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Incredible Hulk: “The Lone and Level Sands”

Issue 467 is one of my favourite issues of the Incredible Hulk. The final issue in Peter David’s amazing run on the title with art provided by Adam Kubert. It centres on a journalist in the near future interviewing Rick Jones for a book about the Hulk.

The majority of the issue is dominated by double pages spreads with the dialogue running along the sides. This gives plenty of room for the art to shine and for Peter David to give the reader an idea about what could happen to the Hulk in the future.

Since he was leaving the title many of these predictions went unfulfilled. This is why it is a great source for Event and adventure ideas for a Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game.

The Days Following The Funeral of Betty Ross

funeral

Following the death of Betty Ross Bruce Banner was gripped with despair. Escaping from the army he tried to kill himself several times.

Of course the Hulk won’t let him. The more elaborate Banner’s plan the further the Hulk would let him get before stepping in.

One of the incidents that Rick relates involves Bruce jumping off the Empire State building only for the Hulk to be the one who landed. Then the Avengers arrived.

This would make a simple scenario to run. Just pick a selection of Avengers or New York based heroes and have them try to stop a very angry Hulk. You don’t need to set it in New York either, Bruce is very likely to have tried similar stunts in different locations.

Rick also relates that an enemy of Dr Strange introduced Bruce Banner to black magic. Using a ritual he summoned Mephisto or similar demonic being to drag him to hell. Apparently the demon said it was more enjoyable to watch his torment on Earth.

The combination of Bruce Banner, black magic and the Hulk has a lot of potential. What did Bruce had to do in order to perform the ritual? Adventures could be based around gathering artefacts and forbidden lore.

This could also lead to a Defender adventure. Learning what Bruce Banner is up to Dr Strange assembles a group of heroes to prevent his former team mate from unleashing hell.

These are just a sample of Bruce Banner’s plans to kill himself. What else might he have tried during this period? Would he try to break into the Baxter building to use the Fantastic Four’s resources to leap into the Negative Zone or sneak into a bomb test site?

This could unleash all kinds of chaos. Bruce Banner might not care too much about others safety in his quest for oblivion. Other heroes would then have to prevent others from getting hurt, save Bruce Banner and potentially come into conflict with the Hulk.

After this Bruce Banner gave up trying to kill the Hulk. He became a nihilist, believing that nothing mattered. We know little of this period in his life, other than a short visit to Rick Jones. All we know is that he intended to move on. His glowing green eyes suggested that he could trigger his transformation at will, no longer having anything to hold on to.

In this potential timeline this was the last time that Rick Jones saw Bruce Banner. From this point on history diverges from the established Earth 616 universe, at least so far.

The Death of Janis

hulk467The grand daughter of Rick Jones and Marlo Chandler, Janis Jones was sent back in time to recruit the Hulk to defeat his future self.

She returned to the present and spent some time with the Hulk and Rick Jones. According to this issue the Abomination killed her.

She was confronting him in an attempt to prevent the villain’s own plans for revenge against the Hulk.

This presents us with the barebones of a plot. What was the Abomination planning? How did Janis Jones learn of it and how did she meet her end?

Janis could recruit heroes to help her. She makes an interesting character, originating from 70 years in the future. She could pick her recruits based on her future knowledge. Not only would she know who has the best skills for the job she might also know how they die. This could make it very uncomfortable for heroes to deal with her.

Not only is stopping the Abomination an important goal for the heroes but they could also be instrumental in preventing Janis’s death. Are they distracted by the plan that the Abomination has set in motion or will they be able to save her from the monster?

If Janis does die this could have repercussions for Rick Jones, she is after all his grand daughter. Her death might catch Bruce Banner or the Hulk’s attention. Would he seek revenge on the Abomination?

Hell of Earth

This is the name that Rick Jones gives to the event that claims the life of Thunderbolt Ross. This sounds like a follow-up to ‘Inferno’ cross-over published in 1989. The most obvious interpretation is that the forces of hell once again launch an invasion of Earth.

Instead of just being confined to New York city this event could affect the whole planet. There are many demonic entities in the Marvel Universe, from Mephisto to Satannish to Lucifer.

These Hell Lords could forge a temporary alliance, dividing up the continents and transforming them into their new domains. Their legion demons could wage war with armies and heroes alike.

You might also wish to follow the lead of ‘Fear Itself’ and have heroes and villains possessed or transformed by demons. This would makes the situation more and more dire as the heroes loose members.

I like to imagine that Thunderbolt Ross dies in valiant last stand against the demons, redeeming himself for his actions against the Hulk. It would make sense if he gave the remaining heroes access to the variety of weapons that were used against the Hulk, powerful enough to push back the forces of hell.

The death of Thunderbolt Ross could be the trigger needed to bring the Hulk into the conflict, turning the tide in the heroes favour. Mystical heroes could band together to perform a ceremony to banish the forces of evil, if their allies can protect them long enough.

The Hulk Changed Again

A year after Hell on Earth the Hulk changed again. Did his encounter with the forces of hell make him more demonic? Did the change in Bruce Banner’s personality affect the Hulk, usually a representation of his rage? Or was it an even stranger transformation?

Whatever the nature of his change he was soon contacted by Cary St Lawrence. She was previously in the army, assigned to the governments plan to take the Hulk into custody.

With Thunderbolt Ross dead it is possible that she was promoted. Given that she had come to believe that the Hulk wasn’t responsible for Betty Ross’ death it is also possible that she had gone rogue.

This is where Rick Jones ends his story, mentioning that the meeting between Cary and the Hulk led to…something. There is certainly a story here, made more interesting by the Hulk’s recent transformation.

Presumably this would take the format of the Hulk tv series, the Hulk and Cary on the run trying to clear his name pursued by the government. By this point the Hulk could be seen as even more of a threat, putting him into conflict with other heroes.

It is worth noting that in this near future setting Rick Jones is afraid of the Hulk. That when he hears a truck rumble he thinks for a moment that the Hulk has finally come for him.

A far cry from his youthful days when he always believed that the Hulk was innocent. At this point the Hulk is something to fear, a force of nature that no one can stop. There are plenty of tales to be told of that Hulk.

I’ve Said Enough

imageAfter twelve years Peter David was finally finished writing about the Hulk, at least for a while.

Rick Jones is a stand in for the author. He still has plenty of stories left about the Hulk but he has come to realise that eventually he’s said enough.

There are other things in his life. Rick has a wife and a child. One of his treasured, and secret, memories is having kissed Betty Ross once.

The lesson we can take from this in our adventures is that smaller, more personal moments are just as important as the larger than life heroics.

Players are likely to remember their interactions with NPCs, the relationships they forge and people whose life they affect more easily than the 5th time they fought Fin Fang Foom or escaped from another death trap.

Those small, poignant moments are the ones they’ll remember when the lights have gone out and there is nothing more to say.

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