Does this cover look familiar? It should. It's a take on the iconic last frame in the opening of the Hulk television series that was on when this comic was published. I'm sure even then people realized how cool it was. Looking at the cover, you can almost hear the line ".. to control the raging spirit that dwells within him. **ROAR**" as read by Lurch from the "Addams Family" TV show.
Oh right, the recap. My bad. Got off on a tangent there.
The clandestine group known as "They" have hired the mercenary Goldbug ("orange Deadpool" as I call him) to capture the Hulk for them. They go so far as to provide a customized ship from the Tinkerer for the occasion. To his credit, he succeeds in capturing the Hulk and brings him to the prearranged meeting point: the lost city of El Dorado. Before they are able to land, "They" double cross Goldbug and disable parts of his ship causing it to crash near the legendary city. They manage to escape and are met by Tulak, a city elder who escorts them into the city.
Once inside Tulak informs Hulk that his people regard him as somewhat of a savior, a claim the Hulk denies. Hulk ultimately receives an audience with "They", who are the true power behind El Dorado. "They" consist of Prince Rey, Lann, and the ancient one known as Des. Des manipulates the Hulk by showing him that Jarella's body has been kept in stasis at Gamma Base. The Hulk becomes despondent, unable to cope with the fact that he failed Jarella, and reverts to Bruce Banner.
They tell Banner that the inhabitants of the city are the direct descendants of the Incas. They prospered for many centuries due to the mystic power of the Sacred Flame of El Dorado, which is considered a gift from the Incan gods and linked to the city's prosperity. Due to the selfish political motivations of Prince Rey, the flame was extinguished. Seeing the error of his ways, Rey worked with Lann and Des to restart the Sacred Flame, but it remains weak. They state that one step remains to completely restore the flame and by extension, El Dorado.
When Banner asks how he can help, the trio captures him and inform him that they plan to use him to fuel the Sacred Flame and their dreams of global conquest.
Banner is placed on an X-shaped platform and bound hand and foot to it. Prince Rey tells him that they plan to siphon off the gamma radiation from his body which will provide the fuel the Sacred Flame and make them invincible.
Banner informs them that the world's heroes will stand against them if they attack; Lann reminds him that they will be no match for the power of the Flame.
Goldbug awakens and learns that he is actually inside the city of El Dorado. He then realizes that he'll never be able to profit from this in any way. He had originally thought a relatively small amount (a few tons for him) was present in the city. However since gold is so plentiful, it would render the metal worthless if the existence of this city was made public. He blames the Hulk for his destroying his dreams and plans to obtain revenge on him.
Back in the temple of the Sacred Flame, Prince Rey continues to taunt Banner about how easy it was to manipulate the world's heroes to do their bidding. Banner is livid at their plans and wills the change to the Hulk. However this is what they wanted him to do and trap him in an intermediate state between himself and the Hulk and begin to drain the gamma radiation from him. Goldbug is shown to have overheard the entire exchange and is shocked to learn of his involvement in this plan.
He and the Banner/Hulk watch in horror as Des turns on his associates and drains their life energy to fuel a side project (a special elixir) he has secretly been working on. He drinks the elixir which promptly restores his youth. He subsequently reveals that "Des" is actually Tyrannus, ruler of the Subteraneans.
Tyrannus then describes what has occurred since they last met. After a near defeat by the Fantastic Four, he escaped by stealing one of the Mole Man's vehicles. This vehicle exploded when one of the Mole Man's fail safes activated throwing him deeper into the underground caves. His subjects found him and immersed him in his fountain to repair the massive damage. Although he was healed, the fountain could no longer grant him immortality as he began to age. Despite his vast knowledge, he could not reverse his condition. Eventually learning of the Sacred Flame, he made his way toward the surface.
He arrived in El Dorado as a withered shell of his former self and adopted the identity of "Des" to restore his youth. Succumbing to impatience, he attempted to use the Sacred Flame prematurely and transferred his consciousness to one of his subjects who then morphed into his likeness. He then created an earthquake device in an attempt to speed up the restoration process and was defeated by Nova, due to physiological difficulties. He then returned to his original body and continued with his long-range plans.
Goldbug decides to attack Tyrannus but is quickly captured by a steel-mesh net. Realizing that time is short, Goldbug throws one of his devices at Banner/Hulk, coating him with a layer of solid gold. Tense moments pass as Banner/Hulk's heart rate greatly increases at the prospect of suffocation. This allows him to overcome Tyrannus' device and complete his transformation, shattering his gold-plated prison.
The Hulk is angry and determined to make Tyrannus pay for what he's done. Tyrannus doesn't care as he is becoming more adept at using the Sacred Flame. He demonstrates by conjuring an energy bolt from the flames and directing it against the Hulk, punching him through the temple and into the city streets.
Before the Hulk can regain his footing, Tyrannus brings the Sacred Flame to the surface and orders all the citizens of El Dorado to pledge allegiance to him-who-controls-the-flame.
For some reason, the opening of this issue remind me of an episode of "Gilligan's Island". The one where a chief from a previously unmentioned neighboring island arrives and identifies himself as "Keeper of the Eternal Flame (a cigarette lighter)... and one gallon, Eternal Flame fuel". But enough about my TVLand problem.
I'm not sure exactly how the Sacred Flame is linked to the city or how Tyrannus was able to control it. I will assume there is some mystic link between the fireplace and the City of Ingots because it never really states it. Tyrannus is an alchemist with knowledge of other advanced sciences, so I will assume one of them allows him to control the flames.
The relationships are not well defined, they just exist for the purpose of this story. But I'll go along with it.
4 webs. Very interesting read. Creating a plausible explanation for the alleged death of a character is a difficult situation, but Stern comes up with a good one.