Leaping down on the ground, the green-skinned, savage Hulk is pleased with himself: he has watched this town all night! He has seen no puny humans! It is good! He is tired. He decides he will rest here.
The street is deadly quiet, a fact that does not go unnoticed by him. The town smells funny. Where are puny humans? Why do they let the town smell? he wonders. He does not understand! Still, except for smell, finds the town still good. Everything still here – although the puny humans are gone. He realizes he is all alone in this town. He is all there is, so the town must be his town! Not puny humans’, but Hulk’s! He decides he likes this town, even with the funny smell! However, if town is his, he must clean, so he must be proud it has his name! He will start by turning this truck back up on wheels!
However, as he grabs the truck, its door comes off in his hands and a puny human falls out from inside. Hulk urges the little man – actually a child’s doll – to talk to him! Why was he hiding in truck? Where are the rest of puny humans? Grabbing the doll, he demands it answer him or Hulk will…
“Father?” someone suddenly interjects. Hulk smells that funny smell again and turns around to face a goat-like being, with horns and hooves – Woodgod. Seeing Hulk, Woodgod realizes the “green man” is not his father. He remembers now – his father is dead, killed by scream! He fears scream will take Woodgod… and the green man, too! Surprised and confused with his words, Hulk angrily tosses the damaged truck against him and tells him he’s wrong! Woodgod is surprised: why does the green man try to hurt him, to make him feel the scream? Has scream driven the green man mad?
Meanwhile, thirty miles due east of the dust-blown streets of Liberty, New Mexico, the X-Men are flying in their jet, together with Spider-Man. Banshee asks Cyclops if he thinks he’s being polite when he asks their webbed guest to be riding all the way back east on the hood! Scott makes him ashamed to be calling himself an X-Man! Spider-Man thinks their ground leader realizes that the rest of them would have a hard time clinging out here, but he hopes Cyclops is going to pay the dry-cleaning when it comes time to take the splattered bugs off his costume! Hearing him complaining, Wolverine snaps they could’ve let Spider-Man walk home!
Cyclops retorts they could’ve been walking with Spider-Man, if Phoenix hadn’t psychokinetically summoned the X-shuttle to pick them up. Colossus asks Professor X of his condition. Xavier replies he is better… but so tired. Phoenix promises they’ll have him back home soon. Charles believes they’re all forgetting the needs of their guest. Perhaps he doesn’t wish to return to New York. Scott realizes they’ve all been so shot since they battled the “gods” back at the nest that it never occurred to him to ask. He asks Spider-Man if he’s going their way. “Beats thumbing it!” Spidey replies. After all, there isn’t much in New Mexico to swing a web from, save for a rare cactus! So, they should count him in – as long as they are flying student-rates!
Suddenly, Nightcrawler notifies Xavier that their radar has just picked something, heading towards them and moving too fast to be in any manner a conventional hovercraft. Wolverine quips it’s probably an exterminator come to get the blasted bug-man off the bumper! Spider-Man now sees why the let Wolverine join this team. He’s more laughs than a bad case of heartburn! “Heads up, people…” he tells the X-Men: he just spotted their bogeys. Storm and Banshee fly off the jet for a monitoring of the ship. Cyclops asks Banshee what this is; not more of the Rakks, he hopes. Storm explains they’re not the robot-mutates they fought earlier. They appear to be some form of two-man hovercraft.
Via radio, Colonel Tremens notifies one of the pilots: “Tremens to Floater 2: Nearing Infected Area!” The soldier informs his superior that he monitors a UFO crossing at low altitude over restricted area. Tremens reminds him his orders: anything alive in Liberty is the enemy! Banshee realizes they are shooting at them! Ororo assures him the two of them can handle the missiles aimed at them; what about those already past them and aimed at the other X-Men?
Just then, Spider-Man watches as the other missiles are indeed to find their way on the X-Men’s ship. Spidey quips that maybe he should’ve walked! Scott tells him to get his head down… and fast! Colossus wonders what Cyke is about to do. Cyclops instructs him to shield the Professor and the others and leave the rest to him. His eye-beams turn on wide-focus and Cyclops explodes the oncoming missiles in mid-air… all save one.
The remaining missile crashes on the X-shuttle. Spider-Man loses his hold on the shuttle and starts falling. He realizes he’s too low to whip up a web-chute, and falling too fast to be able to roll with the impact – not that he’d make it even then, because those rocks below look awfully eager to skewer him! Thankfully, Banshee intervenes, arguing that they can’t have that, and rescues him. Spidey tells Sean to remind sending him an atomizer for Christmas, along with a lifetime supply of throat lozenges! Banshee assures he will do that; he can count on it! Cyclops instructs Banshee to bring Spider-Man down on their shuttle. There’s something on the view-screen he thinks Spider-Man ought to see.
Spider-Man comes down with Banshee and they all watch a communication they’ve just intercepted: one of the soldiers is shown on the monitor, reporting to Colonel Tremens. The soldier reveals that the UFO has vanished from the tracking-screens… but the main job now is to concentrate on what’s happening in Liberty itself. Nightcrawler wonders if he means them by “UFO.” The agent then cuts into a satellite transmission on screen, according to which something has gotten through the “dead zone” and has confronted their target on the town’s main street. The quarantine has been broken – and the major needn’t remind his men that anything going into Liberty, can’t be allowed to go out!
Spider-Man realizes he’s talking about wiping the Hulk off the map – and that means, bye-bye Bruce Banner. And while that’s easier said than done, Peter can’t just walk away while they try to do it. Besides, there’s a story in all this that Jameson would give his eye-teeth for… and here is his little-roving photographer mere miles away!
Professor X telepathically addresses Banshee. Sean already knows; he doesn’t have to read minds to know what’s ailing Spider-Man. He thinks Spidey will be needing a ride to that town… and, since the X-Men will be having to take the Professor back east, Banshee is offering him his services.
Once Spider-Man has accepted, the X-Men begin to take off. Cyclops tells Sean they’ll be cutting their speed to give him time to catch up. He tells Spider-Man to take care and wiggle a web for them! Spidey assures him he will! Banshee tells him that, if they’re going, they’ll better be off. It is only a fast thirty miles or so to the place called Liberty.
On Liberty, Woodgod makes Hulk mad, what with his horns and funny goat-leg! Hulk believes Woodgod tries to take the town from him! And for that… Hulk will smash! Woodgod believes that scream has taken Hulk, the way scream took Woodgod’s own mother and father, the way tried to take Woodgod himself. But he did not let scream take him! He fought scream, and man, when he came in his ships, bringing pain to Woodgod!
Hulk notices that Woodgod talks as much as puny humans. It makes his ears ring; it makes him mad! He proceeds to batter Woodgod with fragments of wood! Now Woodgod begins to understand: the Hulk is just like the others who brought the scream to Woodgod; who brought him pain! His eyes turning red with no pupils, Woodgod lashes at him. Hulk is surprised that the goat-man is attacking him. Woodgod clarifies he’s tired of only receiving pain, and giving nothing in return! Kicking Hulk away, he tells him he’s had enough, and promises to him!
Emerging from a pile of wood, Hulk retorts that no one kills him – no one! Hulk is the strongest one there is! He promises to smash Woodgod! Suddenly, though, he feels dizzy. He wonders what’s wrong with him. Trying to ignore his predicament, Hulk asserts it’s nothing; Hulk is Hulk! He intends to teach goat-face that he is the strongest…
A savage snarl curls his lips and his massive arms lift five or so tons of truck above his head. However, even without the strange, mind-numbing buzzing in his head, it is doubtful whether Hulk would understand that when metal automobile touches severed high-tension wire the results are usually quite electrifying!
Hulk screams with pain at electrocution. He begins feel weak; what is happening to him? He realizes he can’t hold the truck anymore. He has to drop it, before it crushes. He finally changes fully into Bruce Banner, his human form – he’s no longer the Hulk. But why does he feel so… feverish? Why is he burning up? He wonders what the Hulk has gotten him – them – into this time. Bruce then collapses in the purple dust that coats the town of Liberty.
Woodgod is surprised: the green man has gone and has left this one to his place. He asks the unconscious Bruce who he is. He soon discerns the man does not move or answer. Perhaps he has been claimed by scream… like all the others – all except Woodgod! Above him, more hovercraft appear, gliding downwards, and Woodgod hastily takes leave.
Elsewhere, the flying Banshee is still carrying Spider-Man on the air. He confesses he’s a wee bit old to be carrying a weight such as Spider-Man so far! Peter wonders if that means what he thinks it means. Banshee clarifies he’s afraid that he might drop Spidey. Just then, Spidey slips out of Banshee’s arms and gets tangled on some trees below. He sees what Sean means! Still, Banshee did the best he could, so Peter should do his part to see that their landing at least, is a soft one. As both he and the fatigued Banshee freefall, Peter whips up a web-net that cushions their impact on the ground.
“Not a second too soon, laddie!” Sean thanks him. They were like to have been impaled on this pincushion of a forest! Spider-Man notices there’s no sign of any fire, and the trees do seem to be alive in a disgusting sort of way! Banshee quips that’s for Spider-Man to cipher out. Sean himself has to be rejoining the X-Men, and they don’t save dinner if one’s late! Spidey sees him off and thanks him for the lift.
After Banshee is gone, Spider-Man watches some floaters flying overhead again, winging it towards the town they saw on the view-screen. He hopes Banshee managed to fly out under them without being seen. They probably didn’t spot Peter because this must be the “dead zone” they threw up around Liberty – a zone where nothing is supposed to be able to live. He wonders how that explains him.
Meanwhile, in the town, one of the floaters has located Woodgod – the same creature that wrecked ‘A’ group the previous day. Woodgod is indignant that they attack him again – haven’t they learned once? One of the pilots tells his colleagues to watch out. This bug-eyed monster is supposed to be awfully strong… and it looks like he’s up to something!
Woodgod grabs a tree trunk and begins slamming it against the floater closer to him. Can they not leave him in peace? The peace of his father? The peace that comes to all? The peace of death? Must they bring the scream to Woodgod over and over and over?! One of the pilots in the floaters further away asks by radio what’s going on. The pilot of the floater under attack by Woodgod announces the creature got them; they’re going down!
Close nearby, Spider-Man watches the scene. He recognizes Woodgod as the guy he saw on the screen – and he’s just taken out the National Guard! He thought the Hulk was supposed to be here. But there is no time for that now – not when it’s his civic duty to keep their fighting air force in one piece, at least until he can stop and figure all this out. He immediately shoots web and uses it to cushion the fall of the pilots who evacuate the collapsing floater. One of them wonders what netted them. Spidey reveals himself.
The two men approach him, both dressed in containment suits. Spidey asks them if they mind turning up their suit radios. From this side it sounds like they’ve got a mouthful of Cheerios! One of them, the man in charge of this operation, Colonel Tremens, tells him to knock off the jokes. He informs Spider-Man he’s in a restricted area; he should be dead! This town ceased to exist thirty-six hours ago, when a drunken farmer busted open a tank load of nerve gas!
Spidey is shocked. Lord save that old Russian – Doc Mishkin! He realizes it must be that anti-radiation mist he sprayed on him and the X-Men that’s somehow keeping the gas from affecting him. Still, he declines to reveal to Tremens how he’s alive – that’s his business. And he thinks it’s Tremens’ business to come up with some answers. Just how do you wipe out a town full of people, and keep it from the American public? And who – or what – was that monster that knocked their floater out of the air back on the street? Tremens advises him to not overreach himself. Spider-Man is something of a wanted man, if he remembers right, and it wouldn’t have been too hard to suggest to the press back East that he caused all this…
“Oh, Lord!” Tremens suddenly screams, his eyes widening with terror. Peter feels his spider-sense tingling like crazy. As he turns around, he faces Woodgod. “Go to scream, man!” Woodgoat growls and punches him with all his might, sending him flying into a small water tank.
Emerging from the water, the soaking Spidey tells Woodgod that he doesn’t know who he is, or what his problems are, but he just made this little webspinner mad! Woodgod urges him to come, then. He will kill him, just like he killed the green man behind him! Spidey looks behind him, only to see the unconscious Bruce Banner laid on the floor. He decides that anyone who can knock off the Hulk has got to be put under the wraps – and shoots his web at Woodgod, binding his hands.
Woodgod screams that he will not be bound and indeed tears through his binds. Peter is troubled: this guy has got muscles under all that hair, and he’s willing to use them on him. Which is just great, because he’s got a hunch the military boys are in the wrong here, and he’s going to be fighting on the wrong side, as usual.
Suddenly, his spider-sense is warning him again of something behind him. He turns only to see Bruce up and awake – and transformed into Hulk again. Moreover, he now sports red eyes just like Woodgod. Spidey nervously quips that’s a nice pair of red eyes they’ve got there; a matched set! Caught in the middle between the two of them, he announces he’ll just be moseying along and is about to see them off! Hulk retorts that the “bug-man” is not going anywhere! He remembers the bug-man; he has fought him before! He decides he will not fight goat-face… he will smash bug-man instead!