Make way for the horrifying Spider-Hulk!
It is about four and a half hours since the events of the previous issue and Spidey is back in New York. He has put a websack of his clothing on his back, grabbed the biokenetic energy absorber and hopped a train by clinging to the outside. But whatver happened to him in his fight has taken a toll. He falls asleep as he rides the train and almost loses his grip. He is, in fact, so woozy that he has a hard time remembering why he went to Connecticut. He has forgotten Betty Brant Leeds completely and only recalls that the wild beast he was sent to photograph was the Hulk, that he was jolted by some "electronic thingy", that the Hulk took off leaving "a dead guy" behind. Spidey leaves the dead guy for the approaching police but takes the energy absorber with him, hoping to analyze it.
The train arrives at Grand Central Station and Spidey, now back in his Parker duds, lugs the absorber through the terminal. (Hey, wait! Who's the full-figured blonde in the low-cut red mini-skirt with the fishnet stockings and the spiked heels walking by Peter? She only shows up in one panel and that's it. You can't even see her face! Alex Saviuk, you tease!) Pete is so weak that he can hardly lift the machine so he goes to the public lockers and stashes it in one of them. As he does so, his spider-sense goes off but Pete sees no nearby danger. "Just some guy getting off of a train from Chicago." (And the guy... I think... is Thomas Firehart, alias the Puma, but I may be wrong about this. It doesn't arise again in this story, anyway.) So, feeling weak, not thinking well, and a spider-sense (perhaps) on the blink, Pete doesn't dare web-sling. Instead, he steps outside and hails a taxi. On the sidewalk, two young punks harass a heavyset man. They knock his hat off his head ("Hat patrol, pops! Yer in violation!") and stick a finger in his gut. Before it can go any further, the NYPD shows up and chases the punks away. Pete is glad to see it. He's too wiped to help out as Spidey. But it isn't quite over. The punks head into Grand Central, trying to think up more trouble.
A half-hour later, a blurry, unshaven Peter Parker shows up at Jameson Publications and tosses his roll of film on Jonah's desk. He tells the publisher it is the "pics I took in Connecticut" but Jameson isn't happy. Nor is the woman sitting, with crossed arms, in a chair behind Peter. "You remember Betty Leeds", Jonah says, "the reporter you were assigned to worth with!" Poor addled Pete tries to apologize but Betty is in no mood for it. She points a finger in his finger and angrily tells him "You're the sorriest excuse for a professional I've ever seen!" Then Jonah joins in, telling our hero "leaving the scene of a news event was downright irresponsible". The two taking turns letting Pete have it (and, in the midst of this, we learn that Betty discovered the identity of the dead scientist; Armand Jones) until he can bear it no more. He puts his hands up to his ears and screams "Leave me alone!", then bolts from the office. Betty is surprised by this. "I didn't realize Peter was so sensitive", she says. "Sensitive?", JJJ replies, "try sea-sick! Boy's turning green around the gills!"
Up on the roof, Pete changes to Spidey, but he is so woozy that he doesn't realize his spider-sense is talking to him, trying to warn him of the approach of two security guards. They pull guns on him and tell him to come quietly "or we'll have to shoot!" This confrontation makes Spidey mad and when Spidey gets mad... well, in this instance, he grows larger, ripping through portions of his costume. The skin that shows through is a Hulk-like green. His intellect and vocabulary take on a Hulkish quality as well. The web-slinger turns on the guards and declares, "Spider smash!"
The guards keep their cool and shoot repeatedly at the changed webster but their bullets just bounce off. The Spider-Hulk reaches down and rips up the entire roof, sending the guards into a tumble. One of them falls over the side, though the other pulls him back up. As for Spidey... he's already forgotten about them. He uses powerful leg muscles to leap away.
The Spider-Hulk lands in a rubble-strewn landscape in the shadow of a bridge. He doesn't understand why "puny men" tried to hurt him. After all, "Spider can't be hurt! Spider strong!" But Spider is exhausted as well. He passes out amidst the rubble and changes back to his normal self. Soon after, five figures come out of the shadows and surround him.
Several hours later, Spidey comes to and is offered a hot bowl of soup. The shadowy figures turn out to be just some of the homeless group that live in the abandoned, ruined buildings. They have a fire going in a garbage can and people of all ages stand around it. Spidey is grateful for the soup. He tells the young woman who offers it that he's been delirious and had "the weirdest dream". Then he notices the state of his costume and knows his memories are real. He thanks the group for the soup but leaves quickly, fearing another transformation where he may "endanger these people". And he remembers that Betty mentioned a dead scientist. He wonders if that scientist could have designed the machine "that zapped me". The only way to find out is to check with Betty... assuming she's still talking to him.
A half hour later, Peter arrives at Betty's Forest Hills high-rise apartment. Betty is initially impatient with Pete until she sees how awful he looks. "You really are sick!", she says as she lets him in. Betty is so concerned that she wants to call Mary Jane to help out but Peter nixes that. All he wants is the address for Armand Jones. Betty brings it and Peter takes off.
It is 10:25 PM by the time Spider-Man arrives at Jones' laboratory. It is on the top floor of its building and accessible by a skylight. Spidey enters and is normal enough to pay heed to his spider-sense. It warns him of an electric eye burglar alarm that he covers with his webbing. It doesn't warn him, though, of a back-up system "set to trigger if [the electric eye] was tampered with". Spidey spies a notebook sitting on a desk which he hopes will provide notes on the energy absorber. He leaps down and grabs it... but, by this time, the back-up alarm is ringing.
Unfortunately for the web-slinger, the shock of the alarm triggers his change to the Spider-Hulk. He fights the change and flees the scene, still hanging onto the notebook. Away from the alarm, he calms down and manages to revert to normal but the effort of it all wears him out. He must settle down in an alley and rest.
Moments later, Spidey tries to read the notebook under the bare bulb of an alleyway exit. He reads enough to realize that he has been jolted with a dose of "bio-energy from the Hulk". The only thing that can reverse it is the energy absorber itself. So, by the time 11 PM rolls around, the wall-crawler is back at Grand Central Station to pick up the device.
But it can't be as easy as all that. In the terminal, the two young punks who earlier harassed a pedestrian (and who must have just hung out at Grand Central all day) are busy jimmying the locks on the lockers. The first two lockers are empty but the third one hits the jackpot. One punk thinks the device looks Japanese. The other figures they "can pawn it for a whole case o'Lite". A homeless "bag man" sitting nearby tries to stop the punks but they just run off, taking the energy absorber with them. Seconds later, the bag man is startled by the sudden appearance of Spider-Man. When the wall-crawler discovers that the lock has been broken and the device has been stolen, he starts to get very, very mad.
Taking his rage out on the lockers, Spider-Man starts to change. In moments, he is the Spider-Hulk and he turns on the bag man, accusing him of stealing the machine. The man denies it and tells the S-Hulk that "it was a couple o'kids" who "went down that way". "Spider thank", says the behemoth to the man as he web-slings in pursuit.
Elsewhere in the terminal, the two cops spot the punks and recognize them as the two who tried to "shake down that guy on the sidewalk". The kids take off running, feeling like they're "home free" because their pursuers are old. (The cops are all of about 30.) "They'll never catch us!" But something else has no trouble catching them. With a savage growl, the Spider-Hulk swings down and confronts the punks. "You take away! Now Spider take back!", screams the monster and the kids would be happy to oblige but they don't know what he is talking about. In the time taken by this confrontation, the cops show up. As they see it, the S-Hulk is "tryin' to kill those kids" so they fire their guns at him. The bullets bounce harmlessly off and the behemoth retaliates by smashing the floor with his fists. Stone and people go flying in every direction but three more cops show up from behind the S-Hulk. They, too, fire guns and those bullets also bounce off harmlessly. "Puny men don't learn very good", says our changed hero, "Maybe Spider give them another lesson." And, saying this, he shoots webbing to the top of the giant clock on the wall and uses his great strength to bring it crashing down on the cops. (I can only see two cops leaping to safety but I think we can assume the third one got away as well.) Then, the monster turns to the punks and instructs them to "give Spider thingy!"
This time the kids realize what the S-Hulk is after but before they can make a move, the giant leaps at them. "Take it", yells one punk, and he holds it out, in self-defense, with the pincers pointing out. The S-Hulk comes in contact with the pincers and the machines "automatic sensor programming" kicks in. The "Hulk energy" is drawn back into the device.
Spidey starts to change back to normal but the experience is unpleasant and unsettling to the S-Hulk who responds to the sensation by lashing out. His right fist smashes the absorber into junk, ending the chance of the Hulk's power being fed to anyone else. On his hands and knees, Spidey turns back to his smaller self. One of the punks is so shaken by the experience that he declares, "That does it, man! I'm goin' back to Poughkeepsie!" A shaken Spidey realizes he'd better flee the scene while he still can. He shoots webbing to the roof and rides away on it, smashing through one of the large windows at the top of the terminal. As midnight approaches, Spidey clings to the wall of a nearby building and watches the cops and rescue crews arrive at Grand Central Station. "Another New York institution trashed by a guy in a spider-suit", he thinks. To his left, he spies a billboard put up by the Thomas Fireheart owned Daily Bugle, in its attempt to change the wall-crawler's image. It shows the web-slinger surrounded by a half-dozen bunnies and says, "Spider-Man: New York's cuddliest super-hero!" Spidey thinks this latest fiasco has ruined his "cuddly" image no matter what the Bugle may say in the future. "Ah, well", he thinks, "it was nice while it lasted". And he sighs.