Incredible Hulk (3rd series) #8

Issue Date: 
November 1999
Story Title: 
Death Match

Erik Larsen (writer), Ron Garney (pencils), Sal Buscema (inks), John Workman (letters), Steve Buccellato (colors), Tom Brevoort (editor), Bob Harras (chief)

Brief Description: 

In Canada, a tentative Wolverine takes on the Hulk while being observed by Tyrannus. Even after blinding the monstrous beast, the Hulk is able to smack him around pretty good. When the Hulk goes after a family, Wolverine steps in again and continues his attempt to subdue the Hulk. Eventually, they end up in an abandoned town where the Hulk is taken out after punching a wall in a mine, emitting gas that turns him back into his alter-ego, Robert Bruce Banner. After being restrained by Wolverine, Banner explains to him what has happened to him and more specifically the Hulk. How Tyrannus has taken control of the Hulk and used him as his pawn. After hearing his plight, Wolverine lets him loose and tells him that he understands and lets him go free. In another location, the Horsemen of Apocalypse, Death, is briefed on the menace that is known as the Incredible Hulk.

Full Summary: 

Somewhere in Canada, the Incredible Hulk exclaims that puny humans always pounding Hulk, attacking Hulk. Hulk will smash! With that, he takes a swing at the diminutive mutant known as Wolverine but misses. Popping the claws on his right hand, Wolverine tells the Hulk that he begs to differ. He’s been tearin’ up the flamin’ place like nobody’s business and it seems to him that he deserves whatever hounding he’s gotten. And it’s high time that somebody put an end to his senseless rampaging and his old pal Wolverine is just the guy to do it. But first, he needs to level the playin’ field a bit.

Exclaiming “Here’s lookin’ at you kid!” Wolverine proceeds to stab the Hulk in the eyes with his claws. As the Hulk lurches back from the pain in his eyes, Wolverine realizes that his claws are stuck and deducts that this isn’t going to be pretty. Reacting on instinct, the Hulk flings Wolverine off of him and slams him into a nearby tree perched at the edge of a cliff.

Picking himself back up, Wolverine thinks to himself that another couple o’ inches and this skirmish would have a whole different ending. He’s way out of his league there, his best bet is to stay out of the Hulk’s path and help him to defeat himself. If he lets him get those meathooks on him, that’ll be all she wrote. A nosedive off the cliff for the big green galoot might just be what th’ doctor ordered.

Wolverine then rushes off in the Hulk’s direction and tells him good effort but he’s gonna have to do a lot better than that if he hopes to defeat him. The Hulk replies that he doesn’t need his eyes to smash little man. Not when the Hulk can bring down the entire forest on his puny head! With that, the Hulk slams his fist on the ground which causes a shockwave that makes the entire cliff side break away. As the two adversaries fall, Wolverine figures he has only one chance and reaches out for a nearby branch.

Witnessing the rocks tumble to the bottom of the cliff, Dum Dum Dugan from a helicopter, tells his fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. officer Millie, that it looks like Wolverine did it but he doesn’t think he’ll be doin’ much to celebrate. There’s no way either of them made it out of that alive.

No sooner does Dugan get his thought out of his mouth, the Hulk stands up and frees himself from his stony grave. Still blinded, the Hulk says that little man thought that he could stop Hulk, hurt Hulk, but Hulk showed little man. Hulk is the strongest one there is! Calling out for the “little man,” the Hulk starts to stagger around. Before long, he runs headfirst into a tree branch. Thinking it is the “little man,” the Hulk smashes the tree into pieces.

Just then, Wolverine comes out of nowhere and slashes the Hulk across the chest with his bone claws. As he does, he tells the Hulk that this is the end o’ the line, his smashin’ days are over. Feeling Wolverine’s slash, the Hulk says little man tries to hurt Hulk, tries to prick Hulk with puny claws. Grabbing hold of Wolverine’s right arm, the Hulk adds that little man can’t hurt Hulk with puny bone claws and proceeds to smash them with his massive hand. The Hulk then tosses Wolverine’s lifeless body into a nearby tree and says nobody hurts the Hulk, nobody!

Enraged, the Hulk starts to take out his frustration on the surrounding trees. As he does, he asks “little man” where he is. Hulk cannot see him but nobody hides from the Hulk, nobody! Hulk will find him and Hulk will smash him. Puny little man tries to trick Hulk, to sneak up on Hulk like before. But Hulk is too smart for puny little man. Hulk will listen for little man to move, Hulk will hear little man, then smash him where he stands. Leaning up against a tree, Wolverine tries to gather his thoughts together. He begins to think to himself that everything on him is hurtin’ and that his old pal Dum Dum Dugan from S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t exactly do him any favors runnin’ him down there to tackle the big green galoot. The next time he helps out his pals in Alpha Flight, he thinks he’ll take a commercial jet home like the rest o’ the great unwashed. He wasn’t countin’ on a side trip to tackle the Hulk when he asked the old walrus for a lift home. His blasted back hurts like a mother and he knows he’s lucky to be alive, all things considered. He then decides that if he’s going to do this, he’s gotta stop going at it like a flaming idiot. They don’t come much tougher than that monster and his claws ain’t worth squat against his hide. He’s already blinded the beast so if he’s gonna stand a snowball’s chance, he’s gotta take advantage o’ that before he recovers.

Before Wolverine can decide on what to do next, the Hulk hears something and believes it to be the little man. He knew he couldn’t hide from Hulk forever. Heading in the direction of what he believes to be the little man, which, is in fact, a family enjoying the woods near their van, the Hulk yells out that he found the puny man and now he will smash him. Rushing over between the Hulk and the family, Wolverine tells the family that they had better high-tail it out of there for this monster ain’t stopping for anything.

As Wolverine talks, the Hulk hears “little man’s” voice and punches in his direction. Luckily for Wolverine, he is able to move out of the way at the last second and the Hulk’s fist destroys the family’s van. When he does, the van explodes in a fiery explosion. On fire, the Hulk walks past Wolverine and says to him that little man tried to trick Hulk, to hurt Hulk, but Hulk showed little man. He calls out asking where little man is, Hulk wants to smash him again. Pulling shards of shrapnel from his leg, Wolverine thinks to himself that his healing factor ought t’ take care o’ the damage but it won’t do him a bit o’ good if he bleeds to death first.

Ripping a part of his uniform off, he wraps it around his leg in a make-shift bandage and that it’ll at least keep the stuff inside that’s s’posed t’ stay inside. Noticing that the Hulk is headin’ straight towards the family, Wolverine figures that he’s had as much of a rest as he’s gonna get. He then calls out to the Hulk that he’s right over here and calls him a blasted big green idiot. Turning around, the Hulk yells out that he thinks Hulk is stupid and that he is tired of his tricks.

Meanwhile, in the subterranean lair of Tyrannus, Tyrannus asks his assistant if they have found him. Have they located the man-monster at last? He tires of these endless periods where they need to search for the beast. His assistant tells him that they have located the Hulk. Tyrannus tells him good, then his scheme to make the world fear him as never before may proceed. He then orders him to prepare the manipulator once more. His assistant replies very well and that they won’t lose him again. He then informs Tyrannus that one of the machines that they recovered appears to be designed specifically to track the traces of gamma radiation that the Hulk gives off, he can no longer hide from them. Tyrannus replies good and says that whoever left behind these marvelous machines have aided him considerably. The latest discovery is a…

Just then, he stops and mentions it is curious, very curious indeed. It gives one cause to wonder who could have made these machines and why they would want to track the Hulk.

In Canada, the Hulk is holding a fifteen year-old girl by the name of Sonja Arps upside down by her leg. Her boyfriend’s name is Dale and she’s gotten her driver’s permit. She just got her braces off. She won second place for a macramé potholder at the county fair that she made in 4-H. Her entire life has flashed before her eyes in a twinkling and she regrets every cross word said to her parents or to her brother Karl, most of all she regrets skipping school last week.

Calling out to the “little man,” the Hulk informs him that has the girl and that he will hurt the girl unless little man comes closer to Hulk and surrenders to the Hulk. Wolverine thinks to himself that there was a time when the Hulk never intentionally harmed anybody. These days, it seems like that’s not the case. Just then, he tells the Hulk to drop the girl. The Hulk replies that he will not let girl go until little man comes to Hulk. Hulk is tired of little man’s tricks. Realizing that he has no choice, Wolverine walks over to the Hulk and offers him his arm. Grabbing it, the Hulk triumphantly announces that he has the little man at last. Holding Wolverine up, the Hulk drops the girl and tells her to go away. He also apologizes for scaring her and that he only wanted to get his hands on little man.

Upon hearing what the Hulk had to say, Wolverine thinks to himself that it was to hear that he’s not completely off th’ deep end. Still, if he hopes to walk out of there in one piece, he’ll have to get out o’ the brute’s meat hooks as well. He then decides that if there’s a tender spot on the beast, he’d lay good money on it bein’ right here. With that, Wolverine slashes the Hulk across the stomach. Screaming in pain, the Hulk states that little man hurt Hulk, now Hulk will hurt little man. Just then, the Hulk angrily tosses Wolverine high into the air.

Elsewhere, a man shows a red cloaked figure an image of the incredible Hulk before and after he became one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen, when he became War. He was a failure, perhaps Apocalypse’s biggest failure. This creatures poses a threat to their plan. He has proven to be uncontrollable in the past. He must be destroyed. His continuous existence is intolerable. He tells the cloaked figure, Death, that soon he shall expunge this creature, remove this unholy blight from the face of the earth. He is weak. Other forces are at work that leave him vulnerable. Soon, very soon it will be time for Death to take his toll!

Back in Canada, Wolverine eventually lands at an angle against a cliff. When he lands against it, Wolverine thinks to himself that he’s the luckiest guy on the planet. If he’d have hit the rocks head-on or at a different angle, he’d look like yesterday’s leftovers right now. Before he can complete his next thought, Wolverine looses his grip and falls into the water below. Pulling himself onto the rocks lining the shore line, Wolverine thinks to himself that it was far from graceful but at least he’s still sucking air in and out o’ his pie-hole. On a day like this, it’s the best a guy can hope for. Still, he can’t just let him run off. Not when there are innocent people in danger.

At that moment, he calls out to the Hulk and asks him what the big deal is; he’s still standing. He then asks him if that’s the best he can do or is he holdin’ out on him. Still blind, the Hulk jumps in the direction of Wolverine’s voice. When he does, he accidentally breaks one of the pillars on the nearby bridge. Wolverine tells him nice effort and then slices another pillar with his bone claws. With the integrity of the bridge compromised, it falls down onto the Hulk’s head, burying him in the water.

While the Hulk is under the water, Tyrannus had hoped to find the Hulk distracted in the rage of battle that he might not be able to resist the manipulator as he so recently has. He did not expect to find his enemy both blind and completely submerged in water. He weighs his options and tempting as it is to let the man-monster perish, he unleashes the force of the great beast’s fury in one powerful and desperate blow, parting the mighty river as effortlessly as Moses facing the Red Sea. And then, exerting his control, Tyrannus compels the monster to leap skyward in an effort to escape the torrent. Watching the Hulk leap away, Wolverine realizes that he can’t let the Hulk go like this. Blind as he is, he’s even more dangerous to the world at large.

In a nearby town, a television shop shows a report with various individuals opinions regarding the Hulk. Harry Boyle remarks that he’s appalled that the Hulk’s been allowed to run free for so long and he used to be one of the Avengers. Mona Lott wonders why the Army or police can’t do anything about him. Taichi Soto says that he thinks the Hulk is great. He’s saved the world a million times. He doesn’t let anybody give him grief, he’s the strongest guy there is. Fred Sloan, a Hulk expert, former sidekick of the Hulk, and author of the bestseller “Hulk Encounter: A Survivor’s Story,” says that the title of his book is a bit misleading. The publisher thought it would sell more copies. His experience with the Hulk was very positive. He found him to be a sensitive, lovable, bean-eating lug whose only desire was to be left alone. He would never harm a soul unless he was provoked. He doesn’t know what’s gotten into the Hulk, but he’s sure there’s a perfectly logical expla….

Before the report can be completed, the Hulk crash lands in the town.

Rising up, the Hulk finds the town all but abandoned. Word of the Hulk’s proximity has spread like wildfire and a state of panic has caused its residents to flee for their lives. Tyrannus and the Hulk wage their own war inside the beast even as his gamma-irradiated eyes at last begin to restore the vision so recently taken. What he sees is Wolverine driving down the street towards him driving a jeep. The Hulk reacts and slams his foot on the ground which causes the street to crack and the jeep Wolverine rides in tips over. Pulling himself out of the wreckage, Wolverine realizes that the Hulk can see him and that he has healed himself. He knew it was too good to last.

In another realm, Tyrannus cackles and the Hulk doesn’t resist as he is compelled to attack anew.

After seeing the look on the Hulk’s face, Wolverine decides to temporarily retreat from the monster’s rampage. Attempting to avoid the rain of vehicles all around him, Wolverine thinks to himself that that went about as well as can be expected and he doesn’t know how long he can avoid bein’ splattered. He also knows this clown is way outta his league and that he never shoulda tackled him in the first place. Seeing an abandoned mine up ahead, Wolverine figures it is his only hope. With his enhanced vision, he’s got a prayer of giving him the slip in there. He just hopes he decides t’ follow him, rather than knock the place down on his noggin.

Luckily for Wolverine, the Hulk follows him inside the mine. When he growls, Wolverine asks him what’s with the Lou Ferrigno impression. A few minutes ago, he was chatterin’ away like nobody’s business and now he’s makin’ like a flamin’ caveman. There is no answer from the monstrous Hulk. The only response is another earth-shattering blow intended to end the life of the costumed mutant. Wolverine is able to dodge the blow and when the Hulk’s fist hits the wall, gas is emitted. Gas that was hidden between cracks, in pockets, under the ground. As the beast draws a breath, another response follows as well. The Hulk changes back to Robert Bruce Banner. When he does, Tyrannus laments that he has broken contact with the Hulk again.

A few minutes later, after tying Banner up, Wolverine asks him what this is all about. Banner informs him that it is a nightmare. His life has been ruined, his wife is dead, his friends are gone and his world has been destroyed. This time, however, it’s not the Hulk’s fault. The Hulk and he are victims. Wolverine tells him that there’s a whole lot o’ folks feeling otherwise and asks him to give him a good reason not to kill him. Banner tells him that a madman, Tyrannus, keeps taking over the Hulk’s mind, controlling him, forcing him to go on killing sprees and forcing him to murder innocent people. The Hulk’s not a killer usually. Recently, the Hulk has discovered his scheme, he’s learned to assert his control, to fight back. If he kills him now, Tyrannus wins and he’ll move on to another victim and control someone else. He has to help him and let him stop Tyrannus.

Untying Banner, Wolverine remarks call him a fool but he’s gonna take a chance on him. He tells him to go fight his fight. There’s no sense in him adddin’ t’ his headaches. As he walks away, he tells Banner to do what he has to do as he understands the situation, more than he knows.

Characters Involved: 

The Hulk

Dum Dum Dugan
Millie (officer of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

Tyrannus’ assistant (unnamed)

Death (Horsemen of Apocalypse)
Unnamed individual speaking with Death

Various members of a family vacationing (all unnamed except Sonja and Karl Arps)
Various individuals on TV commenting on the Hulk – an unnamed reporter, Lois, Harry Boyle, Mona Lott, Taichi Soto, and Fred Sloan

Story Notes: 

Wolverine helped out his Alpha Flight comrades in Wolverine (2nd series) #142-143.

Wolverine chose to help out Dum Dum Dugan with the Incredible Hulk in Wolverine (2nd series) #144.

S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate.

In this issue, Tyrannus’ name is inconsistently misspelled as Tyrranus in some spots.

The Incredible Hulk was War, Horsemen of Apocalypse, in Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #456-457.

The Hulk has been under Tyrannus’ control ever since the launch of this 3rd series. It was shown how in Incredible Hulk (3rd series) #4.

The Incredible Hulk was a member of the Avengers in the early days of the 1st Avengers series.

Lou Ferrigno played the Incredible Hulk in the TV series that ran from 1978-1982 and in the TV movies The Incredible Hulk Returns (1988), The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989), and the Death of the Incredible Hulk (1990).

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