Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #402

Issue Date: 
February 1993
Story Title: 
The Forest for the Trees

Peter David (writer), Jan Duursema (penciler), Mark Farmer (inker), Joe Rosen (lettering), Steve Buccellato (colors), Bobbie Chase (foliage), Tom DeFalco (lotsa shade)

Brief Description: 

In Reno, Doctor Leonard Samson tries to help Betty Ross and Rick Jones with Marlo Chandler’s catatonic state. Meanwhile, Agamemnon puts the Hulk in charge of the Pantheon in his absence, much to Achilles displeasure. Later that day, Agamemnon, in a youthful appearance, hitches a ride to Los Angeles. On his first expedition as leader of the Pantheon, the Hulk makes his way down to the Amazon rain forest to halt its deforestation. There, he battles a very large man who turns out to be Cain Marko, the Juggernaut. After the Juggernaut beats the Hulk into unconsciousness, the Red Skull appears and reveals his intent. The Avengers have learned of his plans and he is going to destroy them with the combined force of the Juggernaut and the Incredible Hulk.

Full Summary: 

Deforestation has, thus far, destroyed 10 percent of the Amazon rain forest. In most cases, the culprits have been lumber companies and farmers interested in growing crops and feeding their livestock. However, the clearing of a small percentage of the forest will unfortunately, be chalked up to me, the Incredible Hulk.

As I’m sent slamming into the undergrowth, I can’t help but feel that this is definitely not what I intended when I came down here. Not much sunlight makes it down to the forest floor and right now I can’t see “the forest for the trees.” The shot caught me completely flatfooted and makes me feel completely flatheaded. He took me off-guard, that’s all. I shouldn’t be angry with myself. But I am anyway. Scientific curiosity over how he managed to toss me around is competing with a primal urge to rip his lungs out.

Seeing rustling in the nearby brush, the Hulk calls out that he sees them and to come on and get out there. He adds that he wants to see him take him when he’s ready for him. Calling him a coward, he tells him to get his scrawny tail out there right… now. At that moment, the Hulk discovers the source of the rustling – an anteater. The Hulk proceeds to apologize to “Cerebus” for disturbing his…

Before he can finish his thought, an extremely large man grabs his neck from behind, choking him. As he does, the man tells the Hulk that he’s got to learn to be more careful these days. Hasn’t anyone told him? It’s a jungle out there. Being drug into the brush, Hulk realizes that he can’t take a breath for the pressure is unbelievable. He then laments that when he was handing out assignments, he should’ve given this one to Achilles. Would’ve served him ri… With that, the Hulk and the man disappear into the brush.

At the Mount, two members of the Pantheon are walking through the halls when Achilles abruptly passes by them and ignores them when they say hello. After he does so, one of them asks the other what’s eating Achilles. He knows they’re just “grunts” to him, not like his precious relatives but even so, at least he’s usually been civil. The other man asks that he hasn’t heard? There’s been some shakeups and Achilles is major-league hacked about it. He got it straight from Hector, and he’s got the biggest mouth in the Pantheon, so he should know. They had this big meeting and Ulysses was trying to pump Delphi for information but she wasn’t biting.

As Ulysses continues to pressure Delphi into telling him what the meeting was about, Paris asked Atalanta if she slept well last night. After Atalanta asked why he cared, Paris snidely asks Achilles how he slept. More on point, where did he sleep?

Before tempers can escalate any further, Agamemnon suddenly appears and orders his young ones to take a seat. He tells the members of the Pantheon present that he has decided that he shall be departing the Mount for a time. They can call it a vacation, walkabout, research, sowing wild oats, whatever. Naturally, he is not about to leave the Pantheon without leadership. And so, he is pleased to announce that, in his absence, the one he will designate as their new leader. The one who will be authorized to speak with his authority will be this gentleman right here. When the Hulk walks in wearing a suit, he tells the members of the Pantheon that he first wants to say that no one was more surprised than he…

Enraged, Achilles yells out that this is an outrage, an insult and that he won’t stand for it. Making his way over towards the Hulk, he exclaims that Banner’s not even one of them, he’s an outsider. He then asks Agamemnon if he’s actually telling him that he’s the best suited, the most qualified. Agamemnon replies that he has his reasons and he will not question them. Ulysses tells Achilles to calm down. They’ve always trusted Aggy’s judgment in the past. Achilles angrily turns to him and tells him that he’s just relieved that Agamemnon didn’t put him in charge. After all, he wouldn’t want anything to distract him from chasing Delphi.

As he begins to call Ulysses a lazy, self-centered bas…, Ulysses punches him out. Surprised that he was able to be punched out, Achilles wonders why but Paris reminds him that he forgot that he’s vulnerable when Banner’s around. Offering his hand to Achilles, Ulysses apologizes for losing his temper. However, Achilles doesn’t take it and begins to storm out of the room. When the Hulk asks him where he is going as he didn’t dismiss him yet; Achilles tells him to dismiss this. The Hulk begins to give chase but Agamemnon tells him that he will quickly find that the first rule of having authority is knowing when to wield it and knowing when to let someone have his head and cool off. It is one of the many lessons he’ll learns. With that, Agamemnon disappears. After he does, the Hulk informs the Pantheon that it’s time to get to work.

Deep inside the rain forest, the Hulk continues his battle against the big man. As he does, he thinks to himself that nothing is simple anymore. Yesterday, he was at the Mount, in total control. Then he came down there to the Amazon rain forest to lay down the law and he runs into some muscle man who’s actually giving him a run for his money. As the big man charges him again, the Hulk tells him all right “Earl.” Whatever kind of trick he’s got going for him isn’t going to work this time. He’s braced for him and once he’s braced, he won’t…

Without saying a word, the big man tackles the Hulk and drives him backwards and subsequently, over a waterfall. As they battle on the way down, the Hulk says to himself call him crazy, call him completely off base, but he’s starting to get the feeling that this guy is no ordinary construction worker. After they land in the water, the Hulk stands up and yells out to the big man that he’s had enough of this and asks who and what he is. Jumping him from behind, the big man replies that what he is is right behind him and that they’ll see how good he is keepin’ air in his lungs after he’s ripped ‘em out.

In Reno, Betty Ross welcomes Doctor Leonard Samson into her home. As she lets him in, Samson tells her that, to be perfectly honest, he wasn’t sure what sort of reaction to expect from her. The last time they saw each other… Betty apologizes to him and tells him that she was upset. Everything with Bruce caught her off guard and… Samson informs her that it was his fault; he didn’t prepare her well enough. Facing him, Betty tells Samson that nothing could have. At any rate, she’s glad to see him.

With that, Betty leads Samson over to a nearby bedroom. Inside, Rick Jones sits on the bed in front of Marlo Chandler and tries to have her play the childhood game the “eensy weensy spider” with her. After Marlo shows no change in her expression, Rick stands up and tells her that was much better. He then tells her to rest and that they’ll try again later. Right now he has some company. Putting his hands on Rick’s shoulders, Samson asks him how long it has been since he’s slept. Defiantly, Rick replies that he’s not tired. Samson informs him that if he’s not tired, at least he can sit across the room while he takes a look at Marlo.

Sitting in front of Marlo, Samson runs through some tests. While he does, he asks Betty if she responds to any stimuli at all. Betty replies nothing, she just sits and stares. If you lift her hand, it just flops down again. Flashing a small light in Marlo’s eyes, he mentions that her dilation and contractions are normal – that’s something. He then adds that he’ll have to run further tests. As near as he can tell, she’s completely withdrawn, sort of a waking coma. He can’t determine yet if there’s brain damage. Betty tells him that Rick swears that deep down, she’s intact. That she’s just, just run away into herself and has to be coaxed back. Samson indicates that isn’t terribly clinical but he might be right. On the other hand, it might just be wishful thinking.

As he turns to ask Rick what he thinks, he finds him asleep. As he begins to yawn, Betty asks Samson if she can get him anything. Samson replies that some coffee would go down great right now, he’s a little jet-lagged.

After the coffee is made, Betty mentions to Samson that she read in the newspaper that he attended the execution of that crazy assassin woman in California and asks what that was like. Samson tells her nothing that he’d like to discuss. He then mentions to her that he’s glad she called him; he never intended for Bruce’s treatment to be terminated so abruptly. Samson then asks Betty when she saw him last. Betty tells him that it was yesterday. After the Hulk saw Rick working with Marlo, Betty invited him to go outside with her.

Outside, the Hulk says to Betty that Rick didn’t even notice he’d come in and that it’s crazy for him to try and do this himself. Betty replies that she’s there for him so they’ll manage. She then changes the subject and asks Bruce about this thing he’s been telling her about the Pantheon – it’s pretty incredible and he’s now in charge? Bruce tells her that’s right and it’s and amazing opportunity. There’s so much going on in the world, so many places to help. Ulysses is off to Iraq, and he sent Hector and Atalanta off to rescue some of the Croatians.

Betty asks that they’re handling those things themselves, that’s a tall order. Bruce informs her that the Pantheon has resources she wouldn’t suspect. He’s going to be going off to the Amazon rain forest. Some mysterious developer is leveling tons of acreage. He’s going to persuade them otherwise. After Betty tells him to have a good trip, Bruce says to her that he’d like her to be waiting for him at the Mount. Shocked, Betty asks what? Bruce tells her that he wants her to live at the Mount, she’d be happy there. They can care for Marlo there. Staying in Reno is pointless, there’s…

Betty cuts him off and tells him that her mind hasn’t changed on this. She doesn’t want to shut herself away from the world – not again, not ever. She likes being out with normal people, she likes her job, she… Bruce tells her fine, she’s made it pretty clear how she wants things to be, he won’t bother her again. Betty tells him that he could commute. After Bruce asks what she means, Betty says commute. Husbands do it all the time and asks what is this “your world or my world” thing. They’re not “Beauty and the Beast,” not the TV version anyway.

She tells him he can stay with her whenever he likes. When Bruce asks her where he would sleep, Betty tells him on the couch to start. But there’s something she wants him to promise her. He wants him to start seeing Leonard again. Bruce asks “Samson? Why?” Betty tells him that he’s the most familiar with him and he’s the one who did the merging. She’s concerned about him and for her to be totally relaxed with him, she wants not to be concerned. Exasperated, Bruce exclaims women and then tells her to go ahead and bring on Samson. If there’s one thing he’s proven, it’s that he can roll with the punches.

In the rain forest, the big man proceeds to punch the Hulk squarely in the jaw. As he does, he mentions to him that he thought it’d be easy, didn’t he? Thought he’d come in and throw his weight around. Not so much fun when he’s throwing his weight around, is it? When the big man shoves the Hulk’s head underneath the water, the Hulk thinks to himself that it’s incredible. He’s actually grabbing silt from the river bed to save his life because, if he chokes the air out of him, he’ll drown just as easily as anyone else. Using filth against filth balances out, he likes it.

After putting the silt in the big man’s face, the Hulk flings him onto the river bed. He then tells him that he’s giving him a decent workout, he admits that. But sooner or later, he’s going to get hurt. When the Hulk leaps towards him, the big man kicks him in the chest and tells him it’ll be later, much. As the two behemoths stare each other in the face, the Hulk asks him one more time – who is he. The big man replies that he’s just a worker, a worker for the guy he came down there to try and shut down. The Hulk replies no, it’s not that simple. He knows him from somewhere. The big man informs him that past don’t matter, all that matters is the future and he ain’t got a good one.

With that, the big man rushes at the Hulk. At the last minute, the Hulk moves out of the way and the big man ends up landing in some quicksand. Grabbing hold of a nearby vine, the Hulk offers his hand to the big man in order to help him. Instead of accepting his help, the big man takes the Hulk’s hand and tries to drag him into the quicksand with him. After he lets go, and the big man disappears into the quicksand, the Hulk calls him an idiot. He tried to save him and he tried to kill him instead.

Just then, the big man emerges from the ground and punches the Hulk to the ground. As the big man continues to pound on him, the Hulk asks him what it takes to stop him. The big man asks stop him? Doesn’t he get it, nothin’ can stop him. Nothing on this planet, nothing in this galaxy, nothing in the universe can stop him! As the big man continues to pound on the Hulk unmercifully, the Hulk thinks to himself that he’s not giving him… time to recover. He didn’t realize… full extent of… his power… still don’t know… head swimming… got used to Pantheon… covering his back… sloppy… so sloppy… can’t… think… can’t… stop him… can’t…

At that moment, the Red Skull appears and tells the big man, Marko, to stop. He doesn’t want him dead just yet. He can be of use to them. His sources say that the Avengers have learned of his plans. Although they are not yet aware that he, the Red Skull, is behind this project, they are still on their way. How pleasant it would be if they were to encounter the Hulk and they were to put and end to them. After all, what hope would they have if they encountered the might of the Hulk, side by side with the strength of him, the Juggernaut.

Elsewhere, a young man approaches a truck driving down the road near the desert and asks for a ride. The driver tells him that he was at a lonely place for hitch-hikers, he could have been waiting forever in these parts. The young man agrees but states that he’s got forever. He’ll never die. The driver scoffs at his comment and remarks that all young fellas like him feel that same way. After mentioning that he’s going to Los Angeles, the driver asks him if that will do him. The young man indicates that that’d be fine. When the driver asks him what his name is, the young man tells him that he is Agamemnon.

Climbing into the back of the truck, Agamemnon thinks to himself good luck Dr. Banner in whatever he may be up to at this moment. Good luck in learning to deal with responsibility, good luck in staying in touch with your humanity. Because if he doesn’t, in the long run none of them are going to make it.

Characters Involved: 

The Hulk

Red Skull

Achilles, Agamemnon, Atalanta, Deplhi, Hector, Paris, Ulysses and two other unnamed individuals (members of the Pantheon)

Betty Ross
Doc Leonard Samson
Rick Jones
Marlo Chandler
Unnamed truck driver

Story Notes: 

The Incredible Hulk became a member of the Pantheon back in Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #382.

Atalanta and Achilles spent the night together last issue, Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #401. Unbeknownst to them, Paris had seen them together.

Marlo Chandler was stabbed and killed by Jackie Shorr, a deranged lady who claimed to be Rick Jones mother. [Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #398] Her catatonic state is a result of a mishap during the Leader’s partially successful attempt to resurrect her. [Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #400]

Doc Samson attended the execution of the assassin Crazy Eight back in Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #380.

The Hulk and the Juggernaut met before, in Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #172.

The Hulk's calling the aardvark "Cerebus" is a reference to the titular character of the long-running Dave Sim comic series "Cerebus the Aardvark," which features a snarky anthropomorphic aardvark.

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