We enter on the Hulk doing what he does best: smashing army guys and wanting to be left alone. We get the usual “Why men no leave Hulk alone?” from Hulk and the less regular “Why Hulk no let men arrest him for destruction of property?” from the army guys. Sad and shirtless, the Hulk retires to a mountain somewhere to weep about his inability to think about things. Unbeknownest to him, the Hulk is watched by… the Watcher! Because I guess it’s his turn or whatever.
Remembering last issue, the Watcher explains the premise of the book to everyone (BEHOLD, HUMAN! FOR THERE ARE MANY WORLDS AND I, UATU THE WATCHER, MUST BUT WATCH UPON THEM ALL! FOR SUCH IS THE SACRED VOW WHICH whatever.) and then tells us the origin of the Hulk (BEHOLD, HUMAN! DOC BRUCE BANNER! BELTED BY GAMMA RAYS! TURNS INTO THE HULK! AIN’T HE UNGLAMOUROUS!?). Then we get to the meat of the issue: What if the Hulk had the brain of Bruce Banner! Which turns out to mean, what if the Hulk was smart, not what if the Hulk had the actual brain of Bruce Banner. Like, in a jar or something. And it turns out that, in this universe, everything is bat shit crazy. Oh, and the Hulk shakes people’s hands like he is running for office.
Bruce is finishing up work on the extremely phallic looking gamma bomb in between ackward flirtations with the Dr Girlfriend-esque (Or Jackie Onassis, fine, fine.) Betty Ross and being called a milksop for the seven thousandth time by General Thadeus “Thunderbolt” Tiberius Ross. Everything’s going about as well as a devestating planned explosion can go when Banner notices Marvel’s Dumbest Teenager Rick Jones hanging out in the testing zone, playing some swinging tunes on his harmonica. Unfortunately, the bomb cannot be stopped due to the influence of russian spy Igor who sabotages the test by making sure it goes forward as planned, the fiend. Bruce sucessfully saves Rick, the dumb little shit, by pushing him into a radiation proof trench but finds himself bathed in gamma rays, making the gamma bomb the least successful explosion in history. (“How’d that new bomb we developed work?” “Well, nobody died and the country we attacked is now populated by giant green supermen.” “Hmm. Somebody fire Bruce Banner.”)
So, first of all, the reason why Banner never gets stupid is never revealed. He just doesn’t. That’s some real imaginative work there, Uatu. Nice job. Night falls, and the power of the moon or whatever turns Bruce into the Hulk, destroying his first of many, many shirts. Rick shows Bruce himself in the mirror and Bruce takes the time to remark that, while his body may have changed, his brain is just fine, thanks for asking. And to prove it, he smashes through a wall and runs away.
Bruce and Rick head for Bruce’s isolated cabin in the woods where they can make out, smoke pot and search for an antidote when they find Igor rifling through Bruce’s drawers looking for more effective bombs. Bruce realizes that Igor is a dirty commie rat and shakes him a little before he and Rick leave to alert the authorities. Igor is imprisoned in the unlocked cabin, presumedly under the honor system. Down, but not beaten, Igor uses an advance artificial thumbnail to contact his superiors in Moscow.
With Igor arrested or ignored or whatever, Rick and Hulk head home when they run into Betty looking for Bruce. Rick quickly explains that the bomb blast turned Bruce into the Hulk and absolutely no follow-up questions are asked. Then the tip of a rocket crashes next to everyone and a hideous russian crawls out. It’s Igor’s superior, the Gargoyle! Lured to America by Igor’s promises of a shirtless green dynamo, Gargoyle shoots the Hulk with his Hulk piercing pellet gun. Luckily, the Hulk beats back this new and terrible weapon by believing in himself. In this way, any man can walk away from a gunshot. The Gargoyle starts crying because he is ugly and then the Hulk pats him on the shoulder. “So!” says Gargoyle. “You too know what it is to be branded a freak and an outcast by humanity!”
“No,” says the Hulk. “I’ve only been a monster for… like an afternoon. But I’m sure people will get around to ostracizing me soon enough. This is the Marvel Universe after all!”
Then the Gargoyle resolves to stop being an asshole and work for peace instead and they shake hands and the Gargoyle climbs back into his busted-ass rocket and heads home, promising to do good in Russia. And maybe get some surgery. Because Jesus. Dude is not attractive.
Dawn breaks and Bruce returns to normal because we’re going by classic Hulk rules, I guess so he and Betty go on a date. The Watcher, realizing that we’ve still got a bunch of shit to do, decides to skip Bruce and Betty’s actual relationship and just has them fall in love while on a picnic. Night comes again and Bruce takes Betty home to meet the parents. Unfortunately, as he drives the car in, he turns into the Hulk again, just in time for General Ross to see him. Ross calls him a milksop AND an oversized monster and Bruce gets pissed off and wrecks up his car, causing Ross to see the error of his ways. Nice one, General. Didn’t even need a pardon from NASA unlike SOME people. So Ross and the Hulk shake hands and then Hulk snaps Betty in half having hot, premarital sex in his science cabin. Wait, no.
So Bruce and Betty get married and stuff actually seems to be working out when Bruce gets a letter from Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. He invites Bruce to the Baxter Building in New York to see if Bruce can help turn the Thing back into a human. Because clearly, if there’s one thing Bruce knows, it’s de-freaking yourself.
Bruce arrives at the Baxter Building and he and Reed shoot rays at Ben until everything works out. Now Thingless, the FF breaks up because that’s just what happens in alternate realities, and Hulk and Betty move in, forming the Avengers’ science bros decades early! They are soon joined by Professor Charles Xavier, who pulls that Spider-Man shit by inviting himself to a job interview nobody agreed to and then using his powers to wreck up the place. The Fantastic Four: You broke our coffee table! You’re hired!
Once again, everything is totally awesome. The team of scientists do some great science and it’s all coming up Milhouse. And then Galactus shows up because fuck you, Earth. Bruce turns into the Hulk during the day for the first time ever (Once again, no explanation whatsoever is given for this.) and gets his ass whooped. Then Reed tries… stretching at Galactus. This works about as well as any time you try defeating a powerful foe by reaching for him. Finally Professor X attacks using all the power of his incredible psychic mind. Just kidding, he flies around in a little rocket-powered go-cart.
Their individual attacks proving useless, the Science Bros. do the only sensible thing they can. They combine themselves into a giant gold man in orange shorts who calls himself X-Man and then challenge Galactus to a staring contest. Seriously. Although the plan works… somehow, it turns out X-Man is a jerk and, before he turns back into three fully clothed guys, he bitchslaps Ben Grimm which turns him into the Thing again. For some reason. The Science Bros regain conciousness to discover that their various powers are gone. For such is the price that must be paid, when one has turned into a giant gold man. They also see the new Thing. Who is evil now by the way. Or at least a jerk now. So Jerk Thing jumps out the window and goes rampaging. “Hey, Reed.” Bruce asks. “You think we maybe outta do something about that?”
“Nonsense, Bruce.” Reed replies. “What could we, the three smartest people on the planet do without our super powers. Now let’s get back to our researches. Let the army chase down my best friend.”
Reed Richards is kind of a jerk.
So now it is the Thing who runs around, ducking the army and smashing stuff where, in another reality, it was the Hulk. A powerful lesson and one we will come back to in our exploration of What If time and again. No matter what happens in an alternate reality, it’ll more or less be the same as in our reality.