As of last issue, the Hulk was captured in Nevada and brought to New York for his alleged involvement in the disappearance of U.S. Senator Morton Clegstead. More detail is available in part 1 of this arc.
For his crimes against humanity, both real (numerous rampages) and imaginary (Clegstead's death) S.H.I.E.L.D. was instructed to capture him. They arranged for Matt Murdock Daredevil to represent him in his upcoming trial.
During the fight from Nevada to New York, Murdock forced General Ross to bring Banner out of sedation so he could actually talk to his client under threat of a mistrial. Once out of his stupor, Banner became terrified at the prospect of the death penalty and turned into the Hulk in mid-flight.
Murdock was able to keep the Hulk relatively calm until they landed at Kennedy airport. Once on the ground, Ross destroyed Murdock's credibility with the Hulk when he implied that Murdock was lying to him about their friendship. The enraged monster breaks out of the plane onto the terminal.
|Writer:||Gary Friedrich, Roy Thomas|
|Pencils:||Dick Ayers, Herb Trimpe|
|Reprinted In:||Essential Hulk #4|
|Reprinted In:||Incredible Hulk (Vol. 2) #100 (Story 5)|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Super Heroes #101|
The Fantastic Four, who have been waiting at JFK for Banner's plane, witness the Hulk emerging from the plane and move toward him to help contain him. Thing is naturally out in front, wanting to prove himself against the Hulk. Their initial confrontation does not end well as he is thrown to the side, knocking the wind out of him.
The Hulk begins to move toward the crowd, where J. Jonah Jameson is barking orders at Peter to take some pictures. Peter fakes being sick and runs away to change into Spider-Man.
While Thing recovers, Daredevil appears. Murdock feels responsible for the Hulk's rampage (which he is, despite his good intentions) and tries to assist the FF. Hulk literally swats him aside like a red fly.
With Thing and Daredevil both temporarily down, the Human Torch volunteers to run interference to give Reed time completes his device to sedate the Hulk. The Torch's high intensity flame does temporarily blind the creature, but little else.
Once the light subsides, Spider-Man finally makes his appearance. He offers to help but is refused by the Thing, who is now ready for a rematch. Thing punches him into another plane but does little aside from making Hulk even madder. Daredevil secures his billy club to the Hulk's neck for some undisclosed strategy. He never has an opportunity to act on it as the Hulk grabs it - and Daredevil who doesn't let go - and hurls him into the tailfin of another plane. With Daredevil down Thing resumes his fight.
At this point, Reed has finally completed the preparations to his device, the "Nega-Gamma". The device - intended to permanently revert him back to Banner - is untested, but he has little choice given the situation. He screams at Thing to duck and hits the Hulk with the full brunt of the device. The Hulk subsequently collapses on the ground. Thing is irritated that Reed stopped "his" fight, but is quickly made to see that if he failed, others may be killed. The unconscious Hulk is taken to Stark Industries where a special cell has been prepared for him by Tony Stark (Iron Man).
A few days later, the case of The United States V. The Incredible Hulk begins. The timetable was greatly accelerated - according to the Daily Bugle - due to the danger of keeping him in custody for an extended period of time. This doesn't sit well with Murdock who is denied a reasonable time to prepare his defense.
It becomes quite obvious during the jury selection and trial that the intent is to convict him and give him the death sentence quickly. Despite Murdock calling in the Avengers as character witnesses, the prosecution objects to their testimony. Judge "Whitey" sides with the prosecution at every turn. Murdock finally succeeds in allowing the Hulk (restrained in titanium bonds) to speak, but only damages his case.
Murdock's strategy to present the Hulk as "confused but not evil" fails as the judge rules that the rights of the public outweigh his individual rights. Murdock reluctantly rests his case and states that he hopes to find a more sympathetic ear in a higher appellate court.
At this point, Mr. Fantastic arrives unannounced in the courtroom in a rather unique manner (through the ventilation system). The judge demands to know who he is. When he answers, the judge abruptly responds that he's aware of the Fantastic Four (yet he couldn't identify him. What a jerk). Richards offers to use his "Nega-gamma" device on the Hulk again. The improvements to his device may cause the Hulk to permanently revert back to Bruce Banner. At Murdock's insistence, the judge allows him to test the device.
After the preparations are made, Richards fires the weapon at the Hulk. Instead of turning him back into Banner, it boosts his strength. He is able to shatter the titanium restraints and escapes the courtroom. The Federal prosecutor is furious, insisting that Richards did this intentionally, though he'll never be able to prove it.
As Richards looks through the hole in the outer wall, Murdock approaches him. He begins by saying that he doesn't want to know the answer; he's simply thinking out loud. He thinks that Richards helped the Hulk escape out of pity since he knew there was no way he would get a fair trial. He finishes by saying if that's true that took guts, and offers his thanks. Reed remains silent.
There were a few problems during the fight at JFK. First (given the nature of the site) is the fact that Spider-Man - who works well with these heroes - was asked by the Thing to leave the fight. This is a little depressing. And let's face it, Spider-Man would have fared better against Hulk than Daredevil. The fact that Murdock had no bruises after getting slammed into an airplane left me scratching my head. At least put him in an arm sling or something.
Once the trial began it was infuriating to see a judge so intent on finishing this particular trial quickly - probably to go home and watch a rerun of The Brady Bunch while eating mayonnaise sandwiches on white bread. The only time I sided with him was to keep the Hulk in restraints (for obvious reasons). When Murdock would interject with a legitimate concern or appeal for compassion, "Whitey" would overrule it.
Reed's decision to supercharge the Hulk was a very bold one that initially makes one question his sanity. He foresaw Banner being ultimately executed for crimes his alter-ego may or may not have committed. Without a fair trial, he did the only thing possible: set him free and take the blame for it. That's always stuck out in my mind as one of the defining "Reed Richards" moments.
Some stereotypical dialogue, capped off with Susan Richards in her "Oh, Reed, what shall I do?" mode causes the issue to be a bit dated. This is just a pet peeve of mine.
Looking at the broad strokes here: you have the Hulk put on trial as a scapegoat. Murdock does the best he can given the situation and limited time to get the Hulk a fair trial, which is shown here to be impossible. Richards steps up and makes the save at the end, assuming responsibility for any damage Hulk causes from that point forward. This issue has some very powerful moments when you step back and look at them
Despite some awkward parts, the overall concept works very well.
The Clegstead incident happened in Incredible Hulk #151.