Professor Charles Xavier lives! But the strain over his hard-won victory over the star-spawned Z’Nox, the mental agony of linking up the minds of half a planet, have taken a most dreadful toll, and he lies motionless in bed. He is surrounded by his students, the X-Men. ‘If only we knew - will he ever emerge from his comatose state, or -?’ Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast asks, while Jean Grey a.k.a. Marvel Girl knees at the side of the bed, resting her head on it, and holding Xavier’s hand. She tells Hank not to say it, as he must recover. Lorna Dane sits at the other side of the bed, holding Xavier’s other hand, while Alex “Havok” Summers stands with Lorna, an arm wrapped around her, causing Bobby “Iceman” Drake to frown. Scott “Cyclops” Summers is turned away from his friends, leaning against a dresser. He announces that it would be the grimmest irony of all, if Xavier had returned to them after so many long months, only to have his greatest triumph also become his final one.
Lorna starts to cry, and rests her head against Alex’s shoulder. He tells her not to cry, as the Professor wouldn’t want her to. Lorna tells Alex that she can’t help it, and even though she has only known him a few days, it seems like a lifetime. Alex suggests that they don’t give up hope, not while a single breath is still - but he is interrupted when Iceman fires a beam of ice at them, separating them. Iceman tells him that while he’s making with the soulful sounds, he should keep his paws off his girl. ‘Your girl? You ever try asking her about that?’ Alex snaps. Moving towards Iceman, he points out that he was just trying to comfort her. ‘I’ll comfort you - with a fistful of snow, you -’ Iceman shouts, before Cyclops comes between them, firing an optic blast as he orders them both to stop it.
Cyclops declares that this is not time to start fighting amongst themselves. ‘You’re acting like a pair of high-school Romeos’ he points out, while Lorna remarks that his sentiments go double for her, as it is Professor Xavier they should be worry about, not who takes whom to the next sock hop. Iceman turns away and tells Lorna that she made her point. ‘For a human popsicle, I guess I am kinda hot-tempered’ Bobby remarks, before apologizing to Alex, telling him that there is too much on his mind. ‘Forget it, Drake! I’m not exactly Mr Cool myself’ Alex replies. The Beast turns to Cyclops, ‘Something that Bobby said! The Professor’s mind-probe!’ he exclaims, and Cyclops understands what he is referring to.
Soon, with the application of the Beast’s underrated muscle, the mind probe has been brought into the room, as Beast explains that this mind-probe from the cellar-lab might be just what the physician prescribed. Cyclops agrees, and points out that the Professor completed it right before he vanished, by basing it on published articles by Dr Henry Pym. ‘That’s one Avenger who generally knows his oatmeal cookies, Scott’ Hank remarks, and turning a dial on the contraption he announces that they will see if Dr Pym’s batting-average is still beyond reproach. Scott tells Hank to take it easy, reminding him that the probe is only designed to skim the surface of a man’s mind. ‘If you dig too deep, we don’t know what might happen’ he points out. Hank tells the deputy leader of the X-Men that he knows, but that he still has this inexplicable premonition, that the Professor himself knows how they could cure him, if only they could reach him somehow.
As the rays hit the Professor’s mind, suddenly, the young heroes see that his lips start to move. ‘He’s trying to say something!’ one of them gasps. ‘The Hulk…! Must get him… before it’s too late… the HULK!’ Xavier utters, anguished, as the Beast turns the mind-probe off. ‘A few moments more, and the strain might have killed Professor Xavier’ Cyclops remarks, but the Beast tells his friend that he doubts it, and yet, his subconscious seems obsessed with the Hulk - a green-skinned gargoyle whom he has never encountered. ‘Why?’ the Beast wonders. Marvel Girl holds Xavier’s hand and reports that he is still sinking, slowly but surely. ‘It doesn’t seem possible! He loved us so much - taught us so much!’ Jean exclaims, as Cyclops reminds her that the Professor once transferred some of his mental powers to her. ‘Can you use that power - to probe his mind more safely?’ Cyclops asks.
Jean replies that she doesn’t know, but she will try. She puts her fingers to her temples: ‘For his sake - for all our sakes - I’ve got to try!’ Jean declares. Next, with a desperate surge of mental effort which throbs like a living but invisible thing between the chamber’s four walls, Jean reaches into the Professor’s mind, asking if he can hear her. ‘This is Jean Grey - the one you named Marvel Girl! We want to help you - bring you back to us - if you’ll just show us the way!’ Jean calls out to him, asking that if he hears her, to give a sign, some slightest sign, but Jean tells Scott that it is no use, as there is no image in the part of his mind that she can reach, except the lumbering, deadly Hulk.
Cyclops decides that the Hulk must have some connection with the Professor’s condition. ‘But what?’ he asks his friends, before reminding them that it is well known that the Hulk is also Bruce Banner, a famous physicist. ‘Ahhh! You surmise it may be Banner who somehow holds the key - and not the Hulk at all!’ the Beast exclaims, as Cyclops announces that they have got to do what the Professor told them and get to the Hulk.
‘Alex - the Professor has many enemies -’ Cyclops begins. His brother tells him to say no more, and that he will guard the Professor with his life until they return. Sitting on the edge of the Professor’s bed, Lorna tells Alex that she will stay here with him. ‘And Iceman makes three, lady! Maybe I’m more of a green-eyed monster than the Hulk! But I also know that absence makes the heart grow fonder - of somebody else!’ Bobby remarks, annoyed.
Moments later, from an unassuming cottage behind the Westchester County Mansion, a small jet rises into the air and takes off, and inside, Jean reminds Scott that Warren is on guard duty, and they may need his help before this day is over. ‘He’s not an easy lad to forget, Jean - or to overlook’ Scott replies, and they see Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Angel soaring nearby. Warren calls out to them, telling them to open the port hatch. Even though he doesn’t know what they are up to, he wants a piece of the action - any action!
A few anxious hours and many miles later, Angel has left the ship and flies around in the open air as Jean reports that the newscast they monitored said the Hulk was down there in Las Vegas. Warren tells his friends that he will meet them below. ‘And bring plenty of quarters’ he jokes, while Cyclops announces that he is picking up a TV report on the Hulk, and warns Angel that the Hulk looks loaded for bear. ‘Save it, Scottie, our venturesome vulture is out of earshot’ Hank remarks.
As he moves closer to the city, Angel supposes that the Hulk won’t be hard to find, and suddenly, sees him, lumbering down a street. ‘Out of my path, puny humans!’ the Hulk exclaims, adding that where the Hulk walks, he walks alone. ‘Mister, I wouldn’t have it any other way!’ someone calls out.
‘Like wow! Even from the pictures I’ve seen, I never thought he would look so large… so powerful’ Warren remarks, joking that he might as well dive-bomb a dinosaur. He starts to pull himself up, deciding that he better keep airborne until the others touch down, but the Hulk sees him. ‘One of the masked ones - who always hound the Hulk’ he decides, adding that he has handled other masked ones before, and in the same way, as he slams his fists together, creating a sonic wave which knocks Angel out.
‘The Angel’s down - and stunned!’ Cyclops calls out as the others land and rush towards the Hulk. ‘Those sonic waves got to him but good’ Jean comments, and the Beast declares ‘And so will that green-skinned grotesquerie… if the ever-bounding Beast doesn’t take a hand - or should I say, “take a foot”!’ He leaps towards the Hulk and kicks him in the face. ‘There! That should suffice to - good Lord!’ the Beast gasps, realizing that the behemoth isn’t even fazed.
‘You masked ones talk too much. Hulk doesn’t talk - he acts!’ the Hulk shouts as he smacks the Beast backwards. ‘Wait, Hulk! There’s no reason for us to fight! We just want to ask you a few questions!’ Cyclops explains. The Hulk frowns, ‘More words! Hulk is sick of words!’ he shouts back.
The Hulk starts to move towards Cyclops and Marvel Girl, and rips a lamppost from the sidewalk, declaring that men always use words to trick the Hulk, to put him in chains. ‘But Hulk will never let himself be chained again - NEVER!’ he booms.
Cyclops tells Jean to look out, as he ripped up the lamppost like a strand of spaghetti. ‘I didn’t want to do this, Hulk - but I’ve got to! We’ve got nothing that’ll stop you - except the full power of my optic blasts!’ Cyclops boasts, unleashing his optic power against the Hulk, but the behemoth continues to trudge forward, ‘Will they stop Hulk, little man? Will they?’ he snarls, moving ever closer to the remaining X-Men. ‘It can’t be! He’s still coming - as if he were merely wading through water!’ Cyclops gasps, realizing that he is slowing the Hulk down, but that is all.
‘Maybe it will be enough, Scott - if I can focus all my mental power on him!’ Jean calls out, and as she does, the Hulk drops to his knees, but he still moves closer. ‘I’m giving all I’ve got, Cyke - but he’s still coming! Getting closer - closer!’ Jean exclaims. ‘Feel funny in head…’ Hulk mutters, while Scott tells Jean that she is getting to him, and urges her to keep applying more mental pressure, more and more, until suddenly, the Hulk collapses sideways into the building, busting the brick wall down. ‘You got him!’ Cyclops shouts.
Angel and the Beast join Cyclops and Marvel Girl as they gather around the Hulk’s fallen body. ‘You mean we got him, Scott! But if he had held out a split second longer…’ Jean’s voice trails off, before Cyclops points out that all that matters is that he is down, and he alerts everyone to the fact that the Hulk is changing, shrinking down with every second and becoming Bruce Banner again - the man they had to find.
‘Banner? Yes - thank God, I am Banner again!’ Bruce remarks as he comes to. ‘But for how long - how long?’ he asks, before Cyclops introduces his team as the X-Men and informs Banner that there are questions they must ask him. Scott and Jean help Banner sit up, and Jean asks him what he knows of Charles Xavier. ‘Xavier? I don’t know - don’t remember ever hearing the name before now!’ Banner replies, before remarking that he is tired and must rest. ‘No! We’ve come so far - and there’ so little time!’ Cyclops tells him. ‘Even less than you conjecture, Cyclops!’ the Beast remark, and a shocked Angel reports that from where they stand, it looks like they have got company. Cyclops and Jean turn and see Major Talbot, flanked by soldiers and tanks. ‘All right, you costumed clowns - I don’t know what you’re doing here - but stand aside, and I won’t take you in for questioning - all we want is the Hulk! And by thunder we’re taking him in!’
One of the soldiers tells Major Talbot not to worry about “those crummy muties”, and assures him that if they make a move to help Banner escape, they will be dead men.
‘Major, you don’t understand! We’re not here to interfere!’ Cyclops calls out. ‘But before you take him into custody, we’ve got to get a few answers from Dr Banner’ he informs Major Talbot, adding that the life of a man depends on those answers - a man named Charles Xavier. ‘Xavier… Xavier… wait! Now I remember that name! A brilliant scientist - we exchanged correspondence years ago, on the Gamma-Ray treatment of mental exhaustion!’ Banner realizes, explaining that he worked out a device, based on their mutual theories, and that it is still there, in one of his secret labs. ‘That’s it! The tie-in! Take us to it, Doctor - or Charles Xavier will die!’ Cyclops declares.
But Talbot shouts ‘Not so fast, mutant!’ and the soldiers aim their weapons at the X-Men. ‘You’re forgetting the little fact that Banner is my prisoner, not yours!’ Talbot declares, suggesting that perhaps he can talk to Banner after he has been interrogated by the top brass - but not before.
‘Take him, men!’ Talbot orders. ‘No! Wait, Talbot - you must! You can’t allow a brilliant man to perish just because - because -’ Banner calls out, when suddenly, his head starts to throb, like so many other times. ‘No! Dear Lord - not now!’ he utters. ‘If I change now - Xavier will die!’ Banner declares as he transforms into the Hulk, who roars: ‘And why shouldn’t he die? What does he matter? What does anything matter - to the HULK!?’ Fully transformed, he turns his attention towards one of the tanks.
‘That egghead’s become the Hulk again! And he’s heading straight for us!’ a soldier points out, while his comrade tells him not to panic, and to keep the tank moving, then maybe they can run him down. But the Hulk grabs the tanks as it moves towards him, ‘Run Hulk down - if you can!’ he roars as he picks the tank up and throws it down, smashing it, although the two soldiers managed to leap to safety. ‘Now Hulk is leaving - to find somewhere he can be alone! If you follow you get what tank got! Do you hear?’ the Hulk warns everyone, before he leaps into the air and bounds away.
‘He’s gone - and with him, maybe our one chance to save Professor X!’ Cyclops tells his teammates. He adds that they can’t give up now, that they have got to keep on his trail. ‘Then I vote we do it before those dogfaces turn around, Cyke’ Angel suggests as the soldiers continue to fire at the escaping Hulk, and the Beast agrees, remarking that, otherwise, the soldiers are liable to train their guns on their four less bullet-proof targets.
And indeed, as the last echoes of staccato gunfire cease: ‘All right, X-Men - not let’s hear just how you fit into - thunder! They’re gone!’ Talbot shouts as he turns to discover the X-Men have vanished. ‘Then they were in cahoots with that monster - just like we thought!’ one of the soldiers suggests. But Talbot tells him that is something they may never know, and orders his squad to father up their marbles and get back to base.
At the same time, the X-Men’s jet flies over the city, and soon finds the Hulk, out in the desert. ‘There’s our pistachio-colored playmate now!’ Warren points out, while asking Cyclops how he managed to keep the Hulk in sight. ‘I didn’t, Angel! We just lucked out!’ Scott replies, adding that if the Hulk had thoomed off one more time when he landed, then they would have been out of it.
The Hulk looks up, and Cyclops realizes that the Hulk knows they are after him, and tells Hank to take the jet down, deciding that the Hulk looks as if he wants to make a stand by the cliff. ‘We wouldn’t want to disappoint our Halcyon host!’ the Beast remarks, but by the time the X-Men have landed, the Hulk has jumped to the top of the cliff. ‘He’s decided to play king of the hill!’ Angel jokes. ‘Well, if he wants to throw that thing, I’ll give him a moving target!’ Warren calls out as he darts about through the air, while the Hulk holds a large boulder overhead. ‘Angel - wait!’ Cyclops shouts, but Angel doesn’t, and as he reaches the Hulk, the behemoth tosses the boulder. ‘Looks like ol’ greenskin prefers sitting ducks instead’ Warren thinks to himself as the Hulk ignores him, and throws the boulder down below.
‘Hulk told you not to follow him! Now - you’ll find out Hulk means what he says!’ the Hulk shouts out, while Angel tells the others to stay alert. ‘No sweat, Flyboy! I’m all eyes!’ Cyclops replies as he fires an optic blast, that shatters the boulder into many small rocks, and Jean uses her telekinesis to deflect any stray rock fragments. The Beast starts to move away from the others, pursuing a little sub-plan all ofhis own. He uses his strength and agility to climb up the cliffside, and, approaches the Hulk from behind, while the behemoth is gesticulating menacingly over the edge of the cliff. ‘WHAT?’ the Hulk suddenly calls out as the Beast bounces against him, ‘A master stroke if I say so myself! And apparently I must - lacking any cogent comment by old Incredible here!’ the Beast calls out as the Hulk, and lots of rocks, start to fall towards the X-Men below.
‘He can merely jump - not fly - so there’ no way to check his fall! And if it renders him unconscious, he may revert to our favorite physicist. Oh yes, and before I forget…TIM-BERRR!’ the Beast calls out down below to his friends. But even as he shouts, five hundred pounds of steel-muscles mass strikes the desert floor below, and Cyclops and Marvel Girl leap to safety as the Hulk hit’s the ground harder than the Beast calculated, and he is being buried by a rocky avalanche. ‘What have I done?’ the Beast gasps, looking at his hands. ‘If he’s changed to Banner now - he’ll be crushed to a pulp!’ the Beast realizes, deciding that then he will be just what they always claimed all mutants are - a murderer.
Cyclops tells the Beast to take it easy, as they don’t know for sure that Hulk, or Banner, is dead. ‘If fact - look - those rocks are shaking, trembling - as if - the Hulk is alive!’ Angel exclaims, as the Hulk indeed is alive and bursts forth from the rocks that covered him. ‘Don’t you know that nothing can kill the Hulk!?’ the behemoth cries out. ‘NOTHING!?’, but, he lumbers towards the X-Men, boasting that the Hulk can kill anyone. Cyclops starts waving his hands about, while Jean tells him to get back, before asking him what he is staring at so wild-eyed, and Scott points out that the landslide has uncovered some secret lab built into the cliff. ‘It’s got to be Bruce Banner’s!’ Cyclops suggests. ‘Banner! How Hulk hates that name! Say it again - and Hulk will smash you all!’ the Hulk threatens.
Flying above the others, Angel wonders if that lab is the one where Banner worked out that Gamma-Ray gizmo. Cyclops tells Warren that he will cover him so he can get inside and look for Banner’s device.
‘Banner! Banner! BANNER!’ the Hulk booms, reaching down to the ground he starts to rip it apart, warning the X-Men that he will make them stop saying that name, even if he has to pull up the whole desert floor. But Cyclops’ eyes are quicker than the Hulk’s hands, and as Warren flits into the lab, Cyclops knocks the Hulk off his feet. ‘He can’t attack without a place to stand!’ Cyclops points out, while suggesting that Jean can focus her mental power on the Hulk again. But the Hulk regains his footing, and slams a fist against the ground, causing the ground to open up beneath Marvel Girl and Cyclops. ‘No! This can’t happen now - not now! It’ll destroy the lab - everything!’ Cyclops exclaims as he and Jean start to fall down into the opening.
‘Most commendable, Master Summers! To think only of others in a moment of impeding catastrophe!’ the Beast calls out as he reaches down from above and grabs his friends. ‘Hank!’ Scott gasps as they see the Hank balancing from a rope ladder extended from the X-Men’s jet, ‘I should hope, Scotty, that you’d not confuse my vocabulary with that of our avocado antagonist!’ the Beast remarks, adding that he hopes Angel should shake a tail-feather, and as if on cue, Angel flies out of the lab, ‘I think I’ve got what we’re looking for, groupies!’ Angel tells his friends, adding that he hopes the Hulk doesn’t leap after them. The Beast tells him not to worry, for all that the green-skinned garbo wants is to be left alone. Clutching his head, the Hulk declares that they are gone at last, and now maybe he can find peace.
Soon, all four young heroes are back inside the jet, and Jean tells Scott that she was just thinking what an amazing coincidence it was, the Hulk leading them right to the place they wanted to go. ‘You don’t really think it was a coincidence, any more than I do, lady’ Scott replies, while adding that somewhere inside that brute, the brain of Bruce Banner knew that a man’s life was at stake, and it led them there, in spite of the Hulk.
Tense hours afterward, in Westchester County, Lorna, Alex and Bobby look at Scott, who holds a small device in his hand. ‘Scott - that look in your eyes!’ Lorna remarks, while Alex asks if they have got what they set out to find. ‘We think so - but we can’t be sure - until we’ve tested it on Professor Xavier’ Cyclops explains. Moments later, a cold metal button is pressed, and a miniaturized device, perhaps understood by only two men on all the Earth, feeds Gamma-Ray impulses to a dormant brain. Then, it’s dull, insistent humming ceases… and nothing is heard but the murmur of seven whispered prayers.
‘X-Men - look! His eyes are opening!’ Cyclops exclaims. ‘But, are they opening with life, or the vacant stare of death?’ the Beast asks. Jean tells them both to be quiet, as the Professor is trying to speak. Xavier looks up at the seven young heroes gathered around his bed, ‘You have done well, my X-Men! You deciphered the only clue I could summon power to give you…!’ he tells them. ‘He’s going to live!’ one of the X-Men declares. ‘Thank the Lord!’ Iceman smiles as he stands behind Havok and Lorna, while the Beast perches on the end of the bed. ‘Perhaps there’s justice left in this ragtag world, after all’ he tells his teammates.
Xavier promises the X-Men that he will be on his feet in no time, as there are wrongs to be righted and a world to be saved from evil mutants, and from itself. ‘And we’ll save it, Sir… with your help’ Cyclops tells the Professor. ‘Amen’ Angel agrees, while the Professor tells Scott that he hopes so, because it is a good world, basically, one well worth saving - as long as there are people in it like the X-Men!
And they fought happily ever after…?