Tuesday, July 05, 2016
The back cover points out this would be Hulk and Gladiator's first brawl, but then why wasn't it on the front cover? From 1997, the Incredible Hulk '97 (Annual), featuring "Sins of the Father" Written by Chris Cooper, pencils by Jeff Rebner, inks by Mark Irwin; and "Where the Wild Things Are" Written by Bill Rosemann, pencils by Kevin Lau, inks by Andrew Pepoy.
Since this issue wasn't written by Peter David, I had to look it up and make sure it wasn't after his tenure on the title: no, David was still writing the regular book, but this was mid-Heroes Reborn, and it was floundering a bit. (Although, it would've just recently had the first appearance of the Thunderbolts!) The Hulk was in full-on "leave Hulk alone" mode, and the lead story begins with Doc Samson trying to figure out what can be done, when he's approached by members of the Pantheon. (Who have been woefully underused post-David, but here they're mostly drawn resembling S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.) They want Samson's help, with Bruce Banner's son!
Elsewhere, the Hulk sets up shop, at a nuclear power plant; for the benefit of his companion, Janis. (She had come from the Future Imperfect timeline, where the Hulk had become the tyrant Maestro.) The Hulk figures no one would attack them there, for fear of causing a nuclear disaster; the unsympathetic Hulk even suggests he wouldn't care if one happened regardless. And in New York City, the telepathic Oracle becomes aware of a fugitive from Shi'ar justice, and tells her boss in the Imperial Guard...
The Pantheon believe the boy, David, to be the baby that Betty Banner had said she had miscarried; and Samson sees him as another opportunity to try and reach the Hulk. His attempts at breaking the ice with David are interrupted by an attack that takes out the attending Pantheon members, but Samson still gets the boy to his father. Who seems not to care, in the least. That may be just as well, since now Gladiator of the Imperial Guard claims David!
Gladiator and Oracle explain that "David" is really a changeling, one that can duplicate down to the genetic level, and lives an entire life as a mortal, not even knowing what it really is. It had encountered the Hulk in space and thought that would be a good next life, but was wanted for crimes from a previous life; none of which "David" would've recalled at all. Gladiator's reaction to Janis's intervention triggers a flashback to Bruce's own childhood traumas, and then it's on. Although Gladiator has incredible strength, flight, and eye-beams, none of them prove to be a match for the Hulk's unchecked rage. (That and the Hulk sticks him in the nuclear reactor for a bit.) Hulk nearly beats Gladiator to death, stopping only when he sees the fear in "David's" eyes.
Post-case, Samson again wonders if anything can help the Hulk, and figures the changeling will do its best to not be "David" if it can avoid it.
The B-story makes the lead cover, which I don't get: I know a lot of Marvel readers would recognize Artie and Leech, but they couldn't be a bigger draw than Gladiator. This story, with their friend Franklin Richards having nightmares about a "green monster," A&L take it upon themselves to save him from the Hulk.
I think that nightmare vision of Bruce's dad had been used before, and was friggin' terrifying.