In a Nutshell
Writer/Co-Plotter: Roger Stern
Penciler/Co-Plotter: John Byrne
Inker: Bob Layton
Letterer: Jim Novak
Colorist: Janice Cohen
Editor: Bob Hall
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
As the Hulk is treated by Doc Samson at nearby Gamma Base, Angel & his girlfriend Candy Southern are visited by Iceman and his girlfriend, Terri Sue Bottoms. As the couples are enjoying the pool, the two mutants are attacked by a mysterious figure who soon transforms into Master Mold. After Master Mold captures Iceman, Angel lures Master Mold to Gamma Base, where Angel is captured but Master Mold manages to anger the Hulk in the process, prompting the Hulk to grab onto Master Mold as the Sentinel flies into outer space. Angel & Iceman awaken aboard a space station, where they learn that Master Mold houses the mind of Stephen Lang. Hulk doesn't much care, and proceeds to tear apart Master Mold. Angel, Iceman & Hulk proceed to an escape pod, but when Master Mold reveals he's sealed the pods, Hulk kicks the pod containing the two mutants free and goes back to finish off Master Mold. Angel & Iceman land in the ocean just as the space station above them blows up, though Hulk soon emerges from the water, having leaped free of the station before it blew and grabbed onto the escape pod. Hulk heads back to Gamma Base, while Angel & Iceman hustle back to their waiting girlfriends.
Firsts and Other Notables
Master Mold, the gigantic Sentinel who creates other Sentinels (a version of which hasn't technically been seen since the original Sentinels story in X-Men #14-16), returns in this issue.
It is also revealed that this Master Mold houses the consciousness of Stephen Lang, the architect of Project: Armageddon who created the X-Sentinels and apparently died in X-Men #100, the idea being that Lang, dying, managed to inadvertently download his mind into Master Mold's computers.
This creates an interesting scenario in which there are technically two versions of Stephen Lang running around: Angel says that Lang’s human body was found by SHIELD and remains alive in a vegetative state in a hospital, which is more or less where we see him next in Uncanny X-Men #291 (when he’s taken to become part of the Phalanx).
Meanwhile, Master Mold, with its mind essentially a copy of Lang's, will survive the fall to Earth in this issue and next appear to menace Cyclops in X-Factor #13 & 14, and then in Marvel Comics Presents #17-24, after which it'll eventually get fused with Nimrod and end up entering the Siege Perilous (in Uncanny X-Men #246-247), only to emerge in the form of Bastion, the mastermind behind Operation: Zero Tolerance in the late 90s.
This marks the first appearance of Angel's "aerie", his cabin-style home in the Rocky Mountains, at which the X-Men will find sanctuary during "The Dark Phoenix Saga" and which will later serve as the base of operations for the New Defenders and appears, generally, whenever Angel does between his stints with the Champions and the original X-Factor.
This issue also features the return of Angel's Silver Age girlfriend Candy Southern, who last appeared in an Angel backup story inside a Ka-Zar book. Like his aerie, she'll continue to make intermittent appearances in the years ahead alongside Angel, before eventually becoming, essentially, the operational leader of the New Defenders. After that, she'll follow Angel over to X-Factor, contributing to that series' soap operatics before being unfortunately killed off.
Terri Sue Bottoms, a short-lived Iceman love interest, appears here for the first time. She'll pop up next in Marvel Two-in-One #76, her only other appearance to date.
Angel appears in this issue between the end of Champions (and an appearance to that end in Spectacular Spider-Man #17-18) and X-Men #132. Iceman last appeared in the same issues, but pops up next for Phoenix' funeral in X-Men #138.
For what it's worth, Hulk appears in this issue between issues #226 and #227 of his regular series.
A Work in Progress
As of this issue, Candy doesn’t officially know that Warren’s friend Bobby is Iceman, but she suspects as much (and really, given that she’s been around since the Silver Age and knows Warren is Angel, it’s pretty silly to think she wouldn’t just assume that Warren’s four other friends are the Angel’s four other teammates.
Iceman tries a new trick with his power where he absorbs all the heat in the air around him. I'm not exactly sure how this is different from what he usually does (or how it makes him like a super heat pump).
Hulk is able to survive an open-air re-entry to Earth clinging to the outside of the escape pod.
That 70s Comic
This issue was published while the Incredible Hulk TV series was on the air, something the cover is sure to point out.
Iceman wonders if Terri gets off on ice, which seems a bit risqué for the 70s.
Iceman compares using the escape pod to Star Wars.
Iceman brings Terri Sue to Angel's aerie, where she proceeds to spend most of her time fawning over Angel.
Later, as Master Mold chases Angel, Terri wonders why anyone would want Bobby, making it pretty clear she just hooked up with him to get close to Angel.
The final panel of the issue features Angel reminding an exasperated Iceman they need to get back to the girls, and while his exasperation is clearly meant to be triggered by his would-be date’s infatuation w/Angel, one could read it differently in the context of the later revelation concerning Iceman’s sexuality.
Like Avengers #53, this is a fun, retro-ish issue with some really sharp art, but it's also kind of amazing just how central the two X-Men (and a plot point from early in the All New, All Different era) are to the plot of what is ostensibly a Hulk annual (t's also kind of interesting that Roger Stern & John Byrne felt compelled to revisit Stephen Lang, considering neither were involved in the story that featured his previous demise, but then, both creators were something of continuity wonks back in the day). The Hulk is certainly a presence in this issue, but he's fairly ancillary: the former X-Men (specifically Angel) draw him into the narrative, the villain is related to the X-Men, not Hulk, and he more or less just goes along for the ride (almost literally, in some cases). There's very little in this story that makes it specifically a Hulk story.
Instead, it's more an opportunity for Stern & Byrne to play with a pair of original X-Men (an avowed fan of the original X-Men, Byrne also drew them in the closing issues of Champions) and further what becomes a really intriguing storyline for a villain as they chronicle the next chapter in the saga of Stephen Lang. Following his introduction and apparent death by Claremont (in which he was presented mostly as the bigot-du-jour behind the latest breed of Sentinel), here Stern & Byrne essentially split the character in two, leaving Lang himself an offscreen vegetable while downloading his essence into Master Mold. Years later, Louise Simonson will pick up the Master Mold thread in X-Factor (using it to introduce the Twelve storyline, which takes on a life of its own as well), after which Claremont will pick up the character again, merging it with Nimrod, while years after that, Scott Lobdell will pick up both the Master Mold & Human Lang threads to serve as primary antagonists in two separate X-Men crossovers. That's a really crazy, fun, only-in-comics publication history for a character, and this issue represents one of the more important links in that narrative.
Next week, the debut of Karma in Marvel Team-Up #100.