Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #259

Issue Date: 
May 1981
Story Title: 
The Family that DIES Together…!

Bill Mantlo (Writer), Sal Buscema (Artist), Jim Novak (Letterer), Bob Sharen (Colorist), Jack Abel (Assistant Editor), Al Milgrom (Editor), Jim Shooter (Editor-in-Chief)

Brief Description: 

The Presence returns Ursa Major and the Hulk to their human forms, before returning with the Red Guardian to their task, while Ursus and the Hulk are soon freed by the mysterious stranger, who is revealed to be Ursus’ former long-time mentor, Professor Phobos. Darkstar and Vanguard return with the unconscious Crimson Dynamo, and Phobos reveals his story to everyone, explaining that, nineteen years ago, the KGB brought him two more infants who were identified as mutants for his Super-Soldiers School. The infants grew up to become Darkstar and Vanguard, and trained with Ursa Major, until Phobos, hunted by the State, had to flee, but not before giving Darkstar a diadem, Vanguard his hammer and sickle, and Ursa Major the gift of leadership. Phobos explains that the Presence and Red Guardian are trying to force the radiation of the Negative Zone outwards so they can turn everyone in Russia, and eventually the world, into beings like them. After teleporting the unconscious Crimson Dynamo to safety, Darkstar, Vanguard and Ursa Major to go delay the Presence, while Dr. Banner helps Phobos construct a machine to stop the apparent villains. The powerless Ursa Major can only watch as his friends take on the two powerful beings, whom Darkstar eventually encases in the Darkforce, unaware that the Presence and Red Guardian are actually absorbing the deadly radiation in an attempt to prevent its spread. Darkstar eventually passes out, leaving the Presence and Red Guardian to confront Phobos, while Vanguard and Ursa Major wonder why, if the Presence wants to kill everyone, did not kill the two of them. The Presence and Red Guardian are then caught in the stasis beam, and Dr. Banner and the Super-Soldiers learn the truth - that Phobos is a madman who was driven into exile after the Red Guardian discovered him stealing the powers of others to enhance his own artificial powers - which he has done through Vanguard and Darkstar for years by means of the “gifts” he gave them. Phobos reveals that the Presence is actually Darkstar and Vanguard’s father, meaning the two of them are twin siblings, before the Presence, despite the stasis field, manages to restore Ursa Major and the Hulk’s powers. They fight Phobos, who cannot control them as in their bestial forms, are not considered men. Darkstar disposes of her diadem and works on freeing her father and the Red Guardian, while Ursa Major and the Hulk destroy Phobos’ armor. Vanguard purges Phobos’ control from his hammer and sickle, before the Presence and Red Guardian complete their tasks by absorbing all of the radiation from the Forbidden Zone into themselves, and head towards space. Phobos is rendered powerless when his armor is destroyed, and Ursa Major promises to make sure he will stand trial for the deaths of the Presence and Red Guardian, while Darkstar boasts that the Super-Soldiers will never blindly follow a leader or the State again. Meanwhile, Glenn Talbot continues his hunt for the Hulk, and Rick Jones sends a signal to the Teen Brigade, announcing that they are back in action.

Full Summary: 

Within the Forbidden Zone, located in the Khystym province of the Soviet Union, where the Zone’s radiation has been rapidly spreading outward, the Soviet Super-Soldiers have been sent to investigate, only to find the evolved Sergei - also known as the Presence, his consort Dr. Tania Belinsky, a.k.a. the former Defender known as Red Guardian, and, surprisingly, the Incredible Hulk!

The Presence hovers above new Soviet Super-Solider Major Mikhail Ursus a.k.a. Ursa Major, and the Incredible Hulk, asking what madness reigns. ‘While the Red Guardian and I cosmically commune, two brawling behemoths threaten the equipment so vital to our plan!’ The diabolical Presence exclaims as he blasts both Ursa Major and the Hulk with his energies, while the Red Guardian hovers nearby, telling her beloved not to harm them, for it may be said that the creatures know not what they do.

Red Guardian exclaims that she does not wish to harm the lower orders, to which Sergei replies that he must ensure that they do no further damage to his instruments, and informs Tania that he senses the two beings are not altogether what they seem, that their power is embodied in their bestiality, so it is a simple matter to negate whatever peril that power possesses, and thus, he transforms them back to their original forms.

Major Ursus clutches his head, shocked that Sergei was able to supercede his shape-shifting power with a mere thought, while an equally surprised Bruce Banner exclaims that he has been transformed from monster to man - from the Hulk to human - with effortless ease by a being with the powers of a god. ‘Where am I? What the blazes is going on!?’ Bruce exclaims. The Red Guardian informs her former teammate that he is now in Russia, and in the presence of - the Presence!

The Presence tells Tania that although her ally possesses an intellect capable of understanding, and even aiding them in their plan, there is no time for that. The Presence then mind-scans Ursa Major and discovers that he did not enter the Forbidden Zone alone - but in the company of three other self-styled saviors of the State - his teammates, the Soviet Super-Soldiers - Darkstar, Vanguard and the Crimson Dynamo. The Presence remarks that he also senses that there is another being lurking in the shadows, shielding his thoughts from the probes, and declares that he fears this one more than the others.

The Presence continues to hold Mikhail and Bruce in energy stasis, exclaiming that their enemies surround them, and now that these two are in their power, they can be eliminated. Bruce fears that he and his fellow prisoner are going to be killed, and wishes that he could transform into the Hulk again, while Tania tells her lover to hold, and exclaims that these two are humans, just as they both were once, therefore slaying them would be inhuman and render all of their work meaningless. ‘True. It is so easy to disregard the sanctity of human life when one has transcended humanity’ the Presence replies.

The Presence and Red Guardian turn from Mikhail and Bruce, while the Presence remarks that his beloved always reminds him of humanity, and for that, he cherishes her even more. ‘They shall live - but unable to interfere’ the Presence remarks as they take their leave from this chamber, while Bruce realizes that although the Presence and Red Guardian are leaving, they have done something to him - his pulse is racing, heart pounding like a trip-hammer, but he is not transforming into the Hulk for some reason.

Suddenly, with the Presence and Red Guardian gone, a cloaked figure steps out of the shadows, and uses an energy beam to free the prisoners of the Presence. Mikhail and Bruce fall from the air as the force field around them fades away, and they fall to the ground, where Mikhail exclaims that the voice of their liberator, he knows it and never dared hope that he would hear it again! He rushes over to his rescuer while Bruce begins talking to Mikhail in the Soviet’s native language, explaining that he studied it while he was obtaining his doctorate in physics, before asking who has set them free - who possesses the power to counter the Presence?

Mikhail lifts his rescuer off the ground, ’The one who raised me as an orphaned child - the one who I called my father, my tutor…my friend!’ Mikhail exclaims excitedly. The cloaked stranger asks Dr. Banner to forgive the exuberance of youth, explaining that it has been a long time since he and Mikhail have seen each other, he then introduces himself as Professor Phobos. ‘You called me by name! You know me?’ asks Bruce, surprised. Professor Phobos removes his cloak and remarks that Dr. Bruce Banner is the world’s foremost authority on Gamma radiation - not to mention victim of an unfortunate accident that turned him into the mightiest mortal on the face of the Earth. ‘Yes, we have heard of you even in this secrecy-enshrouded land’.

Professor Phobos remarks that he was privy to all information of a scientific nature prior to its butchering at the hands of the State censors. As the three other members of the Super-Soldiers enter - Laynia “Darkstar” Petrovna, Nicolai “Vanguard” Krylenko and the Crimson Dynamo a.k.a. Dimitri Burkharin - Phobos explains that he had to be privy to that information, for he was the head of the ultra-secret, Soviet research project called…the Super-Soldier School!

(Shown with Flashback illustrations)
Phobos explains that it began one Winter’s night in Moscow, nineteen years ago: when a black Lada, tires crunching in the snow, came to a stop before an unassuming building on Gorky Street, and from inside the car, stepped two men - bearing two infants. The two men stood stiff and contemptuous making no effort to disguise their connection with the Committee of State Security - the KGB. And although they had not signaled their presence, the door opened to them, where they were greeted by a small boy, who informed them that the teacher was expecting them.

Despite being outraged at being greeted by a seven year old boy while on a secret mission of State, the KGB nevertheless accompanied Mikhail Ursus into a room, where Professor Phobos was reading a book beside a fireplace. He greets the KGB and asked them what has brought them out on this night. ‘We have brought the children’. ‘Although they should have been destroyed as the devils they are!’ the KGB officers replied. Phobos stood up and exclaimed that the children are of vital importance to the Soviet Union, and that they are never to be harmed. ‘Do you understand? NEVER!’ exclaimed Phobos as his skin and hair tuned purple, and the KGB exclaimed ‘My mind! Lenin’s ghost! What are you doing to my mind!’.

Phobos took the children from the KGB, before turning to the seven year-old boy, dressed in a military uniform, and exclaimed ‘Mikhail Ursus, show our visitors out’. ‘Da, comrade teacher!’ the boy replied, before transforming into a giant bear. The KGB run for their lives, deathly frightened. These children were mutants, not the first born in Russia, but the first to survive the Stalinist suspicion of the Soviet State apparatus. Rumors of similar “gifted children” being born in America had prompted the authorities to re-evaluate their powerful prodigies and train them in the service of the State. For sixteen years this was Professor Phobos’ task and triumph.

One day, years later, when the three teens were training, Professor Phobos entered the training room with a box. ‘Have you come to grade us?’ asked Nicolai, while Laynia wondered what was in the box. Phobos replied that he has graduation gifts for them - for their training was now complete. Phobos asked Nicolai to step forward, remarking that as his power is to turn an enemy’s power back against him, the symbols of the State will help him focus that power, as Vanguard, and handed him a hammer and sickle.

Phobos told Laynia that the Darkforce which she possesses is some sort of alien manifestation of her consciousness, and handing her an amulet, and calling her Darkstar, remarked that with this, she can control it. Ursus remarked that he sees no gift for him, to which Phobos explained that his shape-shifting power is complete unto itself, and remarked that, as the oldest of the trio, he gives him the gift of leadership, revealing that he must leave.

Phobos reveals that later that night, he fled his school, burning all of his notes, all except his notes about his “gifted” students, and vanished into the frozen wastes of Siberia. Darkstar asks her former mentor why he abandoned them as their real parents had done so, many years before, to which Phobos replies that the reins of State power had changed, and mutants were feared - but feared even more was he, the man who controlled them. Phobos explains that he would have been killed, or, worse, been forced to manipulate his students to do the State’s will. ‘I would not betray your trust in me that way’ Phobos remarks, before revealing that he learned that at first the State wanted to slay his students, but instead, they were split up - Vanguard and Ursa Major were drafted into the army, while Darkstar was sent to America under the watchful eye of the fourth Crimson Dynamo.

Phobos remarks that now, the State has allowed them to regroup, so they can fight a menace they regard as more of as threat than mutant kind - the Forbidden Zone. Bruce Banner remarks that the Forbidden Zone was a contained area, to which Phobos replies that it no longer is, as Sergei and the Red Guardian have been trying to spread it in an inexorable radioactive wave over the entire Soviet Union, in the hope that those touched by the contamination will either die or mutate into beings like themselves. Banner exclaims that this is madness, and asks if Sergei possess the power - his voice trails off, and Phobos remarks ‘To make men into monsters?’ pointing out that Sergei transformed both Banner and Ursus back into men.

‘Yes!’ exclaims Banner as he declares that now he wishes he could become the Hulk to stop the Presence, but he has cured him, turned him into a normal man again. Banner adds that he cannot believe that the Red Guardian, once his teammate in the Defenders, can be helping the Presence. Phobos explains that Tania Belinsky can no longer be considered human, that she is one with Sergei. Phobos exclaims that they must now act, revealing that during his self-imposed exile, he learnt much about Sergei, and believes he now knows how to stop him, before pointing out that firstly they must tend to the unconscious Crimson Dynamo.

Banner admits that he is responsible for the Crimson Dynamo’s condition, that he did it while he was the Hulk. Darkstar covers her teammate in the Darkforce energies that she commands, and teleports him to distant Leningrad, where he can receive the best possible care. Almost instantly, the Crimson Dynamo arrives in a Leningrad hospital, where a doctor and nurse see him appear on a bed and prepare to ready the emergency room.

Phobos explains that, although Sergei is a mighty force unto himself, he still needs these infernal machines to produce and spread the radioactive contamination. Phobos reveals that he believes he can turn Sergei’s own instruments against him, but that he needs time to do so. Darkstar, Vanguard and Ursa Major leap into action, departing the room, they tell their former mentor that he will have time, even if they have to buy it with their lives.

Phobos tells Dr. Banner that his students are brave, but that what he needs to stop Sergei is brain power. Banner stands in shock as Phobos uses his powers to move a massive piece of machinery with the power of his mind. Banner asks Phobos if he is a mutant like his students, to which Phobos replies ‘Of course - why else would I have been chosen to head the Super-Soldier School? Why else would the very State I now hope to save, fear me and wish to have me killed?’. Phobos then asks the astonished Banner if he will help him save his country, and, perhaps, the world.

While Bruce nods his head, a gigantic golden battle-cruiser soars aggressively into Soviet airspace. It is called the War Wagon. It’s purpose is to track down and kill one being - the Incredible Hulk! Inside its gleaming decks stalks one man, obsessed with his mission - Glenn Talbot, whom lately, has been labeled a traitor by his countrymen for stealing this War Wagon. Glenn notes that his is over the Soviet Union now, but there is still no trace of the Hulk.

On the Bridge, Talbot consults his sole companion, ‘Status report, Brain!’ he exclaims, and a computer begins talking to him, announcing that the gamma trail search is negative, and that their quarry has disappeared in Khystym region of the USSR. The computer than reports that it detects afterburner emissions, and Talbot realizes that the Soviets have sent up Jets.

The Soviet soldiers report to each other, announcing that the intruder is flying below radar cover and that it is big. ‘Da! We have established visual contact, ground control!’ the airborne soldiers report back, and begin firing interceptors. Talbot’s computer informs him that the pursuit planes have commenced attack, so Talbot orders hypersonic shields to be activated. Pitched too high for the unaided human ear to hear, a pulsating series of sonic waves is emitted by the War Wagon’s sound canons.

The carefully modulated soundwaves shatter the Soviet pursuit planes, while allowing the pilots to eject themselves to safety. The computer informs Talbot that he registers no further attacks, that the Russians seem to fear the area they are about to enter. ‘Fear it? Why?’ asks Talbot. The computer replies ‘Radiation’, so Talbot assumes that is what is masking the Hulk’s gamma trail, and orders his computer to keep searching.

Far below, in the heart of the Forbidden Zone, the Soviet Super-Soldiers mount a race against time. ‘This complex is so vast!’ exclaims the beautiful Darkstar as she flies ahead of her male companions. Vanguard reminds everyone that only Darkstar’s Darkforce shields them from the incredibly high levels of radiation, while Ursa Major, trailing slightly behind, wonders what he can do to help his comrades when they find Sergei, when suddenly, Phobos contacts his former student telepathically, telling Mikhail to fear not, as Sergei did not wipe out his mutant abilities, he merely switched off that sector of his brain which controlled them. ‘Defeat him, and you will be whole once more’ Phobos exclaims. ‘I will, Professor - I must. My power is my life!’ Mikhail replies.

Suddenly, Darkstar announces that the enemy is ahead. ‘Sergei!’ shouts Vanguard, clutching his hammer and sickle. ‘The Presence!’ Major Ursus thinks to himself. The Presence and the Red Guardian hover in cosmic communion, high above the floor of a chamber which once contained the power-core of the vast complex comprising the Forbidden Zone. Mikhail points out that Sergei and Tania pay no attention to the three of them, to which Darkstar remarks that they are but insects, unworthy of the attention of those who would be gods.

‘Vanguard is no insect!’ the brash mutant exclaims, ‘He is a soldier of the State!’, to which Darkstar asks ‘Still - even after what our teacher said about how the State fears and hates our powers?’. Laynia’s question plagues Vanguard, but does not stay his arm as he tosses his sickle upwards - however, the slightest gesture by Sergei deflects the sickle, causing its razor-sharp blade to slice a swath through the banks of computer columns instead of through Sergei himself.

Vanguard’s sickle returns to him as he asks Darkstar how they can fight the two beings as they possess so much power. The Presence tells his beloved that, once again, they are beset by fools, and asks if he must be merciful when their actions endanger the critical movement of their endeavors. ‘Stop them if you must, Sergei - but for my sake, do not hurt them!’ the kind-hearted Tania replies. ‘Have no fear on that score, woman!’ Vanguard bellows as he holds his sickle and hammer up, and thus as Sergei’s blasts hit his weapons, they are deflected back to the Presence, hitting him with force.

Vanguard then demonstrates other uses of his weapons, boasting that they are attuned to his mind and alive in his hands, he tosses them towards the Red Guardian, where they encircle her and hurl her force bolts back upon herself. The Presence is annoyed, telling Vanguard that the Red Guardian is all there is to temper his fury with compassion. ‘For harming her, you shall feel that fury unleashed!’.

The Presence proceeds to release another blast of energy upon Vanguard, while Major Ursus notes that, without his hammer and sickle, Nicolai is defenseless, and leaps towards him, knocking his friend out of harms way, despite Nicolai telling him not to, ‘Unable to change your shape, you are powerless!’ he exclaims, but Mikhail replies that they were brought up as brothers, so he cannot desert him.

Sergei sees Major Ursus and realizes that he is free from the energy cocoon in which he left him, so decides that the laboratory he left him in may now be in the hands of those who would oppose him. Darkstar quickly alerts her male companions that they have been discovered, for Sergei realizes now that their purpose is to hold him here. Mikhail assures Laynia that they will hold him here, with her Darkforce, and his cybernetic weapons, which have just returned to his hands.

‘I think not, children!’ The Presence boasts, before telling Tania to come along, as they must see what new insanity threatens the completion of their task, but, suddenly, a darkness deeper than night extends across the Presence and Red Guardian. ‘It chills my soul - and prevents out atoms from passing through it!’ the Presence exclaims, before declaring ‘The fools! Do they not understand that, if they stop us, their world may well be doomed?!’. Tania replies that they do not, for the two of them, in their aloof superiority, have not taken the time to explain.

Back in the laboratory, Dr. Banner and Prof. Phobos are laboring feverishly the forces of the Forbidden Zone. Bruce tends to various controls, while telling Phobos that he understands what he is trying to create, a stasis field to contain Sergei’s power. ‘Yes, and bind him and the Red Guardian with their own awesome energies!’ Phobos explains, before telling Banner that he could not have completed it so quickly without his help.

Back in the chamber, a pained Laynia announces that the Darkforce is suffering, that she can hear it crying out. Vanguard replies that he wishes they could help her, but that it is her power against the power of the Presence now. Darkstar, a true hero, suppresses her tears and fights on. Inside the darkness, Red Guardian blasts at the deep dark, while the Presence suddenly announces that he sees a light in the darkness. A pinhole, infinitesimally small, but an opening nonetheless. The duo combine their powers, focusing them on the hole so that they can be free.

Outside the darkness, Darkstar groans, and the Red Guardian exclaims that their act has caused her pain. ‘You still care about them? I am amazed!’ exclaims Sergei, while Vanguard catches the weakened Darkstar as she falls. Mikhail exclaims that the strain of feeling the Darkforce breached was too much for Darkstar and Laynia can no longer contain them. Major Ursus adds that there is a mystery here, explaining that Sergei and Tania could have slain all three of them right now, but instead they passed them by. ‘Why, if they mean to destroy the Soviet Union, didn’t they simply start by destroying us?’ Mikhail wonders. Vanguard of course, used to fighting with his fists rather than his head, has no answer.

Back in the laboratory, Phobos informs Dr. Banner that they are ready, the stasis beam is complete, to which Banner exclaims that all they have to do now is get Sergei to walk into it. Suddenly, Phobos announces that the weapon will be used sooner than expected, as his Super-Soldiers have brought all they time they could, as he senses the imminent approach of the Presence and the Red Guardian. Indeed, the powerful duo enter the laboratory, and Sergei exclaims that the one who’s power he detected earlier, is in here.

Red Guardian informs Sergei that the stranger’s thoughts are in turmoil, and suggests to her beloved that he have a care, explaining that while the Super-Soldiers meant only to delay them, this one here plans their destruction. Confused, Dr. Banner exclaims that the stasis beam is only meant to imprison them, to which Phobos assures Bruce that the Presence and Red Guardian seek to distract him with lies, and orders him to hit the switch, for delay means death. ‘Yes, you’re right!’ Dr. Banner exclaims as he hit’s the switch.

‘Sergei! Beloved!’ screams the Red Guardian as she is caught in the stasis beam. The Presence assures Tania that he would protect her from this pain if he could - but that the power which lashes at their atoms is their very own. The duo writhe in agony in the stasis field, powerless against it, when suddenly the Super-Soldiers enter the lab. Darkstar is relieved that Professor Phobos is unharmed, and Vanguard agrees, when suddenly, a crazed Phobos exclaims ‘At last, after all these years I have finally attained the means to become supremely powerful - to destroy the State that dared drive me into exile!’.

Vanguard calls out to Phobos, telling him that he does not understand, and asks if he means to use the power he is draining from Sergei and the Red Guardian to undo their evil, to decontaminate the Forbidden Zone. ‘Is that how the mind-manipulator deceived you?’ Red Guardian asks the hero. ‘Deceived us? What do you mean?’ Banner asks his former teammate. Tania replies that the madman is so sure of his triumph that he has dropped his mind screen, which allows her to recognize Pieter Phobos, a man whose aims are now what they have always been - to steal power from others and use it to attack the Soviet State.

The twisted Professor Phobos exclaims that the Red Guardian is correct, and boasts that he is, and has always been - a power parasite!

(Shown with Flashback illustrations)
Phobos reveals that, for years, as Dean of the School for Super-Soldiers, he secretly drained the mutant abilities of his students, to cybernetically create his own, artificial mind-powers. For years, Ursa Major, Vanguard, Darkstar and the other mutant children who did not survive the rigors of their training, added to his powers - until he was discovered by the Red Guardian - ‘Traitor! The State knows how you have used this School and its students to further your own ends!’ the Red Guardian told Phobos.

Phobos reveals that he overpowered the Red Guardian, before giving his students certain tokens which would continue to feed their powers into him, before he fled into the Forbidden Zone. Phobos announces that it is he who has been spreading the contamination of the Forbidden Zone, while Sergei and the Red Guardian have been trying to stop him. ‘Then all your teaching, everything you ever told us - was lies?!’ gasps Vanguard.

‘Yes, Vanguard - and you were the easiest to deceive!’ Phobos boasts as he blasts Nicolai with some energy and remarking that by arming Vanguard with the symbols of the Soviet State he ensured that Nicolai could never turn his powers against him. Darkstar begins to remove the diadem in her tiara, but Phobos blasts her also, exclaiming that without the diadem, the Darkforce would be totally in her control, however while she wears it, she is powerless before him. Mikhail rushes up behind Phobos and attempts to take him down, but Phobos shoves him aside, telling him that without his shape-shifting powers were Sergei so obligingly removed, he is less than nothing.

The Soviet Super-Soldiers lie motionless at Professor Phobos’ feet, and boasts that the incredible irony of this all is that he, a non-mutant with stolen powers, shall preside over the eradication of an entire family of true mutants. ‘What do you mean?’ Dr. Banner asks, confused. ‘Witness - Sergei - the father!’ shouts the mad Phobos, motioning up to the Presence.

(Shown with Flashback illustrations)
Once, a brilliant nuclear physicist, Sergei accidentally irradiated himself and his pregnant young wife during an experiment - the woman died in childbirth, and, engulfed by his own guilt, Sergei believed the KGB when they told him that his infant children also perished soon after.

With his body wracked by the same killing radiation, Sergei sought a cure, here, in Khystym, and his research made him the most powerful scientist in Soviet Russia, and his search for a cure made him…the Presence!

However, his children lived - as the secret police brought them to Phobos for training, where he subsequently stole the powers of Vanguard and Darkstar to create his own.

Dr. Banner rushes towards Phobos, ‘And now you’d slay them - and endanger a country containing hundreds of millions of people as well!?’ he shouts. ‘After irradiating them all - yes!’ Phobos announces, boasting that the more mutants he creates, the more power will exist for him to siphon into himself, before blasting Dr. Banner aside, telling him that the stasis beam he created shall aid him. ‘No!’ shouts Bruce as he lands in some machinery. ‘Yes, American - Yes!’ Phobos shouts, boasting that once the radioactive contamination of the Forbidden Zone has engulfed Russia, he shall extend it to the United States as well.

‘There must be some way to stop you - there has to be!’ exclaims Dr. Banner, when suddenly, ‘There is, Dr. Banner!’ comes a thought, whispered in Bruce’s mind. The Presence reveals himself, explaining that the machine has made him too weak to defy Professor Phobos, but announces that he can retract the mind-blockage preventing he and Ursa Major from becoming their otherselves. ‘You can make me the Hulk again?’ Bruce thinks, wondering if that is the price he must pay for saving his world. ‘Do it then! God help me, let the man become…the monster!’.

And with that, Bruce Banner becomes the Hulk once more, just as Major Ursus shifts into his bear form. Mikhail points out that Sergei has kept his promise, so now it falls upon the two of them to save humanity. Of course, the Hulk does not understand the Russian-speaking bear, ‘But Hulk knows who he must smash!’ he exclaims as the two of them approach Phobos, who realizes what Sergei has done and warns him that he will pay for this.

Up above, Tania exclaims that the stasis beam is intensifying, to which Sergei explains that Phobos is draining their power more quickly to strike at his enemies and speed up the spread of the Forbidden Zone.

Phobos uses his powers against the Hulk and Major Ursus, angrily shouting at them: ‘Back you lumbering monstrosity! Back you loathsome mutation!’. Ursa Major then reminds his former mentor that he never gave him a gift by which he could control him like he did Vanguard and Darkstar, to which the Hulk exclaims ‘Words in funny language! All man and man-bear want to do is talk! Hulk hates words! Hulk only wants to smash!’. Phobos quickly finds that his power has no effect on his former charge as Ursa Major wraps his arms around the madman, in a literal “bear-hug” to which Major Ursus remarks that Phobos’ power is to manipulate human minds, but the Hulk, and he while in his man-bear form, are too bestial for manipulation.

Nearby, Darkstar and Vanguard are recovering, and Nicolai asks Laynia if she heard everything - that the Presence is their father, and they are therefore brother and sister. ‘Yes! He never abandoned us! The State convinced him we were dead!’ Laynia exclaims as she takes the diadem from her tiara, exclaiming that, for years they believed the State’s and Professor Phobos’s lies, but now, they know the truth - ‘And it shall free us from past loyalties!’ Laynia declares.

With the diadem removed, Laynia feels a flooding of power through her body like she has not known since she was a child - a blessed merging of herself and another shadowed entity - the Darkforce. ‘I am whole again! The Darkforce and I are one! We are…wondrous!’ Laynia exclaims, before turning to the Presence, and addressing him as Father, declares that his daughter shall free him. With that, she uses her power up on the stasis field holding the Presence and Red Guardian.

‘Now, Phobos! You will feel our power!’ Ursa Major exclaims, while Phobos screams, exclaiming that Ursa Major’s grip crushes his ribs, while the Hulk tears his armor off. ‘Man tried to help puny Banner! Hulk hates Banner and now Hulk hates this man!’ the Hulk exclaims, while Vanguard announces that his hammer and sickle have been purged of Phobos’ control, and now his power flows through them, unimpeded, which means he can help his sister in the liberation of their father.

The Presence calls out to his children, explaining to them that Phobos has computed his machinery, used it to make the radioactive forces of the Forbidden Zone more unstable than ever. Vanguard asks his father if they can rebuild it before the contamination spreads beyond the borders of the Forbidden Zone, to which the Presence replies that they cannot, explaining that a chain reaction builds radioactive molecules replicating themselves at an incredible pace, so soon, the Forbidden Zone will erupt outwards.

The Presence reveals that the only way to prevent the radiation spread is for he and the Red Guardian to absorb the unstable energies into themselves and to transform it and themselves into inert matter far from this earthly sphere. The Presence and Red Guardian begin to do so, and Sergei bids farewell to his children. ‘I never betrayed you! I loved you with all my heart!’ he exclaims, while the Red Guardian bids Earth farewell. ‘I go to dwell for all eternity with him who I love above life itself!’.

With that, the powerful duo rise higher in the sky, shining like stars as the radiation becomes one with them. ‘Father!’ cries a shocked Darkstar, while Vanguard rushes to his sister’s side, exclaiming that their father and the woman with whom he chose to share his isolation are leaving, taking the Forbidden Zone’s perilous radiation with them. ‘Have we found our father after all these years - only to lose him for all eternity!?’. In a blinding flash, the Presence and Tania Belinsky are gone.

Vanguard comforts Laynia, telling her it is over, that they are alone again and have only themselves and Mikhail. Laynia declares that the Super-Soldiers will continue to battle evil, but that they will never blindly follow any State or leader again. Ursa Major returns to his human form, standing over Professor Phobos, he announces that the teacher is finished, for the cybernetic armor he wore is now totally destroyed, and he cannot use it to boost his artificial powers any further.

Mikhail announces that Phobos will stand trial for threatening the Soviet and for brining about the deaths of Sergei and the Red Guardian. A destroyed Phobos wallows in his broken armor, while the Hulk exclaims that everyone is talking now, so the fight must be done. ‘Good! Hulk was tired of fighting puny humans he could not understand!’.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Rick Jones sends a radio call out to the Teen Brigade. Although the broadcast is transmitted from the Empire State Building, it originates in a deserted radio station whose disc jockey admired the music of Rick Jones. The former partner of the Hulk exclaims ‘If any of you are receiving me out there - I just want you to know the Teen Brigade is back in business!.

Characters Involved: 

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


The Presence
Red Guardian II

Professor Phobos

Rick Jones

Ex-Colonel Glenn Talbot

Russian Soldiers
Doctor & Nurse

In Flashback:
Darkstar & Vanguard as infants and as teens
Ursa Major as a child and as a teen
Professor Phobos

KGB officers

In Flashback:
Red Guardian II
Professor Phobos

In Flashback:
Darkstar & Vanguard as newborns and teens
Sergei & unnamed wife
Professor Phobos


Story Notes: 

Ursa Major is one of the few mutants whose powered manifested before puberty.

Darkstar arrived in the United States in Champions #7 (her first appearance), and joined the Champions in issue #10.

Darkstar and Vanguard (and Crimson Dynamo V) were first seen together in Iron Man (1st series) #109, which also marked the first appearance of both Vanguard and Crimson Dynamo V. Ursa Major was added to the ranks in Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #258, also his first appearance.

Final appearance of Professor Phobos.

The Presence and Red Guardian II next appear some years later in Quasar #19-24, before returning to Earth.

The relationship between the Presence and his children remains somewhat strange - after returning to Earth the Presence tries to gather Darkstar and the Black Widow to be with the Red Guardian, now Starlight, in some sort of harem (his own daughter!?) [Marvel Comics Presents (1st series) #70 (fourth story). In the final Quasar issue [Quasar #60], the Presence convinces Darkstar that Quasar is responsible for the death of Vanguard [it happened in Starblast #3] and together they seek revenge. Of course Vanguard is resurrected, and later a mad Presence takes control of Vanguard and the rest of the Winter Guard, except Darkstar, during part of the Kang Dynasty [Avengers (3rd series) #42-43], those issues mark the Presence and Starlight’s final issues to date.

Darkstar and the other Super-Soldiers next appear in the original Contest of Champions limited series.

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