Issue Date: October 2012
Story Title: Mayan Rule, part V: Reunion
Staff: Jeff Parker (writer), Dale Eaglesham (artist), Val Staples (color artist), Virtual Calligraphy’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Eaglesham & Staples (cover artists), Irene Y Lee (production), Jon Moisan (assistant editor), Mark Paniccia (editor), Axel Alonso (editor in chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
At Gamma Base, Annie the LMD is finally able to get a response from Red Hulk in Mexico, who is now being prepared for sacrifice by the Mayan deities. Machine Man, in a small disc form, has been taken by a mysterious monkey, who is actually revealed to be X’balanque, one of the twins who had previously been involved in defeating her fellow deities’ rule. She explains that she and her brother had built one pyramid to contain the other deities, locking them in crystal, until Rick Jones accidentally freed them. Red Hulk learns he will be sacrificed to release energies which will enable the rest of the Mayan deities to return. At Gamma Base, Annie realizes she has a key to restoring life forces - a necklace she took from one of the pyramids earlier. She gives it to Shaman, and they prepare to use the necklace on Snowbird. X’balanque’s twin, Hunahpu has another of the necklaces, but he is captured by the Mayans who prepare to sacrifice him, however, he was able to throw the necklace onto Red Hulk, before the deity Ah-Puch seemingly sacrifices Hunahpu. Meantime, Annie has sent a trick message to Sharzhad, Red Hulk’s enemy in Egypt, convincing him that the pyramid in Egypt is a weapon sent to destroy, Sharzhad subsequently destroys the pyramid and ends the Mayans’ ability to teleport. Shaman’s spell with the necklace was able to restore Snowbird, and in the process, drained Ah-Puch of his godly energies. He sets about restoring the others - Sasquatch, Aurora and the She-Hulks - while Red Hulk has also been fully recovered, and just in time, as Kukulcan attacks him. They engage in battle, during which Red Hulk is able to place the necklace on A-Bomb. Alpha Flight, fully recovered, teleport in to assist Red Hulk, engaging the Mayan deities in battle, Ixchel and Camazotz try to escape, but both She-Hulks arrive on scene and attack them, beforeA-Bomb returns and takes out Kukulcan. Shaman and X’balanque are able to restore the local heroes who then gather around with Red Hulk, A-Bomb and Annie, as Machine Man reappears, in an updated body, announcing that the de-powered Mayan deities can be housed in a local facility, as without a working pyramid, they are manageable. Alpha Flight and the local heroes relax together, while Annie tells Red Hulk that the Mayan deities were right, the heroes of today pass as gods, and their adventures are tomorrow’s myths.
Chichen Itza, Mexico, the mangled body of Aaron Stack a.k.a. the Machine Man lies scattered on the floor of a temple. The half-withered body of General Ross, in his Red Hulk form, lies nearby. A voice can be heard calling out from the communicator-radio built into Machine man: ‘Checking in again. Do you read me? C’mon, big guy. Anything at all’ the voice exclaims. ‘I’m here, Annie. Probably not for long’ Red Hulk utters. ‘Finally! But I can barely hear you!’ Annie the Life Model Decoy responds. Nearby, several of the Mayan gods are being worshipped by frightened locals. Red Hulk tells Annie that the shouting she can hear is the Mayan big gun explaining to the crowd how he is going to kill him. Annie asks Red Hulk if he is trapped, and where Machine Man is. ‘Can’t you run?’ she asks.
At Gamma Base, somewhere in the United States, Annie is standing over a monitor, with three members of Alpha Flight at her side - Mac Hudson a.k.a. Guardian, Michael Twoyoungmen a.k.a. Shaman and Eugene Judd a.k.a. Puck, who listen intently. ‘Can’t move. But you can’ comes Red Hulk’s reply. ‘I’ll make it happen. But you didn’t say - where’s Machine Man?’ Annie ask.
Back in Chichen Itza, ‘The temple rises! The ceremony begins! The calendar ends!” the Mayan deity known as Camazotz booms, while scampering along nearby, carrying a disc-like object, is a monkey - not just any monkey, but X’balanque. ‘You are part of the toy man, no?’ X’balanque asks, looking at the disc, which indeed is part of Machine Man, and responds ‘Yes, and you are no mere howler monkey, it is clear’. X’balanque explains that she is one of the Mayan godlings, and that her brother Hunapu, they are twins and they resist their brethren. As X’balanque leaps from the top of the temple, Machine Man asks Red Hulk if he is hearing this. Red Hulk replies that he is, and adds ‘Make sure Annie does too’
Machine Man points out that they may have allies with intel among the Mayapan, and reports that X’balanque is morphing. Indeed, the monkey vanishes, replaced by a very human looking X’balanque. She smiles and holds the disc-Machine Man in her hand, explaining that it is hard to speak in the other form, but that it is one her people have never paid much attention to. ‘Now I can use the god-talk all understand’ she points out. Machine Man projects an image of the other monkey and asks if it is Hunapu. ‘Yes. We are twins’ X’balanque confirms. X’balanque starts to climb up stairs on the side of a temple, revealing that they were part of the tribe of Kukulcan who became immortal, the only ones who found wisdom during their long lives, or, perhaps, empathy.
X’balanque continues, stating that she and Hunapu also stole life, but that the Mayapan did not stop with their persecutors - they made themselves false gods and ruled their own people, so she and Hunapu plotted. X’balanque explains that while the others built pyramids to travel and control the life-force, she and Hunapu built one that was only to entrap the others, and they led the others in, and sealed the temple, locking them in crystal for centuries. Machine Man points out that that is where Ixchel led Rick Jones, long covered by earth. X’balanque reveals that she and her brother fled immediately before the other gods knew the twins were still among them. Suddenly, X’balanque’s eyes flash green, and she announces that Ixchel is near Machine Man’s friend. ‘Hunapu must reach him first!’ she exclaims.
‘Annie, hope you got that coded message through’ Red Hulk calls out. He continues: ‘Look, if I don’t make it out. Got to tell you, I…’ his voice trails off, as Ixchel the Jaguar Goddess appears over him. ‘Are you delirious, red one? Stay awake for your sacrifice’ Ixchel calls out, adding that they have allowed cameras to show the whole world that they are back. ‘Then you’re even more primitive than I thought, Ixchel’ Red Hulk tells her. ‘Finally. At Ah-Puch’s door. You remember my name. True, we don’t see your technology as you do. A pale imitation of our powers. Yet I know your death will be seen by billions’ Ixchel comments. Clinging to a ledge nearby, Hunapu the monkey holds a necklace in his hands. Ixchel states that she knows others like Red Hulk will come, but with power they can use, not like his, that destroyed Ah-Muzencab.
In Gamma Base, Alpha Flight and Annie are still listening, as Ixchel can be heard over the monitor saying that the heroes that will come will bring power that would normally take them centuries to gather, but the modern gods jump them past all that. ‘It doesn’t even kill you’ she points out. ‘That life-force will bring back the remaining Mayapan who rest in the Uxmal pyramid’ she adds. ‘The one…in Egypt?’ Red Hulk asks. Annie suddenly smiles and holds up a necklace and tells Mac, Shaman and Puck that they have the key right here in the necklace she found in the pyramid. Annie exclaims ‘Machine Man’s report about their history - and what Rick told us from seen their sacrifice! The pendants channel the life-force they want!’ Shaman takes the necklace and confirms that it is a symbol of life, but Mac points out that jade doesn’t have any special properties, to which Annie declares that this is not standard science. Shaman remarks that Snowbird’s nature spirits already fight to return her life. ‘You get her out! I’ll send the message about Shardzhad’ Annie orders.
Ixchel announces that the Uxmal pyramid keeps the remaining gods far and safe until they find sacrifices to power them. ‘When they are all free again, there will be no one able to challenge us’ she boasts. ‘Ixchel! An enemy - right under your nose!’ booms Kukulcan, the god king. Ixchel spins around, transformed into a water-form, she picks up Hunapu who was sneaking up behind her. ‘Ha! Who would attack us in our own temple? A traitor!’ Ixchel exclaims. ‘Come on…just need to catch one break’ Red Hulk mutters. Ixchel moves over to where Kukulcan is, atop the temple. ‘I found a spy, god king, stealing our amulets!’ Ixchel exclaims. ‘What matters what a monkey does?’ Kukulcan asks. Holding Hunapu in watery hands, Ixchel reveals that this is one of the conspirators of their imprisonment, the twin trickster. ‘Which are you…’ she begins as she uses a power on the monkey, that transforms him into the human form of Hunapu. ‘The brother! Hunapu!’ Ixchel exclaims.
‘See, my people! Even a god is not above sacrifice!’ Kukulcan boasts, as Ixchel slams Hunapu onto an altar, and Ah-Puch moves over him. Nearby, X’balanque remarks that there is none more clever than her brother. Now projecting a holo-image of his face, the disc-Machine Man tells X’balanque that she must try to create a diversion. ‘No, little smart toy. This is the plan. To end this for all time, it must happen’ X’balanque replies. ‘No one’s life is his own. All hold it for Ah-Puch the maggot-covered god calls out as he raises a spike over his head and prepares to bring it down.
‘Life is infinite, infinity returns…for look where my brother cast the necklace. Death. Is. LIFE!’ Ah-Puch booms. As the decayed deity says those words, energies swirl around the necklace that rests on the Red-Hulk, and at the same time, energies swirl around the necklace on the limp body of Snowbird, while Shaman casts a spell over her. ‘All life returns, returns…return…return…’ he hums. Suddenly, Ah-Puch brings the blade down towards Hunapu, whose eyes go wide, and blood spurts around him. ‘Life to the body it knows. Return. Return. Return!’ Shaman calls out as he concentrates on helping Snowbird. Energies continue to glow from both the necklaces on Snowbird and Red Hulk.
At that time, in Egypt, a lone figure flies towards a pyramid. A message can be heard: ‘Pyramid…it is aimed at Sharzhad Palace. Do not interfere - this retaliation is only meant for Dagan Shah - the Sultan Magus of Sharzhad. ‘Was that code supposed to be difficult? One not for my ears?’ the Sultan Magus enquires. His eyes narrow as he asks ‘Did you think the palace at Sharzhad would not intercept your message to the Egyptian government, Red Hulk?’ The sultan Magus lands on the pyramid and declares that he knew the Red Hulk would eventually send a weapon aimed at his country. ‘Unable to even make the right kind of pyramid. Infidel’ he mutters, while a voice calls out ‘Scanning reveals bio-weaponry, o Magus’. The voice adds that the pyramid structure focuses temporal energy for teleportation, capable of moving armies into position.
Energies swirl around the Sultan Magus. ‘I told you I would be extending my range. Already at this distance, I have the power you saw in my cavern of wonders. More than enough. To end any threat!’ he boasts, as he releases the energies at the pyramid, which explodes in spectacular display.
Even on the other side of the planet, Kukulcan and Ixchel recoil from the force of the power. ‘The Mayapan! They burn!’ Kukulcan exclaims. ‘How could anything penetrate the Uxmal portal?’ Ixchel wonders. At the same time, inside Gamma Base, ‘Return! RETURN!’ Shaman chants, as energy appears to glow inside Snowbird, whose body is almost as youthful and beautiful as she usually appears. Back in Mexico, Ah-Puch starts to keep over. Kukulcan calls out to him, while the motionless body of Hunapu suddenly asks ‘Could it be…Ah-Puch fears death?’, and Ah-Puch’s leans against the slab, his appearance basically normal, the maggots covering his face are gone. ‘Where is it - my -’ he utters, while at Gamma Base, Shaman’s spell concludes as he utters ‘…life’, and Snowbird has fully recovered.
‘Triumph, my brother. But they have lost the Uxmal pyramid too - how?’ one of the Mayapan calls out. Machine Man reports to X’balanque that Gamma Base sent a false message, knowing a powerful enemy would intercept it. ‘The pyramids form a network - and can be based around the world?’ he asks. X’balanque explains that Uxmal was as far as they could send one. At that moment, Annie contacts Red Hulk and Machine Man, informing them that Shaman has restored Snowbird with the necklace. Snowbird is helped up by her teammate, Marrina, who is sporting a broken arm, while Shaman stands beside the tanks holding Aurora, Sasquatch and the She-Hulks. Annie reports that Shaman thinks he could do the same thing with the others, if they weren’t so far away.
Machine Man replies that they were thinking the same, and announces that he is opening ceiling bay door three. Annie looks up, and the ceiling over Gamma Base opens. ‘We now have a direct doorway to Chicen Itza’ Machine Man states, as the temple appears over Gamma Base. ‘The red one! He did this!’ Kukulcan hisses, furiously. Kukulcan takes a human form, and walks over to Red Hulk, asking him how he destroyed Uxmal. ‘For this, your head will sit atop my spear for centuries!’ Kukulcan threatens. Red Hulk looks up at Kukulcan and replies that he has made a lot of enemies in his day. ‘;And you know what? Sometimes that’s better than friends’. He suddenly leaps up and grabs the god king by his arm. ‘But boy, make no mistake. I am the enemy’ Red Hulk snarls, the necklace around his neck glowing.
Kukulcan remarks that Red Hulk is not as strong as he was, and boasts that he will break his spine. ‘I’m getting there though. My gamma is a hybrid - didn’t convert the way you needed it to’ Red Hulk explains, before asking if these pyramids catch the life energy that they rip out. ‘It’s all still around, coming back to me’ Red Hulk remarks, before Kukulcan knocks him backwards and declares ‘You’ll die before that’, and orders him to take the sacred neckpiece off. ‘Sorry. It’s a good look for me’ Red Hulk replies as he kicks Kukulcan backwards, away from him. Kukulcan responds by transforming back into his snake form, ‘Yeah, keep up the show’ Red Hulk mutters, while Ixchel exclaims ‘Kukulcan battles!’, while Kukulcan tells Red Hulk that it is not long the life that makes them gods, and states that he feels his power grow yet again.
‘The people worship us once more. It gives us power. That is all that makes a god!’ Kukulcan exclaims as he slithers around the Red Hulk, wrapping his body around him, then pulling the blade out of Hunapu, he draws it towards Red Hulk, who suddenly discovers the withered body of A-Bomb a.k.a. Rick Jones lying nearby. ‘Your death will not feed us, but it will inspire their beliefs. You and your friend who was sacrificed to me’ Kukulcan adds, referring to A-Bomb. ‘Rick’ Red Hulk exclaims as Kukulcan pulls the blade towards his face. Red Hulk struggles to keep Kukulcan away from him, ‘I’ve had…a full life. But that man deserves more’ Red Hulk decides. ‘While you’ve fed off the world, he’s helped it. Saved it. And you’re going to give him back what you took!’ Red Hulk warns Kukulcan.
Suddenly, Red Hulk forces Kukulcan backwards and shouts ‘I’m going to beat it out of you!’. Red Hulk manages to place the magical necklace on A-Bomb, ‘Come on, Rick, take it’ Red Hulk calls out, while Kukulcan’s body writhes around, and knocks Red Hulk backwards, as Tohil, Jacawitz and Camazotz move in. ‘The red god challenges Kuku can - kill him!’ one of them exclaims. ‘Burn him! He cannot stop us all!’ another calls out. ‘Don’t think I’ll have to. You don’t know what the cavalry is, do you?’ Red Hulk remarks, as a green glow appears behind him. ‘They’re going to!’ Aurora smiles as she flies up behind Red Hulk. ‘Welcome back, Aurora’ Red Hulk calls out, as the rest of Alpha Flight, fully recovered, follows her into the temple. ‘Alpha Flight, ATTACK!’ Guardian exclaims as he fires an electromagnetic blast at Yum Kaax, knocking the tree-like god backwards.
‘Steal this, jaguar bikini!’ Marrina calls out as she rides on a wave of water that Ixchel created, and kicks the jaguar goddess in her face. ‘We’re taking back out life, you throwbacks!’ Sasquatch booms as he attacks Jacawitz, while Red Hulk throws rocks at Tohil. Aurora flits about, while Snowbird morphs into an ookpik and attacks Camazotz mid-air. ‘The northern gods! They take me -’ the monkey-like god utters. Puck leaps onto Ah-Puch’s shoulders and straddles wraps his legs around Ah-Puch’s face, ‘I learnt this leg chock from watching Luchadores. Howdya like it, eh?’ Puck smiles. ‘This is more like it! Everybody come and get some! It feels good to be back in battle!’ Red Hulk exclaims.
Ixchel and Camazotz manage to make a run for it, ‘Where will we go?’ Camazotz enquires as he follows the jaguar goddess, who replies ‘Anywhere’, and tells him that they will lay low until the northern gods die of old age, then they will return again. However, two figures drop down from atop the temple - the She-Hulks, Jennifer Walters and Lyra - and land on Ixchel and Camazotz. ‘Ancient lady, this is the last return you’re going to see!’ Jennifer exclaims as she punches Ixchel in the face. ‘The return of the She-Hulks’ feet up your #$%&$!’ Lyra exclaims as she drives her knees into Camazotz’s back.
Suddenly, ‘No skulking off for the king. I don’t care if your feathers are falling out’ A-Bomb exclaims, revived, as he grabs Kukulcan around the neck. ‘C’mon, Kooky, don’t hold out. Every last drop, back to me!’ A-Bomb exclaims as he re-absorbs the energy that was taken from him to revive the god kind.
Shortly, Red Hulk, A-Bomb and Annie are gathered outside the pyramid, as Red Hulk announces that X’balanque and Shaman have nearly finished restoring all the heroes. Silverclaw emerges from the temple, fully recovered, while Annie reports that X’balanque is going to show them how to move the pyramids back and deactivate them. ‘They’ll be even bigger tourist attractions after this’ she jokes. A-Bomb supposes that Egyptian tourists can go check out the rubble of Uxmal, while Red Hulk asks about the other gods. ‘Stick them back in the crystal prison?’ he suggests. Machine Man, sporting a sleek newly-designed body, drops down from above, and explains that keeping their bodies inert would eventually allow their minds to free-roam again.
Machine Man continues, revealing that the Mexican government has a facility that can handle the remaining gods, as they manageable without the working pyramids. ‘You look better, Stack’ Red Hulk tells his companion, who replies ‘As do you, Ross’, and explains that he had been building this body for three months. ‘You’ll like some of the new armament I’ve developed’ he adds. Inside the pyramid, Shaman is helping one of the local heroes, when he notices X’balanque is looking outside. He asks her if there is a problem, to which she replies ‘The toy man…I can truly see him now. How did that happen?’
A-Bomb, Red Hulk and Annie being the long climb down the side of the pyramid, while A-Bomb thanks them for their help. He remarks that going up against the whole pantheon of gods was not a walk in the park. ‘You really came through for me - and all of Central America, of course’ he adds. ‘Rick, if there’s something weird…you’ll end up in the middle of it’ Red Hulk smiles. As they get to the bottom of the pyramid, Annie asks ‘You think this was out there? Can you look around for a moment’ and tells him that if any of the ancient Mayans were here to see all of the people they work with, turning into animals, flying, shotting energy, artificial men and woman. ‘What else could they call us?’
Red Hulk and A-Bomb look around at their allies - Snowbird is following Toro around, while Guardian smiles as he talks with Silverclaw. Sasquatch has picked up young Velocidad one hand, while Aurora tries to talk Sasquatch down. ‘Face it giant read leader, in any age, we’re what passes for gods. And our adventures are tomorrow’s myths’ Annie tells Red Hulk. Puck gives a thumbs-up and winks, while Red Hulk replies ‘Damn, Annie. I just now got used to being a Hulk’.
Aurora, Guardian, Marrina, Puck, Sasquatch, Shaman, Snowbird (all Alpha Flight)
Annie the LMD
Silverclaw, Toro, Velocidad
Ah Puch, Camazotz, Ixchel, Jacawitz, Kukulcan, Tohil, Yum Kaax (all Mayapan)
Huangpu & X’balanque
Starting with next issue #58, Hulk (3rd series) becomes Red She-Hulk, and will chronicle the adventures of Betty Ross.
Issue Summary written by: Daytripper (Steven Bishop)