|Again, just the one mighty hero today.|
The man wades unseen through the tourists, passing such famous Vegas landmarks as “Souveniers” and “Hotel” and “Love”. (The latter, of course, being the kids-friendly version of “strip bar” or “brothel”. Though, I must admit, I was in elementary school the last time I went to Vegas, so I don’t actually know if Vegas has brothels. I’d look it up, but I’d rather not have to explain why “Vegas brothel” is in my search history to my girlfriend.) Anyway, as he passes Hotel, he pulls his hat down to avoid the gaze of a cop car. The problem is that trying to avoid the gaze of a police officer is a surefire way to get noticed. The cop illegally parks perpendicular to the sidewalk in the oddly empty Vegas street and gets out. Suspicious-man flees, and the officer gives chase, over a trash can, past a guy trying to find a prostitute, and over a taxi. Suspicious-man ducks into an alley, giving the policeman the slip. As he catches his breath, his eyes glow an ominous green and visibly struggles to get his heart rate down.
Suddenly, some kind of giant vehicle slowly moves past the alley. As it passes the famous Vegas destination “Showgirls,” we see that it is, in fact, three turrets mounted to tank treads. One of the vehicles’ pilots reports in that a police officer sighted the man they’re chasing, but he gave him the slip. His superior, General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross starts barking out orders, revealing the secret identity of Suspicious-man.
General Ross: “It’s him. The Hulk is in Vegas! Radio Samson at the Cube! Tell him to get a containment cell ready!”
The soldier asks why Dr. Banner would be in Vegas, after avoiding populated areas for so long. Isn’t it obvious? Dr. Banner’s gonna hit the slots! General Ross, however, doesn’t care about the “whys,” just the results. Dr. Banner, meanwhile, sits in a doorway, typing furiously on a laptop. A quick glance at his screen reveals that he’s looking at a cuboid-shaped building, which apparently contains the Leader and the Abomination as prisoners. He pulls up another image, a bald guy, and gets a ping from his laptop. This apparently means something because Dr. Banner gasps and runs off.
Sometime later, the good doctor arrives at a truck stop diner, where he quickly finds the bald guy. Said bald guy is a gigantic, bulging muscle of a man. Dr. Banner orders some coffee (decaf), and talks to the soup-eating bald guy, Carl “Crusher” Creel.
"Waiter, there's a dead fly in my soup!"
"Yes, sir, it's the hot water that kills them."
There you go, a fly-in-the-soup joke. Are you not entertained?
Banner: “The Cube. The Cube is a supervillain prison, specializing in subjects that have been exposed to radiation. Which created monsters from men. Dangerous abominations. You were there. I’m asking you to tell me what you know about the Gamma experiments. You see, what I’m afraid of is that S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t trying to cure these people. I’m afraid they’re trying to turn them into weapons.”
Why would they do that? They already stole Tony Stark’s armor technology. Now they have the nerve to cut in on the Hulk’s turf? Have they no shame? Are they going to steal Hawkeye’s arrows, too?
Creel: “You know, it’s funny. You never asked me how I escaped.”
As he says this, his whole body becomes as metallic as the spoon he’s holding. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s the Absorbing Man. The wannabe Colossus pushes Banner out of the diner, trying to bring out the Hulk. Unfortunately for Creel… he gets his wish.
Bruce Banner’s muscles expand, unevenly and grotesquely, as his skin darkens into a healthy shade of green. Finally, Hulk stands up, towering over the Absorbing Man, who’s quite tall himself. The Hulk looks at Creel, and eloquently states his dissatisfaction with his current situation, in his own particular idiom.
To be continued!