HULK #14-20 (2000)

A General named John Ryker wants to capture Hulk to use his gamma blood to save his dying wife. He’s experimented on animals and has an army of gamma dogs.

Big picture, this extended arc is just Ryker stalking Hulk. But throughout, Bruce is on the run and Ryker kills people from his past. As Banner gets enraged, he turns into different versions of Hulk. Green. Fixit. Smart Hulk. Savage Hulk. And they all merge again.

Fury is on Hulk’s side. (Although why is kind of a mystery. I mean, Hulk has destroyed major cities and presumably caused all kinds of civilian deaths for many years.)

Fury clues Hulk in on who is hunting him.

Hulk gets closer and meet another one of Ryker’s experiments: Flux.

Hulk beats him, then they both revert to their alter egos, Banner and Private Benny Tibbets, and bond over what the gamma radiation has done to them both.

Throughout, Banner is getting sicker every time he takes his full human form–dying of ALS. The progress of the disease adds a sense of time passing and urgency to this extended arc–it’s well done.

At this point, Hulk’s old enemy, retired General Ross, sells him out–and Hulk is captured by Ryker. Hulk is tortured, and all the various that exist within Banner’s mind start to break free.

I like the clown.

Ryker tortures Hulk.

We get a rematch with Flux and a revelation that Ryker’s wife Lucy has already been mutated by gamma rays. Ross realizes that Hulk has been victimized by Ryker, and lets him go.

Well, this arc took most of the year and it was … Really good! I especially like that it was a big arc that didn’t need to bring in Wolverine or Spider-Man (or any cameos) and that the crisis was personal to Hulk. The entire universe doesn’t need to be in jeopardy to create tension.

Paul Jenkins is becoming one of my favorite writers!

Also: Sal Buscema is the inker across these issues. Other than Herb Trimpe, Sal has worked on more Hulk comics than anyone.

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