In New Orleans, Louisiana, the Absorbing Man appears before the car Rick Jones is driving and promptly welcomes him to the Big Easy. Swinging his wrecking ball, he informs Jones that he has his southern hospitality right there. With that, he slams his ball into their car, destroying it.
As they leap out of the car, Rick mentions to Janis that’s the last time he rents a car and skips the insurance waiver. Anybody else, they get to save a few bucks. But not him, he gets waylaid by Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man. Holding her staff, Janis asks the “Absorbing Man,” huh? Let’s see if he can absorb this. Just then, Janis shoots Creel with an energy blast emanating from her staff. When Creel absorbs the blast, Rick points out to Janis that he can.
Ripping the staff out of Janis’ hands, Creel tells them that they’re lucky he’s not there to fight or he’d tear their freakin’ heads off. He’s there to do them a favor, him and some pals of his. Rick asks what “pals,” what kind of “favor” and why Creel, of all people. Creel replies because he was the unlucky stiff who happened to be in the area while he was passing through, so he got elected.
Bottom line is his pal the Hulk has got himself messed in with some major player named Apocalypse. He’s muddling the Hulk’s mind, and what they hear is that sooner or later he’ll send a “new and nastier” Hulk against them. They figure if anyone can help get through to the Hulk; it’s him, Rick Jones. Creel asks if he’s in or not. When Rick indicates that he doesn’t know, Creel tells him that he’d make up his mind pronto if he was him ‘cause for once in his life, his pal Bruce might ‘a bit off more than he can chew.
In Egypt, Apocalypse is choking the Hulk with the cords coming out of his body. As he does, he tells him to stop struggling. He is the first non-mutant he has honored with his attention in a millennium. He expects appreciation and obedience, not arrogant and pointless resistance. The Hulk forcefully exclaims to him to let him go. Letting him go, Apocalypse informs him that a unique confluence of events has made him of use to him. And he to him, truth be known. But even one in his atypical situation should not try his patience. There will be no more warnings. A new era is dawning, one he has long anticipated.
Pointing to the Sphinx and the pyramids nearby, Apocalypse tells the Hulk to look, so he may understand. He can see the ghosts, can he? The Hulk asks ghosts? Apocalypse states that his interest is piqued, he thought as much. He then asks him if he thinks he has known torment, seen his abilities forced into the service of others. Does he think he has been feared, despised for his appearance? He knows nothing of such concerns. Apocalypse mentions that he can see it so clearly, can he? The cracks of the whips, the moans of the oppressed – breathe deeply and smell the sweat mixed with blood. He says to the Hulk that he fears the ghosts. He feared them once, when they had form. When he was a worker on the pyramids, the lash made him strong. In a way, it weighs as heavily on him now as it did then. It cuts through the flesh of your back into your soul, presuming that such a creature as he possesses a soul.
The Hulk asks that Apocalypse tells him this…, why? So he’ll trust him? Apocalypse replies that his trust is immaterial. He will do as he says because he says it. Besides, trust makes one weak. Pointing up to a young lady perched on top of the unfinished pyramid, Apocalypse says take her for instance. She shrank from him, betrayed him. When one is betrayed, it forever colors one’s world. No matter what sweet comments are made, no matter what pledges of loyalty, they are forever tainted by personal knowledge of the weakness of humans. Were he a weak human, it would be most tragic. Apocalypse then informs the Hulk that he has shrapnel in his skull, ghosts in his past. These make him vulnerable. He can relieve him of his vulnerability. No one and nothing could ever hurt him. Not even she could. The Hulk asks how he knows there’s a she. Peering over at him, Apocalypse tells him that he is transparent.
At an office building, Henry Peter Gyrich exits an office and tells Mrs. Banner that her father would like to see her. Looking up at him, Betty says an empty grave. When Gyrich asks pardon, Betty angrily says that she’s been putting flowers on an empty grave? Gyrich tells her that, to be blunt, she’s the Hulk’s wife. As a matter of safety, no one wants to tell the Hulk’s wife, “Sorry lady, we lost your dad’s body.” An angry Hulk is bad enough. Egged on by an angry wife...?
Betty replies that she just can’t believe they covered this up. Gyrich sarcastically asks that she’s shocked over a cover-up? They’re the government, that’s all they do. Doesn’t she watch the X-Files? Betty tells him to save the lame humor. She held her father as he died in her arms. He has no idea what she went through, no idea. Gyrich states that his father died of Alzheimers. He took a year’s leave to care for him so he wouldn’t be watched over by strangers that his crummy salary couldn’t even afford. He cleaned up after him, tended to him. And his father’s last words as he cradled his dying body were “who in heck are you?” He tells Betty that she’s been handed a miracle. So get in there and take it and don’t dare sit there and whine at him.
Entering the room, Thunderbolt Ross sits there, smoking a cigar. Standing up, he tells Betty that it’s good to see her. She ran out so quickly. Understandable he guesses, it must be a shock. Betty replies that’s an understatement. She then asks Ross what he remembers about Zzzax and his accident. Ross tells her confused. There was something green and he thinks he fought the Hulk. And the next thing he knew, someone had brought him there. Betty proceeds to ask him if he’s okay. Shaking his fist in the air, Ross asks okay? He feels like a million dollars. And that’s pre-war dollars. He can’t wait to get back in the saddle. Betty asks “saddle?” He’s not going to go off and...
Ross cuts her off and asks chase her husband? He may be young at heart but even his mule-headed father can beat his head against a wall for only so long. All he wants is for her and Bruce to live happily ever after. If anyone deserves it, it’s her. Turning around to see his daughter crying, Ross embraces her.
On a plane, Janis tells “Gramps” (Rick Jones) that she followed his lead because, flark it, she followed him when he was so old he’d forget to breathe sometimes. So she sure trusts him now. But why didn’t they fight him? Why did they go along with him? Rick replies first off, because they’d never win. This guy goes toe-to-toe with the Hulk and Thor. Oh sure, he lost to Daredevil, but only ‘cause he had a really bad head cold. Besides, he’s been around these types long enough to know when something different is going down. Creel’s doing a good job of covering. Right down to the tough-guy, smash-the-car shtick. But something’s shaken him, and he’s pretty interested to know what it is.
Via video monitor, Creel tells his leaders that they’re en route. Jones and the broad are in the rear cabin. He’s tried to keep it vague, on a need-to-know basis, but he has to tell them, this don’t sit right. If what they say is going down is going down... One of the men in the shadows asks him what he’s saying. That he and their other contacts cannot handle the situation? When he was invited to join the New World Order, they thought he was made of sterner stuff. Creel responds that he can handle it just fine. But when he gets back, he better be on that “inner council” of his. And this trip better not be a waste of his time.
Standing behind two men (Juggernaut and Abomination?), Ozymandias indicates that it will not be, he assures him. No one knows better than he what Apocalypse is capable of. He has handed him over to them. Creel states yeah, and he still don’t trust that. He, Ozymandias, says he’s been with him for centuries, now he turns on him? Why? Ozymandias informs him fear. Of a being so powerful you can scarcely comprehend it. When he meets him, he will understand and no longer question.
Inside a pyramid, Apocalypse has the Hulk confined inside a tube. He tells him to imagine all this effort extended for an inferior non-mutant. But his technology, taken from those who come from the heavens, the Celestials tells him the energy the Hulk generates will be instrumental in the coming. That energy must be his to control, for it may give him power over the Celestials themselves. They are coming, his technology bodes it. And their coming foretells a new dawning, a test for all mankind. As for the New World Order, they will make convenient guinea pigs. A means of testing the quality of the being he now produces. Such tests are necessary when dealing with substandard non-mutant material.
Inside his mind, the Hulk hears his father yelling at him and asking him if he really thinks he’ll be able to get away from him this way. He’s wrong. He’s his father and he’ll never get away from him. Is he hoping Apocalypse will kill him, is that it? If he kills him, he’ll be dead and with him so he still wins. Working the controls, Apocalypse mentions that he’s managed to dampen the Hulk’s healing factor enough so that he can accomplish what must be done. And in so doing, take his first step towards absolute power. He then tells the Hulk to prepare for the first day of the rest of his life.
As the laser begins to penetrate the Hulk’s mind, his dad continues his tirade. He gets it now. He’s hoping to be alive, but unable to remember him. He tells the monster that won’t happen. He’s too deeply ingrained, he’ll never be rid of him! Watching the laser do it’s job, Apocalypse points out that it is disintegrating the shrapnel without damaging any tissue. Bruce’s dad continues – he can’t fool him. He’s still seeking approval from a father figure after all this time. First him, and then General Ross. Wanting approval from a man who hates him. And now this Apocalypse is his new father figure. Well, he won’t get away with it, this is war!
When the Hulk utters that this is war, Apocalypse says to him not yet, but it will be, it will be. A conflict unlike any seen before in human history. The Hulk’s dad exclaims that it’s a war he’ll win. Calling the Hulk a mewling brat, he tells him it’s a war he’s been fighting ever since he killed him. Does he hear him? It’s a war he’s going to w... Once the black helmet is lowered onto the Hulk’s head, his father disappears and he says “ahhhh peace.”
In Washington, D.C., Colonel Cary St. Lawrence welcomes Betty Banner and mentions to her that she heard the reports of her father’s death was greatly exaggerated. Betty replies so it would seem and then asks her if she still sees them as sisters. St. Lawrence says frankly, she doesn’t know what she sees anymore. At that moment, Thunderbolt Ross enters the room and tells Colonel St. Lawrence that he’s head good things about her. He now wants to know everything she can tell him from recent experiences. He wants to know and understand the Hulk. St. Lawrence tells him that with, all due respect, she wasn’t expecting a kinder, gentler Thunderbolt Ross. Ross says to her that with any luck, it’ll lead to a kinder, gentler Hulk. Thinking back in her mind to when a long-haired Hulk kissed her, St. Lawrence tells Ross that stranger things have happened.
In Egypt, the Absorbing Man drives a vehicle across the desert and by some pyramids, with Rick Jones and Janis in tow. Rick asks Creel if he has this straight. A bad guy named Apocalypse has grabbed Bruce and is doing some whacked operations to turn him into a “Horseman.” Cripes, how hokey can you get? Creel says to him that guys a lot weaker than the Hulk got a ton more dangerous after Apocalypse got through with them. Considering the level that the Hulk’s starting at... Well, he’s just glad they have reinforcements lined up.
After Rick asks him how he knows all this stuff, Creel replies that a guy close to Apocalypse told them. Rick says aw man, this has “set-up” written all over it. Creel states they don’t know that for sure and then wonders what is going on with the giant shadow looming over them. They then notice that the shadow looming over them is that of a pyramid. As soon as they see that the shadow is a pyramid, Creel they leap out of the vehicle at the last moment before it crashes down to the ground. Picking themselves up off the ground, Janis asks “Gramps” if he’s okay. Rick tells her that he’d feel better if she stopped calling him Gramps.
Creel begins to ask where the heck that came from when he turns around. Upon seeing the Hulk dressed in armor and carrying a sword and a whip, he mentions to Rick that “set-up” theory is looking more solid. In shock, Rick asks Bruce what happened to him. The Hulk replies that Bruce... Bruce... isn’t... here... now. Rick yells at him that he’s gotta snap out of this now before it’s too...
Before the Hulk can hit them with his whip, Janis knocks Rick out of the way and points out to him that he ain’t scannin’ him. Absorbing a nearby stone, Creel rushes over to the Hulk and says to him that he won’t listen to reason so maybe he’ll listen to power. Once the two behemoths clash, Creel catches the Hulk’s sword. The Hulk tells him that he’s confused him... with ... someone else... The name... isn’t... Hulk... The name... is... WAR!
With that, War uses the power surging through his sword to destroy Creel. In utter shock, Rick says that’s im... impossible. He overloaded Creel like it was nothing. Creel’s “reinforcements” better get there fast or they’re dead. Just then, the Juggernaut appears and states that you’d don’t need more than one reinforcement when it’s him.