Incredible Hulk vol. 2 #395

Title: “Return to Vegas”

Writer: Peter David

Penciller: Dale Keown

Inker: Mark Farmer

Colors: Glynis Oliver

Editor: Bobbie Chase

The priest is speaking at Michael Berengetti’s wedding. He says that he can see from the outpouring that he was a beloved and regarded figure in Las Vegas. He says that he is sure that he speaks for all when he says that he will be missed. Punisher thinks to himself that the person that put a bullet in his heart isn’t going to miss him. He thinks that his wife Suzy would be a prime suspect, since she is inheriting everything, but that she didn’t do it and loved him. Punisher looks over at Sam Striker and knows that he did it. Striker is a rival “businessman” that decided to take out Berengetti permanently. He was gambling that it would make him the top unchallenged man in town. It’s a good town for gambling, but bad timing though since he is in the town

Mona walks with Suzy. She says that Mike always loved walking down the strip. He always said that there was no place like it in the world. Suzy says that she isn’t ready to start talking about Mike in the past tense. Mona says that no one ever is. She says that she heard from Marlo, and that she feels terrible about missing the funeral , but that there is some sort of personal problem. Mona and Suzy leave their two security guards as they get into the elevator. Suzy says that they were married so briefly. She says that it hasn’t really sunk in yet that he is gone. The doors open and Suzy asks what Striker is doing there. Striker says that he is there to extend his condolences. He says that it was a lovely funeral. Suzy tells Striker to drop dead, and asks who let him up there. Striker says that a couple of her boys did. He says that they know with Mike gone who the number one man in Vegas is. He says that he thought that she might show him where Mike kept his private files… lists of high rollers, bank accounts. He says that he knows Mike would want him to have it. Suzy says that she knows that Mike would want him to go to the devil. She tells him to get out. Striker says that she doesn’t have any more protectors. Suzy says that she doesn’t need protectors from a sleaze ball. Striker laughs, “Hear that, boys? She said the number one man in Vegas is a sleaze ball! Hah!” A voice says, “She’s half right.” Striker asks who he is. Hulk stands there with Ulysses, Hector, and Paris. All of them are wearing pin striped suits. Hulk says, “She’s right about the sleaze ball part. But the “number one man in Vegas?” That I’m afraid , would be me. I’m Mr. Fixit. These are my boys. And by the way… that’s Las Vegas.” Suzy’s eyes open wide. She says, “Joe?” Striker says that he has never heard of him. He asks what is with the skin and that “Circus Circus” is down the block. Hulk says, “How quickly they forget.” Ulysses asks, “You want we should rough ‘em up for ya, boss?” Hulk says that he can handle this. Striker says that his boys will tear him apart. Hulk says, “Is that a fact?” He knocks five men over with one motion. “Well I just love facts. I happen to be a walking encyclopedia.” He knocks over three with one push. “Also a walking tank!” He swats another. “In fact… an entire walking army.” He knocks the last man out with one finger. He finishes, “And that’s a fact… Jack.” Paris asks what they are there for. Hector says that they are window dressing. Striker calls in Frost. Frost grabs Hulk’s wrist. Striker tells Fixit to meet Frost. His right hand man… he breaks right hands.” Hulk thinks to himself that this isn’t good. He says that he can’t break his grip and wonders if this guy swallowed a gamma bomb. Hulk tells Striker to call off his dog before he house breaks him. Striker says that he believes they made their point. He says that it was just a simple misunderstanding. He says that they were just trying to be helpful. He says that if she doesn’t need their help that they will be on their way. Suzy runs to Hulk and hugs him. She says, “Joe, I gotta tell you… you used to scare the heck out of me… but I’ve never been so glad to see someone in my life! How’d you find out about Mike? And why’s your face green?” Hulk says that Marlo told him about Mike, but that the green part is a little complicated. Suzy tells Hulk that firing him was the toughest thing he ever did. She says that he really loved him. Ulysses says that he told them he quit. Hulk says later. He tells Suzy to come talk with him. Hector turns to Ulysses and tells him that he is watching too many gangster films. Hulk tells Suzy that in addition to Joe Fixit that he is also known as the Hulk. She asks if the Hulk isn’t supposed to be stupid and says that she means no offense. Hulk says that none is taken. He says that the point is that Mike was one of the few men who extended friendship to any of his varied incarnations, and that he is going to nail the creeps that cut him down… whatever it takes.

Marlo, Jackie Shorr, and Betty wait for Rick. Jackie says that he isn’t coming. Marlo says that he is just a little late. Rick knocks on the door. Betty introduces Jackie Shorr. Rick asks her what the scam is. He asks if she is a Skrull or the Chameleon, or just a garden variety con artist. Marlo tells Rick to give her a chance. Rick says that he doesn’t have to giver her anything. Jackie says that she has proof. She pulls out papers from the orphanage that she brought him to. She points out her name on the papers. Rick asks where she got it and that he asked about this ages ago. He says that they told him it was lost. Jackie says that she stole it. She says that she was afraid that he would come looking for her, and that dangerous people were after her. Rick says that his parents were Elizabeth and Albert Jones and that they died in a car crash. She says that they were his adoptive parents. She hands Rick a photo. It has her, Rick, and a dog in it. Jackie asks if he remembers her at all.  

Bruce says that they are going to go check in the with people who are supposed to be working on this… the cops. He says that he wants to see what they’ve turned up on Striker. He says that his money is on Striker and that in Vegas that his money is the smart money. Hulk walks up to the desk officer and says that he wants to see the detective assigned to the Berengetti murder. The cop says that Lt. Sanchez is out right now. Hulk leans all the way over into the cop’s face and says, “I’ll be back.”

Paris says that Ulysses is enjoying this and that he always thought he was a gangster at heart. Punisher watches them from an ice cream van. He starts laying out scenarios about how Mr. Fixit fits into the Frost/Striker dynamic. He says that Fixit and Striker are window dressing, and that Frost, the hitman, is the one he is after. As he watches Fixit’s “boys”, Paris looks directly at him. Punisher wonders if he has been made, but then Paris looks away. He decides that it was a coincidence.

At the Mount, Ajax checks in on Atalanta and brings her a flower. He says that she has been hurt so much lately. Atalanta says that she bounces back and that he knows that. She says that tomorrow she will be up and about. Ajax hands her the flower. Atalanta kisses him on the cheek. Ajax says that she knows that he loves her. He says that he won’t let anything come between them again. Atalanta says that Ajax knows he is her man. She says, “Who could possibly compare to…” She looks in the doorway and sees Achilles. Achilles and Atalanta look at one another. She finishes, “… to, uh, to you?”

The limo rides on. Hulk says that he is still certain that Striker is behind it. Paris says that he is. Hulk asks how he knows. Paris says that he is an empath. He says that he sensed Striker’s happiness and extreme self-satisfaction. He says that he would wager anything he’s guilty. Hulk asks why he didn’t mention that he was an empathy before. Paris says, “You didn’t ask, Bobby.” Hulk says that is aggravating. Ulysses tells Hulk to get used to it. He says that he keeps waiting for him to change and that it hasn’t happened yet. Hulk asks if there is anything else Paris would like to share with them. Paris says that they are being followed by an ice cream truck. He says that the individual driving is radiating incredible hostility and that he is giving him a headache. Hulk says that he sees it. Hulk tells Harvey, the driver, to cut to the less busy side of the street and to do exactly what he tells him. Harvey asks if it will be dangerous. Hulk says, “possibly”. Harvey says that is good and that it has been a slow day. Suddenly the limo does a 180 and faces the ice cream truck. Punisher swerves off and runs into a lamppost. The back of the ice cream truck opens up. The Punisher stands there armed to the teeth. He decides that he will just have to get rid of Fixit. Punisher opens fire. Hulk tells the “boys” to get down and that he will handle this. Punisher thinks that he was sure he hit him, and figures he is wearing body armor. Bullets ricochet all over. He says that no body armor will shake this off. Fixit’s hat blows off his head. His suit is shredded. Bullets smash his sunglasses. Punisher can’t believe it. He throws a grenade. Hector swats the grenade away with his mace. Hulk says that he told him to stay down. Hector says that he was bored. Punisher curses as he sees the grenade coming right back at him. Hulk palms the grenade and lets it explode in his hand. He stands right in front of Punisher and says, “Don’t say anything. I want to remember you this way.”

Rick remembers being a little boy. He falls off the swing and hurts his knee. Jackie comes over to look at it. There is a puppy there. Rick reaches down for the puppy. He looks at the picture of him reaching down for the puppy. Jackie says that she knows they had so little time together, but that she remembers him, and that she never stopped thinking about her. Rick tosses the picture and tells her to get away from him. He says that he doesn’t know what this is about, but to keep away. Rick walks out.

At the Camelot Hotel and Casino, Striker says that this was supposed to be nice and simple. He says that they were going to get rid of Berengetti and everyone else would fall in line. He says that now everyone is talking about Fixit. He says that he wants it stopped. Striker asks Frost what he intends to do about Fixit. Frost crushes an eight ball into dust and says, “Immmmmprovise.”

Punisher says that his head is still ringing. Hulk tells Punisher to consider himself lucky and that if he used two fingers to knock him instead of one that he would still be unconscious. Hulk says that Punisher is after Frost and thought he would indulge in some mayhem on the side. Punisher says that no one told him to ram his truck. Hulk says that no one told him to skulk around after them. Ulysses asks if Frost isn’t the big black guy with the shades. Punisher hands them a picture of Frost and asks if this is him. Hulk says that it is. He says that now they know where they stand with Striker and with one another. He says that now they can carry the fight to Striker, and that he has how they can do it.

No Excuses rating: 9 out of 10

The bad news is that I don’t like the Punisher. There’s nothing to the guy. The good news is that he is treated like the joke he is next to the Hulk. One finger knockout. Sad to see Berengetti had to go. I would have liked to have seen Hulk and Mike interact again. I like Frost, and I liked him even more when I found out about his origin. Keown and Farmer continue to impress. Nice sequencing in this one. 4.5 out of 5 for both writing and art.

Review and pictures by The Leader