When we last saw them, it looked like curtains for the uncanny U-Foes, the four villains who sought fame and power by duplicating the space flight of the Fantastic Four with the goal of becoming even more powerful than their predecessors. Their flight prematurely aborted due to the (well-meaning) interference of Bruce Banner, the altered individuals sought revenge, and ended up battling the Hulk in their baptism of fire--an encounter which saw their powers spiral out of control and lead to their presumed end.
Fast-forward to another point in the Hulk's troubled life, where the brute is now controlled by the mind of Bruce Banner--a development that's met with mixed reaction from his friends, Rick Jones and Betty Ross, who are respectively happy and disappointed at the news. Currently meeting at the abandoned Gamma Base, where Rick was brought in order to save his life from a misguided attempt to expose himself to gamma rays and become another Hulk, Rick makes the case of how the world can benefit from the power of a Hulk who is guided by Banner's mind, while Betty (Banner's love) has always wanted the Hulk out of Banner's life and fears the worst.
In an added complication, the group is joined by an alien named Bereet, a "techno-artist" from another world who has distantly recorded some of the Hulk's life and adventures and has travelled to Earth to make a movie of him. (Yes, between Bereet and Mojo, a television mogul from another dimension, it seems alien worlds are hooked on TV and movies, which seems disturbing on many levels.) Bereet is thrilled at this new development, though obviously she arrives at a tense time; Banner is currently in Rick's corner as far as wanting to use the Hulk's might for beneficial purposes, while Betty has always wanted Banner to be completely cured of his condition so that the two of them could begin a normal life together.
It's while Banner is making his case to Betty that everyone is surprised by the arrival of four others, whose intentions toward the Hulk are more in line with Betty's opinion--with the exception that they're determined to take Banner out of the picture as well as the Hulk.
Judging by the aggressive posture and tone in this confrontation, it's fair to assume multi-millionaire industrialist Simon Utrecht and his deadly associates have returned to seek out Banner for one reason--they continue to blame him for aborting their flight and thus cutting short their exposure to cosmic rays and limiting their potential to become more powerful than the Fantastic Four, and they've returned to pick up where they left off in taking their revenge on him. And indeed, they all get their licks in on Banner as they move in, with a series of strikes that demonstrate to the reader who might be unfamiliar with them what deadly powers the U-Foes possess.
If they wished to kill Banner outright, the U-Foes don't really need to treat him with kid gloves here; but it's difficult to determine just which enemy they wish to crush. It's Banner they hold responsible for ruining their plans (though that seems a premature assessment, considering the group has only just come into existence recently and hasn't yet moved forward with their goals)--yet it's the near-mindless Hulk who humbled them. One could argue that battling the Hulk is quite a feather in their cap as a new super-group out to build a fast rep; on the other hand, the fact that their might proved insufficient against the Hulk was probably a painful reminder of the failure of their carefully laid plans. So do they continue to whale on Banner, or do they try to bring back the savage brute on which they can again put to the test the might they have?
Thanks to Rick, Banner is reminded that his circumstances have changed--and the decision is taken out of the U-Foes' hands as far as which foe to settle on to satisfy their vengeance. Yet it's a win-win for the group, since both of their foes are for all intents and purposes one and the same, in body and in mind. The U-Foes now have their victim to crush--providing they can match the savage brute who beat them back once before, now guided by a mind that can react and adapt to their offensive.
Despite appearances, Banner's responses to the attack of the U-Foes appear to differ little from those of the savage Hulk, who knows his strength as well as Banner does and whose drive to win is second to none. So whether the U-Foes would prevail against either version of the Hulk is debatable; to do that, Utrecht would have to be more of a tactician (as Banner notes), and a shrewd one at that. But having gone up against the Hulk and lost, Utrecht is no doubt learning quickly, and on the job--and in X-Ray, he has the perfect teammate to utilize to provide the U-Foes with the shortest path to victory against their enemy.
Given X-Ray's youth and the fact that his expertise isn't in radiation, it's unclear how he's able to know how to call forth different aspects of his power at will, in light of his lack of experience in this new form of his--nor should Utrecht, a former politician, have the background needed to direct him to do so. For both men it would be more a matter of trial and error; even Banner has only rudimentary knowledge of "gamma negative rays" (whatever those are). But as luck and writer Bill Mantlo would have it, they have the desired effect--and the U-Foes aren't about to pass up the chance to end this fight quickly, and in their favor.
Poised to end Banner's life, and thus the Hulk's, the U-Foes would seem to be on the verge of ending the Incredible Hulk title with this issue; but Utrecht is aware that the opportunity has presented itself for his team to gain the notoriety that they originally set out to secure for themselves, and so their plans for Banner are altered accordingly.
While it's hardly a victory for the U-Foes to brag about, it's nevertheless gratifying to see that this group may finally be on its way to becoming a force to be reckoned with--and, equally important, becoming worthy adversaries in other Marvel titles (and certainly one in particular). Will the U-Foes fulfill their potential? Or, like their space flight, are they fated to crash and burn in these pages? We'll have a better idea after the events of Part Two of this story play out.
Live! from Gamma Base: The Execution of the Hulk!
(Following a brief word from our sponsor.)
|Incredible Hulk #276 |
Script: Bill Mantlo
Pencils: Sal Buscema
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Jim Novak