Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #369

Issue Date: 
May 1990
Story Title: 
Silent Screams

Peter David (writer), Dale Keown (penciler), Bob McLeod (inker), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Joe Rosen (letterer), Bobbie Chase (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

Mystique gathers her Freedom Force teammates together, reprimands them for their recent escapades and, in spite of their misgivings, assigns them a new mission: the detection and capture of Hulk. Raven herself goes to New York to investigate a possible sighting of Hulk, following an old woman’s claim that a monster is hiding in her closet. Distressed over the woman’s similarity with the recently deceased Destiny, Mystique enters her apartment, disguised as an FBI agent, but discovers nothing in the closet and departs. Unbeknownst to her, though, a monstrous being indeed resides in the closet and violently grasps the old woman. In South Carolina, the remainder of Freedom Force tracks down Hulk’s alter ego, Bruce Banner, who was recently entertained by a local family, the Lassiters. Once attacked, Bruce transforms into the Hulk and knocks his assailants out but not before Blob crashes into the Lassiters’ house, resulting in little Jack Lassiter getting injured. Fortunately, though, Hulk quickly brings an ambulance over and then carries the Lassiter family to the hospital.

Full Summary: 

A tattered Bruce Banner wakes up in a rather inhospitable way: a man points a shotgun at him. The man demands to know what the blazes Bruce is doing there. This is his house – what’s left of it, anyway. Bruce is trespassing and the man wants to know who he is. Bruce considers telling him that his name is Bruce Banner and that he is traveling to Connecticut to find his wife and he’s mostly going at night, when he is the Hulk… On second thought, he realizes he’d better not say anything of the sort.

He tells the man that his name is Dr. Bruce Bancroft and that he was exhausted and he thought the house was abandoned. He assures the man he means no harm. The man’s wife tells her husband that he’s threatening a doctor. She is certain the man won’t harm them. Still suspicious of Bruce, the man asks her how they can know for sure. Bruce states the obvious: the man has a shotgun while Bruce is unarmed; that’s a start.

The woman believes this is enough and urges her husband to show some Christian charity: this is South Carolina, not New York. She introduces herself as Margaret Lassiter. Her husband’s name is Charles and a young boy with glasses standing by is their son, Jack. She assumes Bruce lost everything in the hurricane, too. Margaret and her family have been staying at her folks but figured it was time to come back and pull things together. Bruce gives her his sympathies and assures her he’ll be moving along… Charles insists he’ll bring him some proper clothes and food. He apologizes for being so jumpy: these are frightening times. “For all us,” Bruce agrees.

Bruce looks at little Jack. The boy reminds him of himself at that age. And not just in looks: the boy is quiet and withdrawn. Bruce wonders whether the boy’s father is abusing him, as his own father did him. Charles looks polite enough… but looks can be deceiving. Bruce thinks he’s certainly the foremost expert on that.

The government-sanctioned group known as Freedom Force is flying on a plane. Blob wants to smoke a cigar and asks Pyro if he’s got a light. With a smile, Pyro asks him if he’s kidding and uses his mutant power to manipulate the flame of his lighter, directing it towards Blob’s cigar and lighting it for him. Seated close to them, Crimson Commando ponders on how he never thought he’d be going out on a mission with this whole bunch again. He thought Freedom Force was all but dead. He still can’t believe Mystique pulled it all together at their last meeting.

The team is having a meeting. Blob refuses going to the mission Mystique is telling them about. He tells her to forget it: he’s not stupid, he’s not expendable and he’s not going. Mystique can’t believe she’s hearing this. It’s already bad enough that she had to save him from the effects of Henry Pym’s shrinking gas. However, she also has to cope with the fact the rest of them were gallivanting around on unauthorized junkets, just because she needed a little time off.

Commando tells her that, after what happened to Destiny, they thought she wouldn’t be back. Mystique assures him she knows what they thought: that they’d go away on their own, for good – in which case they would all go straight back to jail where they got them from! Mystique also reprimands Avalance; his running around reopened his stitches. She asks what he was thinking – or if he was thinking. She decides to excuse him from the latest mission, namely, bringing in the Hulk. “Well, thanks ever so,” Avalanche mumbles in response.

Blob tells her she’s not reading them: they are all sick of dancing to the government’s tune. It took Blob weeks to recover from the last time he fought the Hulk, and considering that even Daredevil was able to take them recently… “The heck with it. Who needs this?” he finally exclaims. As Mystique angrily pokes him in the stomach, Blob’s mass absorbs her hand. Blob warns her not to poke him unless she’s tired of her hand. Even more furious, Raven demands that he lets go her hand - now. Blob complies, ironically exclaiming that he’s scared. Mystique thinks that he really is. She thinks he’s lost his nerve. She thinks he’s afraid of the Hulk, even though he’s gray, small and weak now. “He’s what?” Blob exclaims.

(present time)
Following that meeting, the team is in this plane to South Carolina, checking out a reported sighting by an air force pilot who swears he saw a gray falling body, just before dawn – while Mystique checks another report in New York. Commando thinks this is insane. Men his age are taking it easy, enjoying their grandchildren. All he has to look back on is a lifetime of fighting. What’s the point?

In Lassiter’s house, while putting his shirt on, Bruce sees Jack approaching and greets him, introducing himself to him. The boy hastily runs away. Bruce enters the kitchen and apologizes to Margaret for scaring her son. She explains it isn’t his fault: Jack’s hearing was damaged in the hurricane. The doctors can’t do a thing, so the whole world is extra scary for him. Bruce tells her he’s sorry and asks her where Charles is.

A little bit later, Bruce is in the basement, helping Charles out. “A shame about your son,” he tells Charles. Charles replies that in scary times, you thank the good Lord you’re still alive; they try to be thankful. Even though the “good Lord” let the hurricane happen in the first place? Bruce wonders aloud. “Even though,” Charles insists. He asks Bruce whether he believes in God. Bruce replies that, even though rationally he knows there’s no reason to, in a way he’s hoping there is one. If for no other reason than that, after he dies, someone can tell him what the point of his life has been. Suddenly, Charles is exhilarated to see Bruce has fixed the light: the light bulb on the basement is finally glowing again. “Let there be light,” Bruce remarks.

Elsewhere, the man known as Prometheus, seated in his hi-tech vehicle, calls his connection, Mount and reports that he’s tracked subject Hulk to Nevada, a train yard outside Yucca Plats. He informs Mount he’s going to check out the area and then breaks the communication. He then steps outside his vehicle, investigating some shoeprints right by the railroad.

In New York, two policemen are standing outside an apartment trying to convince its owner, an old lady called Violet Michaelson, to let them in. She kept screaming for help, enough to make her neighbors call them; yet now she won’t let them in. The old lady insists she will only admit the F.B.I. She believes only the F.B.I. is powerful enough to save her. They got Dilinger, they got Kapris... only they can do anything.

Hearing this as she clandestinely stands by the corridor, Mystique thinks that if the woman wants the FBI, that’s what she’s getting. In an instant, she shapeshifts into a male FBI agent, even carrying a government ID from the time she had infiltrated the Pentagon. She instantly shows the ID to the policemen and to the visibly frightened old lady, introducing “himself” as special agent Darkholme and finally convicing Mrs. Michaelson to let both herself and the two policemen in.

Mystique realizes that just looking at the face of this poor, frightened old woman reminds her of her loss… of Destiny. It’s all she can do not to burst into tears. But who else could she have sent to do this? Blob would terrify her, Pyro would crack wise… even Commando would be brusque. Raven tells herself to snap out of it.

As they sit on the couch, Mrs. Michaelson tells Raven that she was watching through her telescope, as she always does – it’s her hobby – when she saw a huge, hulking creature lurking in the shadows of the city. Naturally, she was terrified and thus contacted the F.B.I. Mystique asks her if it’s still out there. That’s the worst thing for Mrs. Michaelson; the creature is now in her closet! She would have left but she has nowhere to go, that’s why she’s keeping the creature blocked in the closet as best as she can – using a chair to bolt the closet door. “Oh. Wonderful,” Raven thinks.

Mystique opens the closet despite the old woman’s pleas to her to be careful and pull her gun. However, she finds it empty: there is nothing but shoes and clothes in there. The old lady is confused: she was certain she saw it going in there. Disappointed, Mystique tells her to be sure to call if she sees anything else suspicious. “What a waste,” Raven contemplates as she leaves. She comes in search of the Hulk and all she gets is a reinforcement of how frightening old age can be – and also gets more depressed about Destiny. She wishes Irene was there.

Left all alone, sitting in the chair outside the closet, Mrs. Michaelson thinks she’s a foolish old woman. She pushes herself not to be senile to herself and get a grip. Suddenly, though, a huge monstrous hand comes out the closet and violently grasps her before disappearing into the closet with her.

Elsewhere, Bruce is bidding the Lassiter couple farewell. They ask him if he’s sure he wants to leave now; it’s going to be night very soon. Margaret assures him it’s no imposition. Bruce insists and tells them not to worry. “If you’re sure,” Charles replies. Bruce confirms he’s sure and touches his chest on his right side, where his heart is, as well as Jack’s chest, telling the boy that his heart is his and seeing him off.

After walking for a little while, Bruce thinks he’s put enough of a distance between himself and those good people so that they won’t see the change the good doctor goes through at sun… Suddenly, though, Bruce seems some flames ahead of him and wonders where they came from. Pyro instantly grabs his arm and informs him that they came from him: it’s to let others know he spotted him. He advises Bruce to stay cool or he’ll make him hot under the collar. Bruce, however, kicks him in the groins and runs away. Gasping, Pyro is amazed: he thought Bruce was the wimpy half.

Crimson Commando throws a knife at Bruce’s feet and tells him that’s far enough. Bruce grabs the knife and brandishes it, ordering Commando to get out of his way – now! Commando explains that the knife was supposed to be a warning… not a weapon for a helpless scientist… and easily tosses Bruce against Blob’s body. Commando scolds Blob for taking his time. Blob clarifies he is not built for speed but power – more than enough power to knock out Bruce before he changes into the Hulk – and tosses Bruce on the debris of a house that was demolished by the hurricane. Blob tells Commando to go signal the transport. He admits that Banner didn’t put up a bad fight. From the looks of Pyro, he’ll be singing soprano for a week!

With Bruce now gone, Hulk breaks out of the debris, and asks Blob who he is. Blob asks him if he’s kidding; has he really forgotten the Blob?! Hulk admits that he mistook Blob for the guy who played Rosanne’s husband! He then punches Blob only for the latter to remain firmly where he stands. With a wicked smile, Blob admits he was nervous at first but he sees now he had no reason: no force on Earth can move him.

“Not even my best shot?” Hulk challenges him. Not even that, Blob insists and urges Hulk to give him his best shot: he’s unmovable. “Good. Don’t move,” Hulk replies and jumps in the air. “Adios, moron,” he exclaims, apparently intent on fleeing the scene! However, Pyro unleashes his flames on Hulk, causing the latter to land down. From a distance, the Lassiters are watching the fiery Hulk land down and wonder whether that’s a comet.

Hulk thinks that when he gets his hands on that jerk with the flame thrower, he’ll cook his goose. Suddenly, though, Pyro’s trademark fire-demon-creature appears and punches Hulk. Hulk starts fighting it, realizing that this creature is made out of fire and is not someone on fire, as he had thought.

Pyro urges his teammates to hurry and get Hulk as the flame creature can’t hold for long. Commando jumps on Hulk, performing a headlock on him, all the while asking him to surrender as he doesn’t want to hurt him. Hulk exclaims that’s a relief and easily tosses him aside. Commando lands on a demolished house nearby and rubs his aching head, realizing that he must be out of his mind: this was like Woody Allen fighting Mike Tyson!

Hulk is again punched by Pyro’s flame creature and the former realizes he’s had enough of the latter. He doesn’t need Banner’s smarts to know that the fastest way to stop a fire is cut off its oxygen – and burying should do it. He immediately lifts tons of rocks underneath of which he buries the flame creature. However, Pyro himself now approaches him, bombarding him with his flames. Hulk asks him what’s the FF on his costume for: French Fried? He tells Pyro he doesn’t get it: his flames slowed him before but that was then – this is now.

Blob suddenly grabs the Hulk from behind, clarifying that this is strength against strength – and, the way Hulk is now, he’s no match for him. Blob remarks that Hulk was only barely stronger than him even when he was greener. Hulk breaks out of Blob’s grip, admitting that he hates it when he’s compared to the green Hulk. “No more Mr. Guy for Blob!” he shouts and starts violently stretching Blob’s stomach.

Blob demands that he lets go of his stomach. He tells Hulk that this is not how his power works: he’s hurting him! Hulk remarks that when one mixes it up with the Hulk, they take what they get and that is… beat. Overwhelmed by pain and anger, Blob tells Hulk he will kill him and leaps against him. As he is about to crash on Hulk, the latter punches him away, sending him upwards.

Hulk also jumps upwards and starts punching Blob in mid-air, telling Blob that without the ground to anchor him he’s not such hot stuff. “Hot stuff,” brings connotations of Pyro in Hulk’s mind, though, and he again punches Blob, sending him crash down on poor Pyro! Again bouncing upwards, Blob now sees Hulk waiting for him on the ground, holding a girder, intent on using it as a baseball bat! Indeed, Hulk strikes Blob with the girder, sending him fly away.

Margaret panics as she sees Blob heading towards their house at a dizzying speed, akin to a rocket. Charles realizes they’ve got to get out of there… but he can’t find Jack and starts screaming the boy’s name. The boy is insouciantly playing with his toys inside the house… when Blob crashes on it, effectively bringing it down.

Hearing Margaret scream Jack’s name, Hulk makes the connection in his head – it’s that kid with the glasses. Hulk quickly rushes over to the house of the Lassiters and assures Jack’s parents that he’s going to get Jack. “He’ll be fine. He’s gotta be fine.” he constantly murmurs while digging through the debris. Commando suddenly approaches and tells Hulk to hold it: they have unfinished business. Hulk tells him to stuff his business: a kid is trapped in there. Commando wants to know why he cares. Hulk admits he doesn’t know… but he does. Commando admits he also cares and the two continue searching together, until Commando finds the unconscious boy.

Commando tells Hulk to get an ambulance, while thinking that, if he had a grandson, he’d about this boy’s age… and fodder for these types of insane fights that they make their business. He wonders what he has become. He realizes the boy is barely breathing, faint pulse, ambulance will never…

However, Hulk returns, carrying an ambulance with some nurses on his shoulders. As the Lassiters and little Jack get in the ambulance, Commando tells Hulk he’s sorry about what happened. He’s scared to think they’re responsible for this boy. Hulk remarks everybody is scared: it’s a scary world. “Especially with me in it,” Hulk exclaims as he takes Commando out with a punch before leaping on the air, carrying the ambulance on his shoulders.

Characters Involved: 

Hulk/ Dr. Bruce Banner

Blob, Crimson Commando, Mystique, Pyro (Freedom Force)

Charles, Jack & Margaret Lassiter
Violet Michaelson
Policemen, neighbors
Monstrous being in closet (Shanzar)

In flashback:
Avalanche, Blob, Crimson Commando, Mystique, Pyro (Freedom Force)

In illustrative image:

Story Notes: 

During a mission in the Muir Island, Destiny was killed by Legion. Avalanche was gravely injured in the same mission. [Uncanny X-Men #255]

While Mystique was off grieving for Destiny, three Freedom Force members, Blob, Pyro and Avalanche declared themselves “independents” and decided to battle the Avengers. During the battle, Blob was affected by Henry Pym’s shrinking gas and due to his increased density he fell through the Earth. [Avengers (1st series) #312]

Blob and Hulk have encountered each other before in Defenders (1st series) #15-16 and in Marvel Fanfare (1st series) #7.

Freedom Force was defeated by Daredevil in Daredevil (1st series) #269.

John Herbert Dillinger was an American bank robber, very prominent in press during the 1930s, who was shot dead by FBI agents.

Rosanne was an Emmy-winning American sitcom, centering on the lives of middle-class working mother Rosanne and her family. Hulk here “mistakes” Blob for Rosanne’s overweight husband, played by actor John Goodman.

Woody Allen is an American director, writer, actor, musician and playwright. Mike Tyson is an American former world heavyweight boxing champion.

The mystery of the monster in the closet is solved in the following issue. It is actually Shanzar, Sorcerer Supreme of the Strange Matter Universe.

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