situation stare at the Hulk as the man-monster’s massive emerald body trembles, and then swiftly begins to contract, losing weight, changing color, until it becomes the unconscious form of a man. And Dr. Robert Bruce Banner sleeps on, blissfully unaware of his perilous predicament.
After the Hulk has finished his transformation, Marie tells Georges that this makes no difference. They can still… Cutting her off, Georges angrily tells her no. This is the end of it. It’s bad enough to do what she had planned to a simple, mindless monster, but to do it to a man? Never! He’s sorry but he’s thru with this madness. Marie tells him he can’t be. He owes a debt, to her brother and her. Walking away, Georges replies that perhaps he did but she takes into account the pride he’s paid with his immortal soul for their atrocities and the debt has been more than repaid, in full. Calling out to Georges, Marie implores him to come back.
Georges Baptiste steels himself against Marie’s plaintive cries and strides somberly into the forest’s depths. There, out of sight of the stone-slab hovel, amidst an evergreen beauty that speaks silently of a peace he may never again find in this life, Georges sits and thinks. Marie’s last words echo and re-echo within his mind. The debt he owes her brother, Paul. The debt he owes her. The image of Marie’s lovely face, scarred by lines of torment, dances madly before his eyes, and, a single anguished sob escaping his lips, Georges knows what he must do. So long as Paul Cartier suffers the curse of the Wendigo, Marie will never rest and though she calls the shaggy woodsbeast immortal, Georges knows there are mystical things within the hovel that can put an end to Paul’s suffering forever. Stiffly, almost mechanically, Georges returns to the stone-slab structure and having cast a melancholy glance over his shoulder at the sun-lit serenity behind him, Georges steps inside.
While, back at the battle-torn clearing, Marie Cartier’s thoughts are open for anyone to know… As she finishes chaining up Wolverine, Marie tells Georges to go ahead and desert her. She doesn’t need him. She doesn’t need anyone. She’ll complete the rite of transformation alone, he’ll see. Once he drags this sacrifice the man who was once the Hulk inside, she’ll take care of everything. As she starts to drag Banner’s body, she tells Paul not to worry. She’ll save him. She’ll… Lord, he’s so heavy for a little man. And his skin… changing color… turning… green.
Just then, Marie drops Hulk’s hand in fear. Awaking from his foggy state, Hulk says animal-girl tricked Hulk. Knocked Hulk out. Hulk thought she was Hulk’s friend but animal-girl is just another puny human. Stammering, Marie tries to tell Hulk that she is his friend. Enraged, Hulk says bah! Animal-girl lies. Hulk will…Hulk will smash! Screaming in abject terror at the threat the fur-clad girl is naturally startled when the green goliath lumbers right past her, bearing down instead on a swiftly-reviving Wolverine.
Pointing at Wolverine, Hulk tells him that he is the one Hulk truly hates. Defiantly, Wolverine tells him to just give him a few more seconds to burst these chains and he’ll… Hulk asks little man cannot break puny chains? Then Hulk will break little man’s chains and little man with them! With bone-shattering force, the emerald man-brute smashes the Wolverine to earth, a move that serves only to sunder the pint-sized fury’s already-weakened bones and send him hurtling into action once more.
Little wonder that nobody notices Marie Cartier racing desperately from the glade and back to the stone-slab shack where her monstrous brother lies sleeping. Sounds greet her entrance, a nerve-chilling wail and the frenzied rending of what could be human flesh. In that instance, she remembers Georges and her heart hammering in her chest, she moves cautiously forward to find her path blocked by the threatening form of a newly-awakened Wendigo.
Marie’s scream slices the morning air like the stroke of a finely-honed razor. For an instant, the two combatants cease their violent battle but for only an instant. For, despite its many flaws, the great green goliath’s mind generally runs on one track and once having begun something, ol’ greenskin doesn’t like to stop until he’s finished it. Give the Wolverine credit, he senses what’s coming, then snaps his head aside with such speed that the blow is only a glancing one. And it’s probably that plus his astonishing stamina that saves his life for, by rights, even a glancing blow from fists that can shatter mountains should be fatal.
As Wolverine falls backwards, Hulk says that little man tried to trick Hulk but Hulk was smarter, Hulk was stronger, and that is why Hulk won.
While within the rock-hewn hovel, a timorous Marie Cartier strives in vain to comprehend the urgent gestures of the ivory-pelted beast who stands before her. Marie continues to plead with Paul and tells him she doesn’t understand. What is he trying to tell her? What’s happened? The Wendigo says nothing, merely bows its shaggy head sorrowfully then stabs a taloned finger towards the weirdly-lit chamber beyond. Fearfully, Marie steps into the room and is filled with shock and revulsion such as she has never before known for where the fur-clad girl had expected to find the torn and bloodied body of Georges Baptiste, instead she finds…
Marie sees her brother Paul normal once more. She then realizes that the rite of transformation has already been performed. Looking upon the Wendigo’s face, Marie shockingly tells Georges that the debt he owed them wasn’t that strong. No debt could be strong enough for him to have done this. Why? Why did he do it? With a tear coming out of his eye, Georges tells Marie that she doesn’t understand, perhaps she never will. But he did not do this because he owed a debt. He did it because he loved her. Then, his last vestiges of human consciousness fading, the shaggy woodsbeast turns to the granite wall that imprisons him, demolishes the barrier with a single blow and lopes swiftly off into the underbrush, leaving behind a shattered wall and an equally-shattered Marie Cartier. As he leaves, Marie begs for him to come back.
Outside, the Hulk stares in confusion for an instant as a huge white-maned form lumbers off into the sprawling forest. Then the sounds of soft whimpering reaches his emerald ears and his curiosity piqued by the sound, the green goliath shambles heavily towards the ruins of the stone-slab hovel. Inside, Marie Cartier stands almost motionless, her thoughts whirling aimlessly thru raging pools of deep chaotic black. Too much has happened too quickly for her poor mind to comprehend. Thus, in self-defense, she has retreated into the shelter of tender madness. She stares blankly at her rapidly reviving brother, at the unintentional cause of all this and she does not even feel the heavy emerald hand laid ever so gently upon her shoulder. He is a simple creature, this Incredible Hulk; there is so much he doesn’t understand. But grief, despair, these are emotions he can recognize and, in his own clumsy way, try to soothe. So they stand together, the monster and the girl both the victims of circumstances they could not hope to control and both of them so terribly, terribly alone.