Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #340

Issue Date: 
February 1988
Story Title: 
Vicious Circle

Peter David (story), Todd McFarlane (art & cover), Rick Parker (lettering), Petra Scotese (colors), Bob Harras (editor), Tom De Falco (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

Near Dallas, the Hulk is getting restless with the strange weather and escapes from Clay Quartermain and Rick Jones care. In doing so, he inadvertently knocks a plane out of the air, which catches the attention of the X-Men, who are on their way to meet up with Forge and Storm. Investigating the wreck, Wolverine sees a fire that was caused by National Guard gunfire hitting a gas tank. Making his way over there, Wolverine accidentally slashes the Hulk with his claws. Controlling himself, Wolverine tells him he’s sorry and goes to leave. The Hulk won’t let him however and eventually the two engage in a lengthy, bloody and vicious battle. After a while, Clay and Rick catch up to the Hulk and berate him and Wolverine for fighting when there’s more at stake. Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Betty rethinks her relationship with Bruce.

Full Summary: 

As Betty Ross holds a snow globe in her hands, she says to herself that she’s spent her entire life vacillating between doing what she should do and what she wants to do, between duty and desire. And yet, no matter which way she’s gone, she can’t help but feel the same as the swirling dome in her hand, going round and round and ultimately going nowhere. She can’t help but wonder if he feels the same and despite her resolution not to, she wonders where he is.

In a large vehicle, Rick Jones, Clay Quartermain and the gray Hulk travel through the snow. As they do, Rick mentions to Clay that he doesn’t know where they are, but he’s starting to think they’re going in circles. Smacking his head with his hands, Clay says no bloody kidding Rick-O, they took a wrong exit somewhere. They’re near Dallas/Fort Worth airport but other than that, he’s not sure. The Hulk says yeah, but there’s one thing he’s sure of, he wants out!

Thinking to himself, Rick notices that the weird intense weather blotting out every trace of moonlight is making the Hulk even nastier than usual. If somebody provokes him when he’s like this… He then tells Hulk that he doesn’t think that’s such a good idea. Sneering at him, Hulk tells him that he said he wants out. Stopping the vehicle, Clay remarks that maybe a breath of fresh air would do them all some good. As the Hulk leaps off into the countryside, Rick asks Clay what if the Hulk takes off and doesn’t come back. Clay replies with what if they try to stop him and he kills them. Rick says good point and lets the Hulk go.

At a nearby flight tower at Dallas/Fort Worth airport, one of the controllers, Phil, tells Pan-Am flight #134 that he suggest they reroute to Houston as they are still snowed in there. Just then, one of his co-workers informs him that the snow’s playing havoc with their radar, but he thinks he’s got another plane entering their airspace. Phil proceeds to say that’s great and assumes that it’s some jet-jockey joy-riding.

Getting on the radio, he tells the unidentified aircraft that they have entered the airspace of Dallas/Fort Worth airport and that they must depart immediately as they are creating a serious hazard to other aircraft. Inside they mysterious aircraft, the Blackbird, six individuals are gathered, the current members of the outlaw mutant band known as the X-Men – Wolverine, Rogue, Havok, Dazzler, Psylocke and Longshot. Piloting the aircraft, Wolverine tells the controller that they don’t create hazards “bub,” they stop them. When the tower asks them to identify themselves, Wolverine replies that he wouldn’t believe him if he told him but he can believe this. If he doesn’t give them clearance to land, they’ll have a lot bigger headache than a snowstorm. Chew on that for a minute.

Turning towards him, Rogue tells Wolvie that he thinks he’s being pretty calm, considering they busted a few turbines to get there from San Francisco and now they can’t even land. Wolverine tells her that gettin’ mad when it’s pointless is a waste of energy. Somethin’ will turn up, it always does. Havok remarks that’s pretty optimistic considering what they’re up against. Even if they do land, even if they find Forge and help Storm get her powers back, there’s still that prediction to worry about. Psylocke repeats it – the X-Men are going to die in Dallas. Dazzler tells her not to sweat it. If they die in Dallas, maybe it’ll be a dream and they’ll come back in someone’s shower. Psylocke quips at her that she can’t believe she’s joking about it. Longshot adds that as long as they’ve got him along, his good luck may help them beat the odds.

Just then, Wolverine tells him to zip it, something’s heading their way. With that, Wolverine maneuvers the Blackbird to narrowly miss the Hulk, unbeknownst to them as to what they avoided. When Wolverine informs his fellow X-Men that they’ve dodged it, Longshot tells him see, like he said, beating the odds. Just think what would have happened if he hadn’t been aboard.

At that moment, the Hulk runs into Pan-Am flight #134 and takes out one of it’s engines and engulfs the plane in flames. Hearing the plane’s mayday on the radio, Wolverine tells Rogue to get out there, rip the engine off the wing and help the plane to the ground, they’ll follow. Rogue mentions that, if she tosses the engine away, it could land on somebody. Wolverine says he knows but there could be a hundred people in that plane. They’ll die for sure if that plane goes up in flames. He then tells her to get going and reminds her that when she drops the burning engine, make sure she aims for someplace on the ground with no lights. Chances are it’ll be an open field or a lake. Anyone dumb enough to be out there on a night like this, that’s their tough luck.

On the ground, the Hulk remarks “great.” He hasn’t found any food and now he can’t even find the van. This stinks. He feels like hittin’ somethin’ but ya can’t punch a snowflake. Stopping in his tracks, he hears a whistling sound and realizes that something is falling. Before he can move, the plane’s engine lands squarely on top of him with a loud crash. Emerging from the wreckage, Hulk emphatically asks if that was somebody’s idea of a joke.

Once on the ground, Wolverine looks over the damaged wing of the plane and begins to think about all the strangeness in his life right now – the unreal weather, the leadership of the X-Men. It’s as if the world’s in flux around him but his instincts have been a constant, unswerving, dependable; until lately maybe. If he can believe his heightened senses, the wing was trashed by the Hulk. But his scent has changed, it’s familiar but different. He didn’t think that was possible. He’d love to check it out but he can’t leave the team. He’s a loner, now he’s the leader. It’s a funny world but he’s not laughing. Nothing’s funny when you’re the leader.

Inside his lair, the Leader mentions to his minion, Half-Life, that the inclement weather breaking out in defiance of all weather patterns is odd. When Half-Life asks what it means, the Leader tells them that it means that the world situation may be deteriorating faster than he anticipated. He may have to seize the reins earlier than scheduled. Half-Life remarks that he’ll need a really powerful weapon to do that and asks about using the gamma bombs. The Leader tells Half-Life that in addition to being obviously pathetic, he’s pathetically obvious. He wants vengeance for what the bomb did to him and is seeking poetic justice. Nevertheless, he raises a valid point.

With that, the Leader places a call to the Pentagon to speak with General Hamilton. Using mind control, the Leader orders Hamilton to give him a full report on the strange weather situation. Hamilton informs him that they are sending in troops to aid in the largest disaster areas, including Dallas and Chicago. And no, their meteorologists have no explanation. On the other end of the phone, Half-Life begins to pester the Leader to ask him about the bomb. Annoyed, the Leader reminds Half-Life that he found him in the desert surrounded by assorted limbs and four radiation-poisoned vultures. If he doesn’t shut up, he’ll leave him in worse shape than that. Turning his attention to Hamilton, the Leader says to him to listen very carefully. The government is mass-manufacturing gamma ray bombs and he wants to know where they are.

Still handling the snow globe, Betty thinks to herself that she’s the slave of duty. She’s a creature of habit, trapped in the dreary confines of her existence – stalled and unable to go forward, snow-blinded and unable to look back. She knows what she should do and what she shouldn’t. She always has but it’s never helped. The one thing she should do is think about him. And yet once again, she does. Where is he?

In the snow, amidst stuck cars, the Hulk is inside a Patty-Time Inc. meat truck, eating to his heart’s content. Just then, Sergeant O’Riley and the National Guard approach the vehicle and ask if anybody is inside. He tells them that they are there to help them. Peering out, the Hulk tells them no thanks, he helps himself and then tells them to scram. Upon seeing that it’s the Hulk, O’Riley orders his men to shoot at him. As they commence firing, the Hulk exits the vehicle and calls them idiots, they’re bullets can’t hurt him. But if a couple of them hit the gas tank of the truck, it’ll…

Before he can finish his sentence, the truck erupts in a fiery blaze. In a rage, the Hulk picks up the truck with ease and tells the soldiers that they are morons. His food is ruined because of them. All those years and soldiers haven’t gotten any smarter. But he has. And he’s smart enough to know that they won’t leave him alone just by him asking them. He has ta step on them like the bugs they are. When he tosses the truck in their direction, the soldiers scatter like ants. Watching them leave, the Hulk tells them that’s right, run. Let everybody know the Hulk’s in town. And the next guy who crosses him is gonna get fried.

At the crash-site, Wolverine smells the smoke before him and his fellow X-Men see it. Some woods are burning and there’s an apartment house nearby. They should really go straight to Forge’s place but people may be trapped in that building. He can’t let them die. Wolverine then proceeds to tell… his… team to get to the apartment building, evacuate everyone, help wherever they can. He then pulls on his mask and checks out the source of the blaze. There he finds the burning remains of a truck. The wind carried sparks to the woods. Whatever happened there, it’s none of his concern. Still, he says out loud… “I wonder who the jerk is who’s responsible for this?”

Wolverine realizes later that the wind’s against him. His words carry, his quarry’s scent doesn’t. Wolverine’s only hint is a low animal growl he makes a split instant before it would have hit him – it’s enough. He pops his claws but not his cork. He doesn’t do that anymore. He’s civilized now. At least that’s what he likes to tell himself.

Wheeling around, Wolverine slashes the Hulk across the chest. Staggering backwards a bit, the Hulk calls him a miserable little shrimp and exclaims that he cut him. He’ll tear him apart for that. Gritting his teeth, Wolverine thinks to himself – an invitation to dance. He’d love to waltz. He’s already drawn first blood. Something inside’s set to draw more. His heart’s pumping, his lips curl back and then he remembers who he is and what he is and what he has to do. And in a voice, hoarse as if with passion, he says… “sorry, my mistake” and withdraws his claws. The Hulk says that he’s kiddin’. Wolverine replies that he’s serious. He used to be like him. Loved a scrap more than anything but he has more important things to do and he’s not going to fight him today. With that, Wolverine starts to walk away.

Leaping at him from behind, the Hulk tells him then he’ll die today. Dodging the Hulk’s assault, Wolverine thinks to himself that he may be right but to die in pointless battle with him is a waste. It’s everything he’s tried to put himself beyond. The Hulk angrily asks him if he thinks he’s forgotten when they first met in Canada. He just wanted to be left alone, but he wouldn’t back off, oh no. He had to have a piece of him.

Rebounding off the Hulk’s chest, Wolverine lands a few yards away and tells him that he’s changed since then. The Hulk replies so has he, he’s gotten smart and Wolverine’s gotten gutless. Wolverine tells him that knowing when to fight and when to walk away is more smarts than he’ll ever have. Leaping at Wolverine again, the Hulk tells him that he talks too much and he thinks too much. He’s a spineless wimp, looking for excuses to stay out of his way. He thinks he’s somethin’ special, but he’s nothing!

With that, the Hulk claps his hands together with a thunderous boom. Grimacing in pain, Wolverine recognizes that the ear-splitting clap of his is devastating against someone normal. Against him, with his acute hearing, it’s almost lethal. He then notices that the Hulk keeps on him, shouting, cursing, not giving him time to think. And then, thought is gone, replaced by fury, anger, hatred hot and beautiful. He’s sick of fighting himself. He’s panting, every muscle in his body contracts. The Hulk wants it. Wolverine wants it. …all right.

Popping his claws, Logan rushes towards the Hulk and jams his claws through his chest with animalistic rage. As the Hulk falls to the ground, bleeding profusely from his chest, Wolverine thinks to himself that he’s won. He stands there, howling his triumph to the moon he can’t see but in the heart hidden in his heaving chest, he knows he won. Because he made what he is stronger than what he thinks he is. Like a wild animal, he ripped him apart and the worst thing is, he’s glad. As he begins to walk away, his instincts tell him something his mind refuses to accept. He’s standing, alive, actually getting angrier, getting stronger, and the gaping wounds in his chest are healing. Weakly at first, then getting stronger, the Hulk tells him let’s try that again and begins to lumber towards Wolverine.

In their vehicle, Rick mentions to Clay that he’s glad he tried the shortwave again. He picked up some sort of police report. It sounds like the Hulk and somebody else are slugging it out on the highway near exit 12. If they hurry, they can get there before they level Dallas. Good thing he found this thing’s on-board guidance system or they’d’ve been snowbound forever. He adds that this is insane. They’re risking life and limb to find the gamma ray bombs the government’s stockpiling and their biggest ally is also their biggest handicap. Hopefully stealing this van and running from S.H.I.E.L.D. will be worth it. The world doesn’t need a weapon that could create even more gamma guys for them to worry about. He then looks over at Clay and asks him what he’s got there. Holding a photo of Betty and Bruce, Clay tells Rick some personal effects he grabbed from gamma base right before he blew it up – in happier times.

Betty continues to think to herself about happier times and wonders why. Why does she keep torturing herself? Why does she keep reopening wounds that refuse to heal?

As Wolverine continues to violently slash away at the Hulk, the Hulk tells him that those pig-stickers of his didn’t stop him before and they won’t help him now. Wolverine then realizes what is happening and he doesn’t like it. The most common result of radiation exposure is cancer, an abnormal growth of cells. When Bruce Banner got hit by gamma rays, it gave him a kind of cancer called the Hulk. He cuts him again, and he heals even faster. He always thought the Hulk’s skin was impenetrable but he was wrong. His cells reproduce so fast, it seems that way. And the madder he gets, the more his system speeds up, the more cells he produces. He gets tougher, stronger, harder to hurt.

Grabbing hold of Wolverine’s arms, the Hulk slams him into the ground with all of his mammoth strength. Recovering quickly, Wolverine slashes the Hulk’s shoulder. He’s no slouch himself and wants to shout “you think you’re the only one with a healing factor?” But his throat is constricted, his body feels like there’s too much blood in it. He continues to hack away at the Hulk’s back mindlessly. As mindless as he used to be, as he used to be.

Just then, the Hulk grabs him by the arm and throws him with great force into a large tree, splitting it into pieces. Picking himself up, Wolverine thinks to himself that, when two dogs fight, you’re supposed to turn a hose on ‘em. No one’s around with a hose. The X-Men, Forge, Storm, everything’s a distant memory. He can’t think, only feel. He’s his, his enemy, his kill, his! As the two enraged creatures rush towards each other, the Hulk asks the little man where the big talk is. Where’s his holier-than-thou attitude? If he wants more, c’mon then, he’ll give him more.

Engaging in battle again, they violently strike each other once more. The Hulk is able to gain the advantage and tosses Wolverine into a nearby car. As he does, he says to him that they’ve all spent years laughing at him, taking advantage of him. He was the dumb green giant, but now he starts giving it all back – every bit of it! Seeing Wolverine getting up again, the Hulk exclaims good. He wants this to last a long time.

Just then, the Hulk is knocked backwards by a cannon blast. That one is then followed up with another in between the two gladiators. Standing atop the vehicle with Rick Jones, Clay Quartermain yells at them enough! He swears to heaven, he doesn’t understand them. Every time the two of them muscle-bound bozos get together, they try and beat each other’s brains out. Or at least what passes for brains.

He yells at the Hulk that he thought he wanted to find the gamma bombs and help head off the creation of more creatures like himself. And he wastes his time beating up on Wolverine. Has it occurred to him that if he could find him, S.H.I.E.L.D. could too? And if they find him during the day when he’s Banner, he can kiss himself goodbye. If he’s not the “mindless” Hulk anymore, start acting that way. Get some priorities for pity’s sake.

Turning his attention to Wolverine, he asks him doesn’t he have anything better he should be doing? In a strangled voice, Wolverine replies yeah, yeah he does. Wolverine then mentions to the Hulk that he thought he’d come so far and then he runs into him and bang, the years fall away. No matter how far he goes, he’s right back where he started. The Hulk replies yeah, well he’s just like all the others who always thought they were better’n him. Well, now he’s better’n all of them. Does he understand, all of them? And he don’t have to beat up every low-life like him to prove it. Tell ‘em shrimp. Tell ‘em the Hulk’s better than any of ‘em.

As the Hulk leaps off, Wolverine says yeah sure. He then thinks to himself that he can’t remember the last time he wanted a cigar this bad. As the Hulk picks up the van and leaps off, he thinks to himself that Clay and Rick are weaklings that couldn’t get anything done without him. If he didn’t need them to watch out for Banner’s scrawny hide…

Inside the van, Rick asks Clay where they’re off to – New Orleans where Betty is. Clay tells him no, Kansas where his brother Alan is. Rick asks Alan Quartermain? Clay tells him not to laugh, he’s the elder. It could’ve been him. Anyway, he can help them find the gamma bombs. Rick replies that convincing Bruce that the bombs are more important than finding Betty may be tough. He then asks Clay if he thinks Betty’s been thinking about Bruce since he ran off. Clay says not if she’s smart, Rick-O. Not if she’s smart.

In her home, Betty continues to hold the snow globe in her hands and says to herself that she and Bruce have been like two stars orbiting each other. No matter how long apart, they’re always drawn back together. And yet, somehow, even after they got married, they never connected emotionally. They still continue to circle each other like two ships passing in the night, an endless, vicious circle. A cycle even, a cycle that can only be broken at great expense. With that, Betty tosses the snow globe against the wall, destroying it, and begins to weep.

Characters Involved: 

The Incredible Hulk (gray-skinned)
Rick Jones Clay Quartermain

Wolverine, Rogue, Havok, Dazzler, Psylocke, and Longshot (all X-Men)

The Leader

Betty Ross
General Hamilton
Sergeant O’Riley and other unnamed members of the National Guard

Story Notes: 

The Leader first found Half-Life in the desert back in Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #334.

Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men are on their way to Dallas to meet up with Forge and Storm. They make it there in Uncanny X-Men #225 and thus begins the “Fall of the Mutants.”

Wolverine first battled the Hulk in Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #180-181.

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