We certainly left the hapless Bruce Banner in dire straits following the return of the U-Foes--the sinister group that was once again out to take revenge on Banner for aborting the space flight they'd undertaken for the purpose of gaining greater might than the Fantastic Four and then using it to amass power and fame (or, in their case, infamy). At this point in time, Banner is able to control his transformations to the Hulk as well as retain his mind while in the body of the brute--but thanks to X-Ray, the member of the U-Foes who can control all forms of radiation, the Hulk was transformed back to Banner against his will, and quickly captured.
With Banner in tow, the U-Foes have decided to use him as a means to an end, but with a twist: to establish their reputations overnight as a power to be reckoned with, while at the same time gaining their revenge on Banner while making it seem to the public at large that they're out to "end the menace" of the Hulk. And so they've moved deeper into the abandoned military installation known as Gamma Base in order to imprison Banner with its equipment and broadcast his execution to the world.
Talk about ratings to die for...
The controversial nature of this broadcast no doubt will ensure that the U-Foes become the talk of the world. Stringing up what appears to be a helpless, tragic scientist and executing him on live television is arguably not the best way to go about gaining the U-Foes the support of the public; but the true goal of Vector (a/k/a Simon Utrecht, the millionaire industrialist who financed the the U-Foes' flight) is to raise the U-Foes' profile. And their duplicity in achieving their ends aside, give the U-Foes credit: the nature of this plan will give them everything they crave, at a stroke.
Thanks to Vector, whose power ensures that any efforts to locate the source of the broadcast will be deflected, those who might wish to help Banner won't be able to do so. And for the initial five pages of this story, writer Bill Mantlo takes us through a virtual rolodex of super-beings receiving the broadcast and acknowledging their helplessness.
(Yes, Ben--why have you awakened a sleeping child so that he can watch a helpless man be killed on live TV?)
Mantlo admittedly hammers the "why should we help a monster?" angle into the ground in these scenes--but curiously, everyone seems to be talking about the Hulk, rather than Banner. It's the Hulk who's about to be executed... it's the Hulk they're unable to locate... it's the Hulk they're unable to help. Circling back to this story's title, "What Friends Are For!", we'd now find that it has a certain irony. In a later scene, Banner laments that there's no one he can count on to help him; and given how all of these heroes aren't even bothering to register that it's Bruce Banner in peril, in a way he appears to be right.
As for the U-Foes, they're understandably relishing the fact that everything is going according to plan--though in learning of the circumstances of how they avoided certain death in their first encounter with the Hulk, it seems that Vector's goal in this new endeavor has less to do with trying to secure public support than it does with securing its fear.
We've already seen that Doc Samson has likely deduced the location of the Hulk (as Ross should have), having recognized the details of Gamma Base--though he'll arrive too late to make a difference. But Banner's friends, Betty Ross and Rick Jones, along with the alien "techno-artist" known as Bereet, have successfully distracted the U-Foes in order to free Banner from the power grid holding him helpless--and with Banner free to transform back into the Hulk, his battle with the U-Foes resumes. Fortunately, thanks to Banner's intelligence and recollection, the Hulk knows just which U-Foe to remove from this fight first.
From there, the U-Foes appear to be unable to join ranks against the Hulk--with Utrecht, though undeniably having leadership potential, still falling short of the leader he needs to be in the field to direct a fight successfully. And since Banner has full knowledge of the abilities of the remaining three foes, he doesn't hesitate to use their abilities against them.
As for Vector, it's a tightrope that Mantlo must walk with this character. We're not talking about someone whipping up a wind gust--we're talking about someone powerful enough to repel even the substance of reality, yet still not able to hold back the Hulk. It makes no sense whatsoever for Vector not to be able to deal with the Hulk--but it nevertheless brings the U-Foes' aspirations to an end.
The U-Foes at last score a victory--against the legal system!
|Incredible Hulk #277 |
Script: Bill Mantlo
Pencils: Sal Buscema
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Jim Novak