SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Immortal Hulk #6 by Al Ewing, Lee Garbett, Paul Mounts and VC’s Cory Petit, in stores now.
The Immortal Hulk hasn’t been your average Hulk story. It’s a more cerebral affair, coming off as a detective-mystery at times, and at others, a horror story with the Jade Giant haunting Bruce Banner’s mind. In the process, we’ve found out Hulk just won’t die, even if Bruce does, and what makes things even worse is the Hulk has returned smarter than ever.
Now, as the American government gets closer to finding the former Avenger, a society known as Shadow Base has emerged with a secret weapon up its sleeve. And if you’re a fan of the late-70s television series The Incredible Hulk, you’ll know just how deadly a threat it — or should we say he — is.
To track Bruce, Shadow Base is monitoring close friends and family, including Betty Ross. The head of this faction is none other than General Reginald Fortean, Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross’ former understudy, who ironically tried to kill the Red Hulk, not knowing it was actually his mentor. Fortean is all the more wiser, realizing it’s a mental game as much as it’s a physical game when it comes to trapping a Hulk, and he has Bruce firmly in his crosshairs. In fact, Shadow Base is an upgrade to “Thunderbolt’s” Gamma Base, a New Mexico facility dedicated to taking the Green Goliath down.
Here, Fortean is with a man called Jeffrey Clive, plotting with a science team on how to use this secret weapon: a man named Del Frye. Just like its predecessor, Shadow Base is conducting gamma experiments, but the kicker is that Frye’s dead. Or so we’re led to believe. The science team dug his body up from a grave in Colorado, but for some reason, he’s alive and in pain. They’re trying to replicate Frye’s DNA because they want to recreate some sort of gamma serum that’s in his blood.
It’s uncertain what this extraction will be used for as Jeffrey talks about taking down other Hulks, including Jen Walters (She-Hulk) and the Totally Awesome Hulk (Amadeus Cho). It could be that they’ll be using the blood to power super-soldiers (perhaps even throwing a nod to Louis Letterier’s Incredible Hulk). However, this group’s purpose and what Frye’s bloodwork can do all remain a mystery. If the direction is anything like TV show though, it could mean that Shadow Base is creating their own Hulk.
In the show, Dell Frye, as he was known there, was being treated by Jeffrey, a doctor specializing in experimental radiation therapy. This caused Frye to turn into a Hulk-like creature with a knack for murder. Jeffrey eventually cured him but after he died, Frye would take his machinery, kidnap Bruce and then turn himself back into the bloodthirsty behemoth. This evil Hulk was filled with pure, unadulterated rage and went on a killing spree, even besting Bruce’s Hulk because he embraced the power which made the Hulk a superior creature.
The secret to Frye’s transformations lay in his blood, which was a rare type that absorbed gamma radiation and mutated to produce a super-powered being. He only appeared in a two-part episode in 1981, titled “The First,” but he pushed Bruce to his limit. He nearly killed the titular hero and had to be shot and killed as Bruce used equipment to de-power him. Sadly, Frye also destroyed the cure Bruce managed to find for himself as he studied the villain.
That said, Frye’s Hulk was one of rare antagonists on the show who matched Bruce’s alter ego physically, the other of course being Thor. Now, it seems The Immortal Hulk is going to same route of exploiting his DNA. The comic version of Jeffrey though is more sinister as opposed to someone curing a friend, leaving us wondering the extent to which Shadow Base will go and also, what other weapons they have in their arsenal.
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