WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Immortal Hulk #21 by Al Ewing, Ryan Bodenheim, Paul Mounts and VC's Cory Petit, in stores now.
The Immortal Hulk keeps pushing creative boundaries surrounding the title character and the limits to which Bruce Banner's enemies will go to kill him. With Banner having become an unstoppable nocturnal monster, Shadow Base has ramped up its attacks, sending Rick Jones after the Hulk as a new Abomination.
Although Betty Ross killed Bruce while in her Harpy form, Hulk can't die, as implied by the title. They've since patched things up and extracted Rick's body from his Abomination casing. This has left Shadow Base desperate and looking at a last resort to kill the Jade Giant once and for all. Shockingly, this comes in the shape of General Reginald Fortean, who has no choice but to become the most lethal Abomination ever.
Fortean steals the Abomination husk from Gamma Flight's space station, taking out Doc Samson, Crusher Creel, Titania, Puck and Walter "Sasquatch" Langowski in the process. As he does so, his supervillain origin story plays out, revealing how he became Thaddeus Ross' apprentice in the military. In fact, he's like a son to Ross, as he quickly adopts the same belief the Green Goliath must be killed.
However, seeing Ross turn into the Red Hulk and using weapons like the Redeemer Armor have corrupted the usually-stout Fortean beyond belief. His faith is shattered, and he quickly realizes, especially thanks to Ross' recent death, that he must become a monster to kill a monster. As much as the resolute Fortean despised Ross lowering himself to become Red Hulk, he feels this transformation will deliver results. And seeing as Shadow Base, formed as an offshoot of Gamma Base thanks to Pentagon funding, dug up Rick and turned him into the acid-spewing Abomination, Fortean knows he doesn't have to answer to anyone -- this husk is his and his alone to use.
Rather than use another soldier to weaponize it, he firmly believes this is his ultimate fate. Fortean binds with the husk and becomes an Abomination who's way more ruthless than Red Hulk, and more powerful than Rick or Emil Blonsky could ever be. This husk can vomit acid that eats away at Hulk's very being. It also appears to be tied to the mystical force known as the One Below All, which is the entity manipulating Hulk and turning him into the Devil Hulk, shifting him from a world-breaker to a flat-out destroyer.
Seeing as gamma was recently retconned as an energy source for demonic possession, one has to wonder what access to this hellish gateway could do to Fortean. Banner already encountered a prophecy where he'll fight "a horseman of war in nightmarish armor," and as Fortean sits like a king on a monstrous throne, it's clear it's referring to Ross' protege.
Writer Al Ewing has promised Amadeus Cho (no longer powered up as the Totally Awesome Hulk) will be returning to the fray, and hopefully once Alpha Flight recovers, they too can link up with Banner, because apart from needing to figure out what to do with Rick's body, he'll need assistance in dealing with Fortean.
As a mindless drone under Fortean's control, Rick nearly killed Banner, so one can only imagine what the general will do now that he's in the driver's seat. The ruthless soldier is set be unleashed like never before. Rather than being a pawn, Fortean will become the instrument of destruction and deadly weapon he always wanted in his quest to take the Hulk off the table permanently.
The Immortal Hulk #22 goes on sale Aug. 7.