Our slobbering pal Venom has recently moved to San Francisco to get as far away from Spider-Man as possible to honor their agreement from Amazing Spider-Man #375.
The Hulk has recently joined the Pantheon, a clandestine group of demi-gods that provides help where needed.
The story opens with a quote to set the tone:
"Those who try to make sense of the world are divided into four categories: scientists, theologians, philosophers, and fools. Correction ... make that one category with three sub-divisions" -- Carlo Kensada, 1892
KLX-TV anchor Ariel O'Hare stops to speak to new hire Barney Hargrave before the 12 PM news. Barney mentions in passing about a crank letter from someone calling himself "Dr. Bad Vibes" threatening to start an earthquake at 12. Amazed at the ludicrous threat, she grabs the letter from him, thanks him, and plans to read it during the broadcast as a joke.
In another part of town, Eddie Brock aka Venom is watching television in front of Bee Jay's TVs in all his 90's mullet glory. Inside the owners of the shop (a married couple Beatrice and Jay) are arguing about an affair Jay could have had but didn't. Bea leaves, vowing to never come back.
Eddie moves on down the street and watches as a teenaged couple (Skip and Tammy) sneak out to his car while her parents are away. Skip catches Eddie watching them climb out the window and tells him to mind his own business. Eddie obliges stating that he "looks too tough" for him.
At 12:05 after Ariel has read Bad Vibes' letter, the town is rocked by an earthquake. Eddie suits up as Venom, black tendrils, two-foot underbite, and green drool included. He spots Skip and Tammy's car falling into a hole created by the 'quake. Skip is trying desperately to free her before the car falls in. Venom webs the car and pulls it to safety, ripping the door off to allow the panicked girl to get out. Skip complains to "Spider-Man" about his rescue. Unlike Spider-Man Venom doesn't allow this to slide and intimidates his victim.
An hour after the quake has stopped, San Fran has declared a state of emergency. To make matters worse a ransom note from Bad Vibes has reached KLX-TV. He demands $20 million or he'll start another quake.
As one can expect in this situation, the looting begins. In this case at Bee Jay's TV. Venom would help, but he's otherwise occupied digging out citizens - unfortunately this one didn't make it. Other panicked citizens are claiming that a monster is loose down the street. Venom goes to investigate and finds the Hulk pretending to be on a rampage with his classic "Hulk smash" dialog.
Venom immediately assumes that Hulk is working for Bad Vibes and attacks him. Disgusted at having a Spider-Man look-alike with a two-foot lower jaw biting his head, Hulk drops his act and throws Violator - er - Venom aside. He asks him what he's doing. Venom is confused at the Hulk's newly found vocabulary. Hulk explains that "it's for the rubes, but he's willing to make an exception for him" Ticked off by the Hulk's arrogance, Venom attacks him.
Hulk eventually remembers that Venom is susceptible to sonics, he uses his handsmash to drive the symbiote away. As Venom writhes in agony Hulk observes that the only thing needed to end this nonsense is "a serious case of the clap". While Venom is down, Hulk informs him that he's here to help the earthquake victims. They finally see eye-to-eye and agree to work together.
They go to KLX-TV and go on-camera, calling out Dr. Bad Vibes. In Hans & Franz style, they call him a coward and threaten to beat (clap) him up. Ariel is livid at their actions, but their plans works. Bad Vibes calls in on a land-line phone. The Hulk unplugs the phone wire and into a portable device he borrowed from the Pantheon. It allows him to talk to Bad Vibes while tracing the call.
Once he has the address, Ariel insists that she be allowed to follow them in the news van. Venom stands up for her and tells the Hulk they should go along. Not wanting to waste time, the Hulk agrees.
They arrive at the address. They don't find a mad scientist, they just find a mentally ill person with a cardboard doomsday device. The reporters walk away in disgust.
Venom admits that he wanted one person to blame for the quakes. Hulk informs him that nobody wants to admit that arbitrary things happen all the time; sometimes there is no rhyme or reason behind anything. Venom sees the TV shop owners reunite and thinks that there "might be an occasional point to it".
This does exactly what a one-shot team-up story should. It takes two characters that normally wouldn't associate with each other and places them in a fight first, team-up second situation with some witty banter and a nice wrap up.
The main difference between this and many other improbable team-up issues is Peter David's approach. He creates a fairly believable scenario to bring the two characters together. He makes the obligatory fight sequence well-balanced and somewhat humorous. And as icing on the cake, he throws in a bit of philosophy at the end. Very few other writers are going to do that for essentially a throw-away issue.
I'm not sure exactly how David was approached for this, but I'm thinking it
went something like this:
Editor: "Heyyyyyy, Peter. What's ... happening. Yeah, I'm gonna need you to write a Hulk/Venom one-shot this weekend. Venom's in San Fran being a 'lethal protector', so you can start there. Oh, and if you could work in a jab at McFarlane's Violator character, that'd be great"
3 webs. This story hits the correct marks, made me laugh, and make me think. It's not David's best, but he still brings out the best in both characters and makes for a good read.
As stated, the reason for the Hulk's fake rampage was not clear. I can only guess at the reason for this. Venom was not characterized as brain/spleen/lung-eating psychotic, just aggressive and anti-social; a welcome change. As for their fight, let's face it, if the Hulk had actually slipped back into his "savage" persona, Venom would have been pulped.
The artwork I'm sorry to say is average. Some pages were good, some not. It has a rushed look that lowered the overall quality of the issue. I am not familiar with Craig's work, so I don't know if this is normal or if it is in fact rushed.
The Pantheon was introduced in Incredible Hulk #368
This incarnation of the Hulk was introduced in Incredible Hulk #377. This merged all three existing personalities: Banner (IQ and control), Gray Hulk (guile), and the Green Hulk (physical form) into one entity.
Just to be thorough: Hans & Franz were recurring characters on a Saturday Night Live sketch "Pumping Up With Hans & Franz". Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon portrayed two Austrian bodybuilders who idolized Arnold Schwarzenegger. They hosted an exercise show in which they routinely called their viewers "girlie men". Their catchphrase was usually set up by the disclaimer "we're not here to [insert tangent here]. We're here to pump (clap) you up"