|Posted: August 20 2021 at 10:25am | IP Logged | 1
Reed, Ben, Sue and Johnny never steal the rocket and never become the FF. Instead, Reed heads the Gamma Bomb project,with Bruce Banner as his second in command.
Reed is in a relationship with Sue and they’re close friends with Bruce and Betty, who are also in a relationship. Johnny is a college student. Ben works for S.H.I.E.L.D. Watching a briefing on the new gamma bomb, a colleague teases him about whether he wishes he was part of the project, towhich Ben good naturedly replies that he hasn’t got the brains for that kind of thing - only for Fury to bark at him to watch it, Grimm! Ben takes the rebuke in good humour, and as everyone else leaves the room, he takes one last wistful look at his old friend.
As per the standard history, Rick Jones breaks into the testsite, but this time it’s Reed ratherthan Bruce who saves him, being hit by the gamma rays and changing into the greyHulk at night – and it’s Bruce rather than the unnamed soldier who christensthe monster “The Hulk”.
With his understanding of the potential effects of gamma rays, Bruce deduces that Reed and the Hulk are one and the same and promises to do help Reed find a cure for his condition. They manage to keep the Hulk under wraps in an underground laboratory as Reed changes every night, but, with each change, it’s becomes apparent that the Hulk is growing stronger – and also that Reed’s losing his intelligence. Finally, one afternoon, frustrated as he can no longer keep up with Bruce’s intellect, Reed loses his temper – and becomes the green Hulk!
Bursting out of the underground laboratory, the Hulk goes on a rampage. But in this world, the Avengers were never formed – as the Hulk has remained concealed up until now, he wasn’t tricked by Loki to make him seem a menace that they had to unite against. In Asgard, Thor is unaware of the peril facing Midgard; and as Johnny never became the Human Torch, Cap remains frozen in ice. Attacking a nearby military base, the Hulk accidentally, but badly, wounds a visiting Tony Stark, putting him out of action.
Looking at the damage being caused by the Hulk, Professor Xavier summons the X-Men, warning them that while the Hulk isn’t a mutant, he IS a danger that only they can stop.
Ben leads a squad of S.H.I.E.L.D agents who try to subdue the Hulk, but they’re hopelessly outmatched, with Ben swiftly becoming the last man standing. With the Hulk towering over him, Ben stares back defiantly, then blinks in surprise.
The Hulk pauses, confused, and slowly extends his hand towards Ben.
Cyclops’ optic beam slams into him, and now the X-Men fight the Hulk. Evacuated from the arena of combat, Ben sees and recognises Bruce, and shouts at him that that – THING!– is his old friend. Bruce says he knows, and hurriedly explains how the gamma ray bomb has changed Reed. Ben pauses – if the gamma rays changed his friend, can they do the same for him? Bruce tries to protest, but Ben yells back that while the X-Men are doing well, the Hulk is just too strong for them.
Reluctantly yielding, Bruce hurriedly takes Ben to a lab on the military base, thankfully not damaged, or not badly, where he can expose Ben to gamma rays. He asks Ben one last time if he’s sure he wants to go through with this – Reed became the Hulk, but Ben might become any kind of…abomination! Ben tells Bruce to go through with it – and the rays hit him as Bruce’s eyes widen in horror or awe…
The X-Men are in a bad way. The Hulk is growing stronger and stronger, and they’re barely able to withstand his assault. A bloodied and battered Cyclops anxiously wonders how long his team can hold on. Then a voice loudly tells the X-Men not to give up. Cyclops turns – and it’s Ben, transformed by the gamma rays into a being with a huge cranium.
Telling them that the mind may achieve what force could not, Ben psychically attacks the Hulk. It works, but the Hulk is strong, and Ben is inexperienced. Then Professor X mentally contacts him, offering to join his strength to Ben’s. Ben quickly explains that the Hulk is Reed Richards, and Professor X says that they may be able to change him back – which they do.
Reed returns, but his mind is even more reduced, so that he’s almost a child, barely able to comprehend the damage he’s caused when the Hulk. As Ben tries to decide what to do with Reed – he should be punished, but he can’t be blamed – Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne appear. Hank posits that there may be such things as “microverses”, which they can effectively exile Reed to. With heavy heart, Ben agrees that it’s the least bad solution, and Reed is sent into the microverse.
Ben breaks the news to Sue, who blames him for causing her to lose Reed, telling him she never wants to see him again. Heartbroken, but convinced there was nothing else to be done, Ben leaves. Musing over how things might have been different, he decides the best thing to do is to form a team of superheroes – called the Defenders. Led by him, as – well, The Leader! – it includes a recovered Tony Stark, a returned Thor, Ant Man and the Wasp.
There is no Fantastic Four in this world, but the X-Men’s brave stance against the Hulk, and their appearing BEFORE Magneto attacks with his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, means that this world experiences far less mutant prejudice.
Oh, and Reed? He ends up on K’Ai. His intelligence is restored to what it was, and he meets Jarella. Torn with guilt over what he’s done, he determines to become Kai’s protector to atone for what he did on Earth, and the final panel is him gazing upon Ben echoing the way that Ben looked at him earlier, musing over what he's lost.
Edited by Steven Brake on August 20 2021 at 10:27am