Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #258

Issue Date: 
April 1981
Story Title: 
To Hunt the Hulk!

Bill Mantlo (Writer), Sal Buscema (Artist), Jim Novak (Letterer), Bob Sharen (Colorist), Jo Duffy (Assistant Editor), Al Milgrom (Editor), Jim Shooter (Editor-in-Chief), Steve Grant (Plot Assistance)

Brief Description: 

After a bizarre series of events (including detailing what war does to a person), the Hulk is propelled into Russia, where he lands in the Forbidden Zone, all the while the mad ex-Colonel Talbot is on his trail in the War Wagon which he stole from the military in his quest to hunt the Hulk, which has now become even harder as her has lost the signal. Meanwhile, the Soviet Super-Soldiers - Darkstar, Vanguard and the Crimson Dynamo - are summoned by Colonel Brevlov, who introduces them to their new teammate, Ursa Major, a man that Darkstar and Vanguard have trained with. After the formalities are over, Brevlov explains that the deadly Forbidden Zone - where the Presence and Red Guardian now reside - is spreading, and that the Super-Soldiers are the only ones who can stop the radiation spreading and destroying all of Russia and the world. Darkstar teleports her teammates to the Forbidden Zone, using the Darkforce to then shield everyone from the radiation. Unaware that a mysterious stranger is also in the Forbidden Zone, the heroes discover the Hulk, and to instigate a battle, the stranger, from the shadows, fires a blast of energy at the Hulk. Vanguard pursues the stranger, only to discover that he is not a stranger after all, while Darkstar leads the Super-Soldiers against the Hulk. However, the Hulk, enraged, takes them down one by one. The mysterious stranger steals the unconscious Darkstar, while the Presence finally intervenes in the battle between the Hulk and Ursa Major, returning both of them to their human forms, Ursa Major fears that by battling the Hulk, they have already lost, as the Presence can continue his mad schemes in the Forbidden Zone. Meanwhile, in the States, Rick Jones asks Captain America for the Avengers help in finding the missing Hulk, but Cap tells him that the Hulk has been spotted in Russia, so the Avengers cannot go there, while Rick gets an idea of his own on how to help his friend.

Full Summary: 

The clunking mass of metal known as the War Wagon, apparently the most sophisticated battle cruiser created to date by the American military strides forward. Its firepower is awesome - but more awesome still is its centralized computer controls, which allows the massive craft to be piloted by one man - a man intent on safeguarding his country even if his country accuses him of treason - a man who does his duty as he sees it - a man with a mission to hunt the Hulk!

His name is ex-Colonel Glenn Talbot, late of the United States air force, and to some, he is a traitor - to others though, a patriot. A map behind him tracks the Incredible Hulk’s recent travels, while the determined soldier sits at the controls, steering the powerful craft. Talbot has been driven mad - he has labored long and loyally in the service of his country. Now though, he absconds with one of his country’s most secret weapons. However, those at his former military command center - Gamma Base - are onto him.

Contacting him by radio is Congresswoman Messinger, who tells Talbot that he must return at once. ‘Do you read me?’ she asks, annoyed. An aide tells Messinger that she knows Talbot is receiving her, and another man explains that Talbot is just not answering. ‘He must! He can’t defy the United States government!’ Messinger declares, to which Talbot announces that he heard that, and points out she does not represent the whole USA. ‘There are millions who cower in helpless horror - who looked to Gamma Base to defend them from the ravages of that man-monster - the Hulk!’ Talbot exclaims.

Messinger reminds Talbot that Gamma Base has been shut down - by an act of Congress, to which Talbot replies that the menace of the Hulk will not be met by armchair edicts. ‘The only language that brute understands is force, force and more force!’ Talbot retorts, boasting that is the reason the War Wagon was created - to wipe out the Hulk once and for all. Messinger tells Talbot that he is committing treason, to which the ex-Colonel replies ‘That, Congresswoman, is for history to decide!’ and with that, he ends the transmission.

Meanwhile, thousands of kilometers Eastward, the “Green Goliath” slashes through the sky, propelled by the mightiest leg muscles known to man. Though he knows nothing of it, he is the raison d’etre for Talbot’s monster hunt. Were he to be informed of that fact, he would either not understand - or not care. For he is the Incredible Hulk - and he fears nothing that lives. The Hulk lands in a ruined village and exclaims that he is hungry, but does not see any food. ‘Everywhere he goes, all Hulk sees is war!’.

In the space of a day, the Hulk has leaped from the sands of Egypt, to the cold mountain passes of the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. Legend has it that the blue-eyed tribesman of this region are descended from the lost legions of Alexander the Great. If so, they could use some of his military genius now. Hulk observes an exhausted man with a bandage around his head and a rifle in his hand approach, and decides that he will make the “puny human” as he puts it tell him where he can find food.

‘Huh? Puny human ignores Hulk!’ the Hulk exclaims, shocked as the human just ambles past him. The Hulk is curious as to why the man does not run screaming past him like all the rest do, confused even further because the man looked scared. Of course, the answer to the Hulk’s perceptive query is that the horrors of war can so fill a man with terror that he is incapable of feeling any further fear - even when staring it in its snarling green face! The Afghani rebel has seen his village destroyed - his family killed - his country overrun. He has no terror left.

Suddenly, ’Soldiers!’ shouts the Hulk as a group of armed soldiers appear. ’A monster!’ one of the soldiers shouts in his native Russian. ’It cannot be! Such manifestations of the super-natural do not exist!’ the Major declares, to which one of his soldiers asks if they shoot at it or not. ’Yes, you dolt - shoot!’ the Major shouts back.

Explosive shells - outlawed by the Geneva Accords - erupt from the muzzles of the Soviet soldiers Kalashnikov rifles. Furious, the Hulk shouts that everywhere he does it is always the same - he does nothing, but soldiers attack him. Everywhere the Hulk encounters these senseless assaults, his response is always similar - he slams the ground, sending the soldiers careening all over the place.

The Major radios to his General, assuring him that the Afghani’s are crushed, but that a demon now defends their village. ‘No, comrade General - I have not been drinking any vodka!’ the Major exclaims, before asking the General if he will send the air strike. Almost instantly, the jets soar soundlessly out of the cloud cover - but the Hulk knows from experience that where he fights the infantry, there he is also likely to have to fight planes.

The MIG-pilots are used to strafing defenseless villages - caves from which snipers with outdated weapons put up a futile resistance. They have never had to deal destruction to…a demon! As they blast the Hulk, the hero who is also a member of the Defenders, notes that everything around him is turning to fire, unaware of course, that that is caused by Napalm - also outlawed by an international agreement.

The Hulk exclaims that he will make the planes stop ‘By tearing them out of the sky!’ he shouts as he leaps high above the flames and into the air, while, for one terrifying second, the MIG-pilot wonders whether the creature coming at him is flying or leaping - but the question becomes academic as the Hulk smashes his way through the jet, breaking it in half in a massive display of his power, though the pilot manages to hit the ejector in time to be propelled away.

‘The demon - he has landed on my tail!’ shouts the other pilot in the second jet as the Hulk booms onto his jet, shouting that he did not start this fight with the soldiers, but that he will finish it. With that, the Hulk plunges his fist into the jet, shattering the aircraft’s powerlines, but in the process he is struck by a powerful current. The pilot realizes this and noting that the current is holding the Hulk, he tells himself that this may be his only chance.

Realizing that they cannot destroy “the monster”, the pilot presets the directional controls and speed, before ejecting himself to safety, knowing that his pilot less plane will carry the dread demon to certain doom! The pilot drifts down to the ground while watching the now distanced jet, where the Hulk struggles against the current holding him.

However, the Soviet pilot, expecting praise and perhaps a promotion for his fast-thinking, instead, as he lands, finds himself accused of - ‘Incompetence! Gross stupidity! Treason!’ the Major shouts at him. The pilot protests, pointing out that he has sent the monster away. ‘Yes, away from this foreign battlefield where his rage and our retaliation harmed none but those whose land we wished to occupy!’ the Major points out, before telling the pilot that his actions have dispatched the demon to mother Russia herself.

The pilot asks the Major to hear him out, and explains that his MIG is on auto-pilot, carrying the demon towards their homeland, yes, but to one certain section of the Soviet Union from which nothing may ever return alive. ‘You mean…!’ gasps the Major, his voice trailing off. ‘Yes, comrade Major - I have sent the monster to…the Forbidden Zone!’. At the mere mention of that name, the staunch Soviet soldiers blood runs cold….

In the next instant, an awesome shadow falls over the shell-shattered terrain - the War Wagon. The Russian soldiers all motion to the sky, ‘First a demon - and now what?’ one of them gasps. Even if Talbot notices the stunned troops below, he gives no indication of it, for his mind is firmly fixed to one goal and one goal only. ‘You were here, Hulk - mere minutes ago!’ Talbot shouts, looking at the headshot of the Hulk which sits above his map of where the Hulk has been. ‘My computers have tracked your infernal Gamma trail around half the globe - to Afghanistan!’ Talbot declares.

Talbot wonders if it was the Hulk who caused all of the mindless destruction below, or those Soviet troops who have futilely begun to fire at the passing War Wagon. Talbot realizes that he is in enemy airspace, but asserts that he would go anywhere - dare anything to track down the monster, when suddenly, his tracking computer begins to signal. However, it is not a good signal, as it tells Talbot that, after he has forsaken his career, committing a treasonous offense by absconding with government property and traveling thousands of sleepless miles, he has lost the Gamma trail. ‘That isn’t possible!’ he exclaims, boasting that the Hulk cannot be dead unless his are the hands that kill him.

Meanwhile, thousands of kilometers North East in the capitol of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - Moscow! In an obscure office down an out-of-the-way corridor of the Kremlin, a certain Colonel Yuri Brevlov looks up from a report as an aide opens his door, begging Brevlov’s pardon, the aide announces that those he summoned have arrived. ‘Send them in!’ Brevlov replies. The aide quickly returns to the corridor, for Brevlov is the head of Russian Intelligence - the KGB, and he tells the arrivals to enter at once.

Suddenly, three costumed individuals enter, a man in red armor exclaims that they have come at once, while a muscular man wielding a sickle and hammer declares that they are, as ever, ready to serve the state, while the glamorous female amongst them adds ‘And justice, my friends - do no forget justice!’ Brevlov studies the trio before him and, like his American counterpart, the SHIELD Director, Nick Fury, he is used to dealing with rather idiosyncratic agents - but super-agents have always made him uncomfortable.

Brevlov asks the trio to enter, and addressing them collectively as the Soviet Super-Soldiers, informs them that he has monitored their progress for quite some time. He turns to the bald man in the red armor and addressing him as Dimitri Bukharin, remarks that he has mastered the armor created by the original Crimson Dynamo. Turning to the other man, Nicolai Krylenko, declares that he has served the state well as Vanguard. Turning to the woman however, the Colonel’s tone changes. ‘While you, Laynia Petrovna…’ he begins, until Laynia interrupts him, assuming he is going to say something about her defection to the United States, quickly exclaims that she - Darkstar - has served her people.

Brevlov declares that it is to serve mother Russia that he asks them to again unite as a team, and motions to the door, where a handsome strapping agent enters, Brevlov exclaims that they will add to their ranks the power of Major Mikhail Ursus. ‘Power?’ asks the Crimson Dynamo, exclaiming that all he sees is a man in a military uniform. But Vanguard reveals that he and Darkstar know Ursus from school, many years ago. ‘You would be wise not to taunt him’ Laynia tells Dimitri.

‘In that case, since my comrades-in-arms vouch for you, welcome to the Soviet Super-Soldiers’ the Crimson Dynamo says to Mikhail as he extends his hand. Mikhail thanks his new teammate, before shouting ‘My hand!’ as the Crimson Dynamo shakes it. Dimitri smirks and asks if something is the matter, before explaining that he clasps his hand with the smallest fraction of the transistorized power of his armored gauntlet. ‘Surely anyone worthy of joining our ranks should not feel any undue pain from a mere handshake…?’.

But suddenly, a look of shock takes over the Crimson Dynamo’s face, as Mikhail’s grip grows ever stronger, before becoming larger, and then covered in fur - a paw! ‘What manner of man are you?’ the Crimson Dynamo asks Mikhail who, by now has transformed into a complete bear, shredding his uniform as he holds Dimitri up above the ground. Laynia reminds her teammate that she warned him not to taunt Mikhail, to which Vanguard points out that their brash teammate was not to know that Major Ursus was capable of transforming himself into ‘URSA MAJOR, the man-bear!’ shouts Mikhail.

‘I believe you have proved your point, comrade’ Brevlov mumbles, so Ursa Major drops the Crimson Dynamo - hard - onto the floor, while asking the Colonel to forgive him for responding to his future comrade in kind. Brevlov lights a cigarette and remarks that as Ursus’ former schoolmates have no objection to his inclusion into their ranks, he officially welcomes Ursa Major to the Soviet Super-Soldiers.

Nicolai remarks that it is good to be reunited with Mikhail, but tells the Colonel that cannot be the reason why he called them all here. Darkstar agrees, and tells Vanguard that the Colonel must have a mission he wishes them to undertake. Brevlov declares that it is a mission which only the four of them have any hope of succeeding, and asks if they have ever heard of…the Forbidden Zone!

Ursa Major replies that he has, remarking that the Forbidden Zone has been spoken of in hushed, fearful whispers, adding that it is a radioactive region in Khystym - caused by, some say, a nuclear accident. Mikhail adds that no one goes there - no one could live there, although he had heard that its radioactivity was contained. Brevlov reveals that the Forbidden Zone is actually growing - that someone is making it grow. Laynia asks who would do such a thing, not to mention who would have the power to do it, to which the Colonel holds up a photograph of a white-haired man and replies that only one man could - the man known only as Sergei - the Presence!

Ursa Major replies that Sergei is dead - destroyed following his encounter with the American supergroup known as the Defenders. ‘That is the official version - the one we wished the world at large to believe’ Brevlov replies. Looking out his window, Brevlov reveals that Sergei never died, instead, he withdrew from the human race for a time and then reappeared to take up residence in the Forbidden Zone with his equally powerful paramour, the former Defender Dr. Tania Belinsky a.k.a. the second Red Guardian.

Brevlov remarks that, knowing how helpless conventional forces would be against the deadly duo, it was decided to leave them in peace, hoping they would do the same to the rest of the world. ‘They have not!’ Brevlov declares, revealing that, a month ago, their instruments detected a power surge from Khystym, and following that, the Forbidden Zone began to grow. Brevlov reveals that at is present rate of expansion, all Russia will become an irradiated wasteland in a matter of weeks.

Brevlov declares that they know of only one possible way to stop it, which is when Darkstar raises her hands over her head, and as she takes control of the Darkforce, she exclaims ‘By stopping Sergei and his mate! Say no more, comrade Colonel - the Soviet Super-Soldiers know what we must do!’. ‘Enter the Forbidden Zone?’ asks Ursus, to which Vanguard reminds him that they are the only ones with the power to dare try. ‘We must do more than try, Vanguard - we must prevail!’ Crimson Dynamo declares, putting on his helmet.

As the Darkforce begins to engulf the Soviet Super-Soldiers, Brevlov warns them that once they enter the Forbidden Zone, there is nothing he or anyone else can do to help them. ‘You fight on your own!’ he exclaims, before announcing that jet is fueled and ready to take them. Darkstar points out that they have no need of such a conveyance, not so long as she is in command of the Darkforce. With that, the crackling energy crescent spreads, and a nanosecond later, Laynia and the men are gone, unable to hear Brevlov remark that, although it is a bourgeois thing to say, ‘May God be with you’.

Meanwhile, riding a runaway jet through Soviet airspace, the rampaging Hulk has reached the limits of his admittedly miniscule patience. ‘Stupid plane wont let go of Hulk!’ he stammers, ‘Then Hulk will smash stupid plane!’ the Hulk concludes, and, as good as his word, he shatters the power-drive, whose killing current has held him in it’s electrical grip. Of course, the Hulk has overlooked the fact that, without the jet beneath him, he is left stranded - thousands of meters up in the air, with nowhere to go but - down!

The Hulk smashes into the ground, landing hard, he shatters the ground beneath him. Of course, the Hulk has fallen from some fearsome heights before and always survived. Gathering himself, he mutters ‘Good, Hulk has gotten rid of stupid plane!’, but looking at his surroundings, he wonders where he is now. From somewhere in the dim dark recesses of his monstrous mind though, the Hulk retrieves a memory, and recalls that he has been here before. Although he doesn’t remember when, he does remember that he didn’t like it back then and certainly doesn’t like it now.

Hulk recalls coming here with his friends - the Defenders, and wonders where they are at this moment, before he sees something in the strange buildings glowing brighter than everything else - which all glows anyway. Striding towards the light like a jade-green moth drawn towards an annihilating mind, the single-minded Hulk fails not notice a silent observer, standing in the shadows, who watches the man-monster, and wonders why he has ventured into the Forbidden Zone. ‘And more importantly, what effect will his arrival have on my well-laid plans?’ the mysterious stranger wonders.

Keeping out of the Hulk’s way, the stranger allows the Incredible Hulk to advance unimpeded, deep into the awesome architectural achievement that now lies in ruptured ruins. ‘This is where the bright light comes from!’ the Hulk bellows, certain now that he has been here before, as he looks up above, where he sees two individuals he recognizes. ‘Star-Girl and Golden-Man!’ the Hulk exclaims. However, if the powerful beings, flowing inside masses of energy recall, or even notice, the gape-jawed Hulk, they give no indication of it - they commune in indescribable ways amongst the cosmic corona, for he who is Sergei - the Presence - and she who is Dr. Tania Belinsky, former Defender and one-time Soviet super heroine the Red Guardian - and both have transcended curiosity - as well as most other human concerns.

Confused, the Hulk exclaims that Star-Girl used to be his friend, but that now she doesn’t even look at him. ‘Bah! What does Hulk care? All Hulk’s friends have deserted Hulk!’ he shouts, unaware that a black hole has suddenly appeared behind him - and through it, steps a stern, grim-faced fighting foursome - the Soviet Super-Soldiers!

Ursa Major motions to the Hulk and tells his teammates that the Forbidden Zone is producing monsters now, to which the Crimson Dynamo replies that is a strange observation from one who is hardly less monstrous himself, before boasting that an electro-thrust beam will bring the monster to its knees. However, Darkstar tells him not to, as the creature is no creation of the Forbidden Zone, but the American known as the Hulk!

Nevertheless though, the Hulk is struck by a beam of energy. Vanguard asks the Crimson Dynamo if he did not hear Darkstar, but Dynamo replies that he did not launch that beam of energy. Vanguard wonders who could have done so, when he notices someone in the shadows, making a quick getaway, he begins to follow him, while the stranger thinks to himself that he must not let Vanguard see him - yet.

The Crimson Dynamo asks if that who Vanguard follows is their foe, Sergei, but Ursus replies that the Presence would not attack from hiding then slink away. Darkstar agrees, and is certain that there is another here, before motioning to the Hulk and pointing out that it would seem the purpose of the unprovoked attack has left them to face the Hulk’s rage. ‘The gargoyle advances upon us!’ exclaims the Crimson Dynamo, calling Hulk a gargoyle, while Darkstar exclaims that she must use her Darkforce to stop the Hulk, however it is already spread so thin as she is using it to shield them from the Forbidden Zone’s radioactivity.

‘Then let brute force meet brute force!’ offers Ursa Major, stepping forward, while the Hulk exclaims that, firstly the costumed people attack him, then standing around talking in a funny language. ‘Hulk doesn’t know which makes him madder!’.

Nearby in the facility, Vanguard has cornered the mysterious cloaked stranger in a glowing corridor. ‘Hold! It is Vanguard who commands you in the name of the State!’ the hero calls out. ‘And you would never dare to take the name of the State in vain, would you, Nicolai Krylenko?’ the stranger replies, surprising Vanguard that this stranger knows his given name. The stranger replies that he knows all about Vanguard - perhaps more than Vanguard even knows about himself!

The stranger raises a hand, Vanguard assumes to attack him, and boasts that all he has to do is cross his weapons, but even so, a burst of energy is emitted from the stranger, explaining that he raised his hand in greeting, but that he realizes that only in exercising his power is he going to prove who he is. Floored, Vanguard exclaims that it isn’t possible, for never before has his crossed hammer and sickle failed to turn the force of an opponents weaponry back upon him. ‘That is because never before have they been turned against the one who created them!’ the stranger announces. Vanguard is shocked and realizes the stranger is talking about himself. ‘Your mask muffled your voice at first, but now I know you!’ Vanguard exclaims. ‘Lenin’s beard - after all these years!’.

Back in the nearby chamber, Darkstar calls out to the Hulk in English, asking him to listen to her. Laynia tells the Hulk, remarking that although his monster’s mind may not recall, the two of them fought as allies once against Magneto and Dr. Doom. However, Darkstar tells the Hulk that he is now interfering in a task that must be accomplished quickly if mother Russia - and perhaps the world - are to survive. With that, Darkstar casts her Darkforce around the Hulk, binding him, she hopes until their mission is done.

‘Girl says she and Hulk were friends - and then tries to hurt Hulk with blackness?’ the confused behemoth exclaims. ‘Hulk may be a monster, but Hulk understands that friends do not hurt friends!’ he exclaims, unaware that sometimes friends must hurt friends, when the very future seems at stake. Although the mind of the Hulk is capable of greater subtlety than most suspect, when attacked, it is his anger that inevitable wins over his childlike intellect. ‘Make blackness go away girl! Let Hulk go!’ the Hulk shouts as he manages to free himself from the Darkforce binding him.

However, his actions cause the brave Darkstar, who struck the Hulk first to save him from harming her teammates, to feel pain, as the Darkforce is a part of her too, and while in mid-air, she stumbles from the physical attack and falls to the ground, where she lands and is rendered unconscious. There are after all, few who can withstand the overwhelming rage of the Incredible Hulk. The exclaims that the blackness is gone, before turning to the fallen Darkstar and declaring that he only meant to hurt the blackness, not girl as well.

The Crimson Dynamo and Ursa Major rush towards the Hulk, ‘You misbegotten monstrosity!’ Dynamo exclaims. ‘We allowed Darkstar to approach you first…’ his voice trails off, before Major Ursus explains that Darkstar wished to subdue the Hulk without harming him, before warning the Hulk that he will now answer to the two of them. ‘Costumed men yell at Hulk in funny language again!’ the Hulk shouts. ‘If that means you are ready to attack Hulk - then come! Hulk is ready for you! Hulk will smash you both!’ he boasts.

Meanwhile, more than half a world away, Rick Jones stands on the doorstep of Avengers Mansion, thinking to himself ‘I don’t get it! I come to Avengers Mansion asking helping finding the Hulk - and Jarvis asks me to wait out here on the stoop! Me - Rick Jones - who was almost an Avenger once!’. Soon, the door finally opens again, and Captain America assures Jarvis that this is Rick Jones, that there is no doubt about it, and asks him to be let in. Jarvis replies that he suspected it was Rick, ‘But without a retina print on file…’ his voice trails off.

‘A what?’ Rick asks. Captain America replies that it is a security precaution, and tells Rick that a lot has changed since he was last here. ‘Yeah, I guess so’ Rick mumbles as he approaches Cap, who remarks ‘You told Jarvis you needed help to find the Hulk?’. Rick replies that he has been thinking about how Bruce Banner became the Hulk - by saving his life - and about how he ran out on Bruce when he needed him. But Cap tells Rick not to be so hard on himself, as he knows the Hulk had become too savage for anyone to help or to hurt. ‘Yeah, well, I still owe ol’ Greenskin’ Rick replies.

Cap tells Rick that he has always admired his loyalty to the Hulk, and asks him what he wants the Avengers to do. ‘I want you to save the Hulk, Cap!’ Rick replies, before revealing that Colonel Glenn Talbot of Gamma Base has gone off the deep end. ‘And fled the country in some new, ultra secret battle-cruiser called the War Wagon?’ Cap remarks, explaining that the Avengers have had a report. Cap leads Rick back to the door as he tells him he is probably right in thinking that Talbot plans to use the War Wagon to hunt the Hulk, but that there is nothing the Avengers can do.

Cap assures Rick that they would like to help the Hulk, but that he has been spotted behind the Iron Curtain, and the Avengers almost caused an international incident by doing in there without authorization recently. ‘Russia, huh?’ Rick remarks, before asking what happens if the Hulk makes it back to the States. ‘Then all you have to do is call on us’ Cap assures Rick. ‘Scouts honor, Cap?’ Rick asks. ‘My word as an Avenger, son’ Cap replies, as the allies wave goodbye.

Moments, later, Rick walks along the street, hands in pockets, he admits that he sees Cap’s point, as the Avengers cannot risk starting World War III just to find the Hulk. However, he wonders if there is something he can do while he is waiting for the Hulk to return home. ‘Yeah, and I know just what that something is!’ Rick decides, striding along with purpose once more, and an idea brewing in his brain.

Back in the Forbidden Zone, an epic battle rages on. ‘Let me be the first to strike!’ Ursa Major asks Dynamo, who replies ‘No’ and remarks that although Ursus is strong, the creator of the Crimson Dynamo armor constructed it to rival that of Iron Man. As the Crimson Dynamo and Hulk prepare to face off, Dimitri exclaims that he has heard it said in awed whispers that not even Iron Man and his fellow Avengers have ever prevailed against the Hulk, before declaring that he will try to hold the monster while Ursus revives Darkstar, reminding Ursus that his armor protects him from the radiation, but that Ursus and Laynia are only protected by her Darkforce.

‘Armored man does nothing but jabber! Does armored man want to talk - or fight?’ the Hulk exclaims, before smashing into Dynamo. Dynamo admits that the Hulk is powerful, and urges Major Ursus to go and tend to their fallen comrade, find Vanguard and go after Sergei. ‘I will hold the Hulk…as long as I can!’ he exclaims, while a reluctant Ursa Major obeys. The Crimson Dynamo rises from the floor to renew his battle, and blasts the Hulk, who growls and shouts ‘Armored man shoots ray at Hulk?’ before declaring that the ray hurts, although he has fought another - Iron Man, ‘And Hulk has smashed him like Hulk will smash you!’ the Hulk boasts as he pushes forward towards the Crimson Dynamo, defying the electro thrust beam.

The Crimson Dynamo thinks to himself that although he is encased in near-invincible armor, he still feels the crushing power behind each one of the Hulk’s blows. He knows that he has pledged to buy time so that his comrades can regroup and find Sergei, but against the Hulk, it seems all his power will purchase but a few minutes at most! Dimitri boasts that he will battle on - even though it may cost him his life.

As the Hulk lifts Dynamo up, Dimitri unleashes a powerful thruster blast from his foot, smacking the Hulk at point-blank range in the face, causing the Hulk to cry out in pain. However, the Hulk maintains his hold of the Crimson Dynamo, boasting that the armored man has not made him let go, the Hulk exclaims that what he holds, he can smash, and does so, by brining the Crimson Dynamo down against the floor - hard.

Dimitri realizes that his circuitry has been smashed, and his armor behind to malfunction with his power almost gone. ‘The Hulk has crushed me as an elephant crushes an ant!’ the Crimson Dynamo thinks to himself, while the Hulk remarks that the armored man has stopped jabbering now. ‘Hulk knows he has won when his enemies at last shut up!’ the Hulk declares as he tosses the Crimson Dynamo across the chamber and into some machinery.

However, Ursa Major comes running up behind the Hulk, thinking to himself that Vanguard is gone, and Darkstar and the Dynamo have been defeated. Ursus knows the importance of their mission, but declares that he cannot allow his comrades to go unavenged. ‘Hulk has beaten girl and armored man! Hulk is the strongest one there is!’ the Hulk boasts, when suddenly, the giant bear wraps his arms around the Hulk, getting him in a hold, Ursa Major tells the Hulk that his actions explain his words, but that before he proclaims his victory over the Soviet Super-Soldiers, he must first answer to Ursa Major.

‘Hairy man leaps at Hulk from behind - tries to drive Hulk down to the floor!’ the Hulk exclaims as he resists Ursus’ attack, boasting that no one pushes the Hulk down. Ursus is knocked back, and thinks to himself that the Hulk is half his size, but more than ten times as strong. ‘What could create such a creature?’ he wonders, before noting the aggressive Hulk and deciding that he seems madder - and stronger - than ever! Ursus realizes that without Darkstar’s protection, the Forbidden Zone’s radiation saps his own enormous strength as he and the Hulk punch each other up.

So engrossed in battle, Ursa Major does not see a silent shape outside the chamber step towards the unconscious and defenceless Darkstar. The mysterious figure sees Ursa Major fighting for his life, and knows that he risks all if he were to make Ursus aware of his presence now. ‘Let him join us - if he lives’ the stranger thinks to himself as he picks up Darkstar. ‘If not, the battle will have to be carried by Vanguard, Darkstar - and myself!’. Holding Laynia in his arms, the stranger makes his exit.

Ursa Major punches the Hulk past the opening to the chamber and sees that Darkstar is missing. ‘In the heat of battle, I forgot to guard her!’ Ursus exclaims, before he tries to summon all of his strength, smashing the Hulk into some machinery. ‘So hairy man is stronger than he pretended!’ the Hulk exclaims, before kicking Ursus in the stomach and declaring that it doesn’t matter, for he is still stronger.

This battle though, destroying various glowing instruments in the unearthly lab has suddenly become the attention of the creator of - and power behind - said machines - Sergei - the Presence - who now makes his entrance. ‘Who dares to interrupt our cosmic communion!?’ he exclaims. The Presence floats down from high above, telling the Red Guardian to remain where she is, continuing to spin the strands of power. ‘I will deal with those who would disturb our task!’ he exclaims as he unleashes a powerful blast against Ursa Major and the Hulk.

At that very moment, Ursus realizes that it is he who the Super-Soldiers cam to destroy, while the Hulk shouts ‘What is happening to Hulk?’. The Presence expends the most minute measure of the power that is his to command on the bestial combatants. ‘I have betrayed my mission!’ Ursus exclaims, as his bear form and the Hulk’s monster form fade away, both men are returned to their human forms under the power of the Presence, while Ursus exclaims that, instead of seeking out and destroying the Presence before he could devastate all of Russia, he and his fellow Super-Soldiers have delayed too long by battling the Hulk. ‘And in so doing…may have doomed a world!’.

The Presence hovers over the men, announcing that these destructive intruders are not altogether what they seem, and as they return to their true forms, he declares that they will do no further damage to the precious instruments which he needs to carry out his task. ‘No!’ Major Ursus thinks to himself, knowing that if the Presence succeeds, then the world will become a radioactive wasteland….

Characters Involved: 

Crimson Dynamo V, Darkstar, Ursa Major, Vanguard (all Soviet Super-Soldiers)


The Presence
Red Guardian II

Colonel Brevlov

Professor Phobos (in shadows)

Captain America
Rick Jones
Edwin Jarvis

Ex-Colonel Glenn Talbot
Congresswoman Messinger
Others with the Congresswoman

Afghani Man
Russian Soldiers and pilots

In Photograph:
Sergei / The Presence

Story Notes: 

Darkstar’s appearance prior to this issue was a brief one in the Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #250.

Darkstar defected to the United States in Champions #10, and will do so several times in the future.

First appearance of Ursa Major / Major Mikhail Ursus, a rather unique character, who, sadly, never really gets a lot to do, but does spend much time with Darkstar and Vanguard.

Darkstar and company once more venture into the Forbidden Zone in Rom #45-46.

The Defenders fought the Presence in Defenders (1st series) #53.

The Presence and Red Guardian II returned in Defenders (1st series) #65.

Darkstar met the Hulk in The Champions #16.

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