The Quintronic Man! The Murder Module! Attempts have occasionally been made to slip into a control booth of a tall, formidable, state-of-the-art attack construct and take on the incredible Hulk with the best weaponry money can buy--but as we know, the Hulk's still around. Will the HS-1000 be the one to finally give its operator the power to triumph over the green goliath?
Ten tons of government-funded mechanized hurt! Let's see what this baby can do!
(But, gee, it already looks in bad shape--and we're only at the issue's cover!)
First, though, we have to figure out why the Hulk is being attacked in the first place, so let's get an idea of who the key players are:
- Col. John Armbruster, now in command of Hulkbuster Base;
- "Thunderbolt" Ross, former base commander, and father to ...
- Betty Ross, former love of Bruce Banner and now wife to...
- Maj. Glenn Talbot, recently returned after escaping Russian imprisonment
Naturally, there's also Banner himself, who returns to the base after finally changing back from the Hulk, only to be received by Armbruster with the shot of a tranquilizer gun and slapped in irons. Banner's incarceration has to do with heightened security in light of the impending visit of the President--in a "better safe than sorry" approach by the patriotic, by-the-book career soldier Armbruster. Unfortunately for Armbruster, things spin wildly out of his control when Talbot reveals himself to be a Soviet agent, implanted with a bomb which will detonate when he's in close proximity to the President. Armbruster learns the truth about Talbot with only seconds to spare, and manages to get Talbot clear of the President at the cost of his own life; but the blast has triggered Banner's change to the Hulk, and Hulkbuster Base looks as if it will be insufficient in keeping him confined. The Hulk is also protective of a distraught Betty, whose husband blew himself to pieces right before her eyes.
The HS-1000 didn't get any sort of build-up as something that was going to eventually be used against the Hulk--the decision to deploy it was made when the Hulk began running wild at Hulkbuster Base while the President was being rushed to safety. The Hulk also had Betty Ross (daughter of Gen. "Thunderbolt" Ross) in his grasp as he was making his way to freedom, which made Ross himself decide to "suit up" in the unit and take on his long-time foe.
In his posturing, Ross is of course exaggerating his claim about facing the Hulk man-to-man, since there certainly is "[some]thing else between us": namely, the HS-1000, which hasn't the height of the Quintronic Man or the Murder Module but enough bulk and weaponry to at least challenge the Hulk--at least in the eyes of the government, which shelled out a pretty penny to develop it. And if there's anyone who can put it through its paces, it's Ross, who wants to protect his daughter at all costs. He can do nothing about the death of his son-in-law; but he can at least fight to remove the Hulk from her life forever.
But Betty Ross is important to both of these men--and while each may believe his own reasons for fighting for her are paramount, only one of them is able to back up his feelings with a level of force that money simply can't buy.
It looks like it's back to the drawing board for the HS-1000--and maybe to the nearest mortuary for Ross, if the Hulk follows through with his final strike. But thanks to the timely interference of Betty in the fight, it seems like the HS-1000 has one last little surprise that its designer(s) thought might be a good idea to include against the Hulk, hang the expense--and let's face it, Ross has nothing left to lose at this point by throwing the switch.
Given Betty's hysterical state, she's perhaps inadvertently stolen a little of Ross's thunder in chalking up his first victory against the Hulk in a face-off, as well as a come-from-behind win for the HS-1000. With the Hulk lying flat on his back, most of us are probably wondering why Ross didn't unload on the Hulk with the gamma blaster first thing, instead of using it as a "last resort"; but a gamma ray blast might have just as well made the Hulk even more powerful, in which case the HS-1000 would have been only so much scrap metal for the Hulk to take apart, despite its remaining armament. It's understandable for Ross to have tried other means against the Hulk first--and who knows, it might have softened up the Hulk sufficiently for the gamma blast to have the desired effect.
It's curious that we never see the HS-1000 (or a later model) in action against the Hulk again; after all, a win is a win, isn't it? We can presume that its performance was evaluated and deemed to have fallen short as a credible means of battling the Hulk; arming a few soldiers with gamma blasters could have done what the HS-1000 did, and for far less money. Nevertheless, what do you want to bet that Ross has that puppy hanging in a very large trophy room somewhere?